Remembering Westray

Staff ~ The News
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It has been 22 years since a methane explosion rocked the Westray Mine in what became Canada's worst mining disaster since 1958 in Springhill.

The Westray Mine opened in Plymouth on Sept. 11, 1991. Miners soon complained about poor working conditions, noting especially the fact that they were continually working in deep coal dust. A local union official stated in a safety report that he felt someone would be killed there in the near future.

Two months after his prophetic remark, a methane gas explosion rocked the mine on May 9, 1992, killing 26 miners.

Canadian and international media converged on Nova Scotia to cover the mining tragedy. Draegermen searched the shaft and tunnels for survivors, but found only the bodies of 15 deceased miners; underground conditions were so hazardous that recovery efforts had to be abandoned.

The Nova Scotia Government sponsored a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Westray Mine, and the final report, issued in 1998, recommended a sweeping overhaul of the province's existing mining and labour legislation.

Today, the "Their Light Shall Always Shine" monument to the victims sits in a small park next to NNEC. It marks the approximate above-ground location of where the remaining 11 Westray miners lie entombed deep below, caught forever in the earth's dark grip.

With files from the Nova Scotia Museum. 

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