Saturday, April 30, 2016

Nanaimo Mine Disaster Remembered - May 3

Number One Mine Memorial 
Esplanade and Milton Street

On May 3, 1887 157 men and boys went to work in the Nanaimo No. 1 Esplanade Mine. Only 7 would return to loved ones leaving behind 150 children and 46 widows in what at that time was the largest man-made explosion in the world.

The explosion started deep underground in the Number One Coal Mine, after explosives were laid improperly. Although many miners died instantly, others were trapped by the explosion. These men wrote farewell messages in the dust of their shovels.

Although past documents put the death toll at 148, researchers have since revised the number to 150, including 53 Chinese workers. Chinese workers were listed in the government inquest and annual report of the Minister of Mines as "Chinamen, names unknown", followed by a tag number. BC employers did not have to report the deaths of Chinese employees until 1897.

Some accounts suggest that 48 of the 53 miners had the surname of Mah -- records may have been destroyed when Nanaimo's Chinatown burned to the ground in 1960. The monument on Milton Street lists the names of white miners, but only the tally number for Chinese miners. 

Operated by the Vancouver Coal Company, the Number One mine opened in 1884 at the foot of Milton Street in Nanaimo. Its shafts and tunnels extended under the harbour to Protection Island, Newcastle Island, and the Nanaimo River. After the explosion, the mine re-opened, and produced 18 million tons of coal before closing forever in 1938.

City Flags At Half Mast

Last year, Council passed a resolution to lowere the flags at all City of Nanaimo facilities to half mast on May 3 in memory of the 150 miners killed in the Nanaimo coal mining disaster of 1887.

Flags located at City of Nanaimo facilities will be lowered to half mast on Tuesday, May 3 to mark the anniversary of the coal mining disaster of 1887 that took 150 lives. 


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