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Nanaimo Marks 135 Years Since Mining Disaster

It has been 135 years since the worst mining disaster in British Columbia rocked the community and now the City of Nanaimo isn’t forgetting.

They’ll be lowering their flags to half-mast on Tuesday in commemoration of the accident, which cost the lives of 150 workers. Those workers made up 25 percent of the mine’s employees and 7.5 percent of the town’s population – which at the time of the accident was only 2,000.

“We will all take a moment on May 3 to remember the many lives lost in this tragic event,” says mayor Leonard Krog.

The tragedy itself happened on the evening of May 3rd in 1887. It’s believed to have been caused by gas in the air, fuelled by coal dust, which had been ignited by a badly planted charge. The flames spread quickly throughout mine tunnels and kept burning for two weeks.

“Because of such damage, the last of the bodies could not be recovered until July and unfortunately seven men never were recovered and remain somewhere beneath the Nanaimo Harbour to this day,” the city says.

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While it’s the worst mining disaster in BC, it only falls second to a 1914 mining disaster in Hillcrest, Alberta for the worst industrial accident in Canadian history. One hundred eighty-nine miners lost their lives in that incident.

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