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1992: The Westray mining disaster

The Story


At 5:18 a.m. on May 9, 1992, a mixture of methane gas and coal dust explodes killing 26 miners at Westray mine. In this clip family and friends of the victims reminisce, and discuss how this tragedy may have been prevented.

Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning
Broadcast Date: May 17, 1992
Guests: Darlene Dollimont, Randy Macdonald, Jim Turnbull
Reporter: Roger Bill
Duration: 9:08

Did You know?


• On Sept. 11, 1991 Toronto-based Curragh Resources Inc. opened Westray Mine in the small town of Plymouth, N.S. Touted as a "state of the art" operation, the mine utilized the latest in safety monitoring devices and computerized equipment.

• The development of Westray mine was supported by the provincial as well as federal government despite a history of high fatalities in the Canadian mining industry.

• At 5:18 a.m. on May 9, 1992, the Westray mine exploded killing all 26 miners who were underground at the time. The strength of the blast blew off the top of the mine and destroyed steel support beams. Plymouth residents felt their homes shake and windows shatter.

• The explosion caused the bankruptcy of Curragh Resources Inc. that had a negative effect on the economy of Nova Scotia, as well as that of Yukon Territory where Curragh had additional mining ventures. Due to the explosion the company was unable to pay back extensive loans to the province of Nova Scotia as well as the federal government.

• In 2002, the names of the 26 miners who died at Westray were read in front of Parliament Hill in an attempt to force the Justice Committee of the House of Commons to make changes to the Criminal Code. The protesters argued that corporations and their executives should be held more accountable for workplace safety.

• Although charges of criminal negligence causing death and charges of manslaughter were laid against two mine managers, the trial fell apart due to technicalities.

• A memorial commemorating the lost miners sits in a small park in New Glasgow, Pictou County, N.S. The mine itself was razed in 1998, and its remaining entry points were sealed.

• In 2000, PanCanadian Petroleum acquired the right to extract methane gas from the Westray mine area.


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