Page last updated at 14:35 GMT, Sunday, 20 September 2009 15:35 UK

Mining tragedy memorial unveiled

Miners memorial
Mr Salmond said the memorial was a fitting tribute to those who died

A statue paying tribute to the 47 men who died in one of Scotland's worst mining disasters has been unveiled by the first minister.

The men were killed after a fire trapped them underground at the Auchengeich Colliery in North Lanarkshire on 18 September 1959.

Only one miner who started the fateful shift survived the blaze.

The bronze statue of a miner has been erected in Moodiesburn to mark the 50th anniversary of the tragedy.

The miners were overcome by smoke as they travelled down to start work.

A decision was taken to flood the pit to extinguish the fire after rescue attempts failed.

Following a service to mark the anniversary of the tragedy, Mr Salmond unveiled the statue of a miner at the event in the new memorial gardens near Auchengeich Miners' Welfare Hall in Moodiesburn.

The tragedy at Auchengeich Colliery left barely a town, village or mining family in North Lanarkshire unaffected
Alex Salmond
First Minister

He said: "The tragedy at Auchengeich Colliery left barely a town, village or mining family in North Lanarkshire unaffected.

"Fifty years on, the memories of the fateful day which claimed the lives of so many husbands, fathers, brothers and sons endure and I am honoured to pay tribute to them.

"Scotland is fortunate enough to have been blessed with rich natural resources, from the abundant coal seams of the central belt to the oil and gas reserves off our shores and the emerging renewable energy sources we are just beginning to feel the benefits of.

"But we should never forget the human cost which has come with that. Just as the Piper Alpha tragedy more than two decades ago underlined the hazards of North Sea exploration, the Auchengeich disaster showed all too starkly the dangers and risks which miners all over Scotland took for granted as part of their job every time they descended the pits."

The fire was caused by an electrical fault 1,000ft below the surface.

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