Safety fuse for blasting underground

Contributed by Geevor Tin Mine Museum

Safety fuse for blasting underground c. Geevor Tin Mine

Far safer than quills packed with gunpowderIn 1831, Cornishman William Bickford patented the safety fuse. This simple invention, which is a length of string containing gunpowder coated in tar, went on to become a global lifesaver. The safety fuse or 'burning fuze' burned at a reliable rate and greatly reduced the number of deaths and injuries associated with hard rock mining.

Bickford's product was very successful and was soon to be manufactured worldwide. By 1930, around 160,000 kilometres of safety fuse were being produced each year. The factory at Tuckingmill, Cornwall, closed in 1961 but parts of the building survive.

This piece of safety fuse dates from the mid-20th century. The principle is exactly the same as the 1831 patent although the exterior is now synthetic. It was not until the 1970s at Geevor Tin Mine that this fuse was finally replaced with an electronic system for blasting.

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