Department Of Mines

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Chris & Kerry
December 4, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.
Chicago and New York, Volume II
pg.64 & 65

STATE DEPARTMENT OF MINES. The first law governing the mining industry of West
Virginia was enacted by the Legislature in 1883, creating the office of state
mine inspector, with one inspector for the entire state. At the session of the
Legislature in 1887 the act was amended, providing for two inspectors, and in
1893 it was again amended, increasing the number of inspectors to three. At the
session of the Legislature of 1897 the original act was further amended by
providing for a chief inspector and four district inspectors. This number was
again increased by the Legislature of 1901 to five district mine inspectors,
and increased again in 1905 to seven district mine inspectors.

At the session of the Legislature of 1907 the Department of Mines was created,
the head of the department being given the title of chief of department of
mines, with twelve district mine inspectors. This act was again amended at the
session of the Legislature in 1915 by a provision of three additional district
mine inspectors, making fifteen in all. At the session of the Legislature of
1917 the law was further amended by placing all sand mines, sand pits, clay
mines, clay pits, quarries and cement works under the jurisdiction of the
department and provided for an inspector for same.

In the year 1919 the Legislature re-enacted the mining law and provided for
four district mine inspectors, making a total of nineteen inspectors. The
Legislature of 1919 also provided for the establishment of seven mine rescue
stations and for a director of mine rescue, who has headquarters at Charleston,
and since the office has been created hundreds of men have been trained in first
aid and mine rescue work. The stations are established at Charleston, Mount
Hope, Fairmont, Elkins, Wheeling, Logan and Welch.

At the session of the Legislature of 1921 the mining law was again amended and
three additional district mine inspectors provided for, bringing the total of
the department to twenty-two district mine inspectors, one inspector of sand
mines, etc., a director of mine rescue and chief of department of mines.

In 1920 the first annual first aid meet was held by the Department of Mines at
Charleston. The first concerted action of West Virginia in the International
First Aid Contest resulted in the Scarbro Team of the New River Company carrying
off the championship. The Mine Rescue Team from Scarbro took sixth place in mine
rescue work; and at the International First Aid and Mine Rescue Contest at St.
Louis, Missouri, on September 1, 2, 3, 1921, the White Oak Team of the New
River Company won the international championship for mine rescue work, thus
bringing to West Virginia both championships in successive years.

Logan County first produced coal in 1904, 52,673 tons being mined that year, and
it has had the most rapid growth of any coal field in the world, as they
produced 9,824,785 gross tons and employed 1,000 men in and about the mines in
1920. Logan County has seventy-three coal companies operating 146 mines.

According to the reports of the United States Geological Survey in 1883,
2,335,833 tons of coal were mined in the State of West Virginia, and this has
gradually increased until in 1920 there was mined in this state 89,590,274 tons,
and at the present time the potential tonnage of West Virginia is 140,000.000

Total available coal yet remaining in West Virginia is estimated to be
159,814,662,527 short tons. In 1920 there were 882 coal companies operating
1,440 mines and employing in and about the mines 105,000 men.

So far there has not been anything discovered that will permanently take the
place of coal. It is true we have oil gas, which have been tried out, but no
one has been to determine the amount in reserve we have of either, we do know
that the amount of coal in West Virginia is almost inexhaustible and that the
West Virginia coals the best quality coals known. It is also true that several
fields of the United States are rapidly becoming exhausted, therefore it is only
natural that West Virginia with great resources will supply the shortage created
by these different sections falling off in production.

The chief of the Department of Mines is Robert Morrison Lambie, a native of
Scotland, and trained in the practical technical business of mining in that
country, though nearly all his active career and experience have been in the
industry of West Virginia.

Mr. Lambie was born at Stirling, Scotland, in 1886, son Robert and Elizabeth
(Morrison) Lambie, representing some of the good families of Scotland that have
made that country distinguished for its brain and brawn. After Robert M. Lambie
came to America his parents followed and they all lived together in West
Virginia. Robert Lambie becoming ill, went back to Scotland for his health died
while there. In Scotland he acted as agent for a British Explosive Syndicate.
The mother is still living and divides her time between Scotland and West

Robert Morrison Lambie was educated in the schools of Stirling, and spent four
years in night school in that city, studying mining practice and mining
engineering. In 1903, at the age of seventeen, he came to America and located
at Stone Cliff, Fayette County, West Virginia. His first employment there was
as a driver in the coal mines, and he has performed practically every duty in
connection with coal mining from laborer to managing official. His duty for a
number of years involved important responsibilities with leading coal mine
corporations. For three years he had charge of the operations of the Havoca
Mining Company in McDowell County. For three years he was employed in a
managerial capacity by the McKell Coal & Coke Company’s three operations in
Fayette County. He resigned to become district inspector for the State
Department of Mines, an office he held two years. He then became division
superintendent of the New River Coal Company on the White Oak Branch, having
charge of eight operations of that company in Fayette County. Mr. Lambie and
family reside in Fayette County, and he is a member of the Ruffner Memorial
Presbyterian Church there. He married Miss Annie Hope Thompson, of that county.
Their three children Bessie Morrison, Robert Alexander and Annie Laurie Lambie.

In 1919 Governor John J. Cornwell called Mr. Lambie to the office of chief of
the Department of Mines, and he is serving by reappointment in 1921 from
Governor E. F. Morgan. The outstanding purpose of the Department of Mines is to
safeguard the miners in their work and to eliminate as far as possible the
hazards and dangers of their mine operations. Experts have declared the
Department of Mines of West Virginia possesses the most scientific and
efficient safety devices and equipment of any state of the Union. Costly and
very technical instruments for detecting gas, devices to be worn as safeguards
from gas effects, are part of the department’s regular equipment. Another
instrument is the Geophone, invented and used in France during the World war by
sappers, so highly sensitive that in a mine where a fire or explosion or falling
walls have cut off miners their location can be detected through many feet of
solid coal. This safety equipment is so located at strategic points through the
coal mining district that it can be rushed to the desired points in the quickest
possible time.

Mr. Lambie having made these subjects his life work is eminently fitted for the
responsible office he fills, and is constantly making experiments and
investigations to increase the usefulness of the department. He is a Knight
Templar Mason and Shriner.