Historians of risk and disaster have paid little attention to coal mining—an industry characterized by extreme risks and disasters—even though coal mine operators were concerned with the causes of explosions throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This article goes beyond nationally oriented mining scholarship on coal mine safety and regulations to examine one form of industrial risk: how did European researchers understand the role of coal dust in mine explosions. It describes the complex factors involved in applying science and technology methodologies to solve industrial risk in this dangerous sector. It traces European countries shifting after 1882 to new types of mine experimentation sponsored by the state and mine owners to better mimic real-life situations, while French mining researchers continued to defend work in laboratory settings. French researchers converged methodologically with their colleagues only after the French Courrières mine catastrophe in 1906.