Coert Hattingh Van Straate EM

b. ? d. ? 1938 South Africa.

DATE OF EM ACTION: 31/05/1927 Randfontein, South Africa.

Little is known about the life of miner Coert Hattingh Van Straate other than his actions at the Randfontein Gold Mine, South Africa on 31st May 1927.



On the 31st of May, 1927, a bag of explosives caught fire in one of the workings of a mine belonging to the Randfontein Estates Gold Mining Company. The miner who was in charge of the explosives reported the occurrence to Mr. Van Straate who was working on the level below that in which the fire occurred. Mr. Van Straate at once realised that the air current proceeding up the stope would carry the poisonous fumes engendered by the fire through the working places on the level above, and would thus endanger the lives of those working on the higher level. Without any hesitation, Mr. Van Straate ran up the stope past the burning explosive and up the raise for 170 feet to the level above. In passing through the raise he was enveloped in the poisonous fumes from the burning explosive.

The air current on reaching the higher level split into two — one current proceeding up a south stope and one up a north stope. Mr. Van Straate proceeded first to the south stope and there warned a miner to leave at once, together with the other workers. He then proceeded towards the north stope and met the miner in charge of that stope on his way out. The miner was already overcome by the fumes and on the point of collapse. He was, however, able to tell Mr. Van Straate that there were still two natives in the north stope and a third in another part of the workings who was in danger. Mr. Van Straate continued to the north stope and fetched out the two natives. By this time he was feeling the effect of the fumes and instead of looking for the third native with the chance that he himself might be overcome and unable to convey the warning, reported the native’s danger to the shift boss.

Mr. Van Straate then took personal charge of the rescued persons and conducted them to the surface. Mr. Van Straate’s prompt and courageous action, in the course of which he put his own life in peril, undoubtedly saved the lives of a number of persons. The Government Inspector of Mines for the district described the risk which Mr. Van Straate took as appalling and as Mr. Van Straate is a man with many years’ experience of mining and its dangers, the risk must have been well known to him.