Coal mining has always been a significant influence on the culture and traditions of many communities in Nova Scotia. Not only has that influence left physical artifacts in those areas most affected, but some areas continue to recognize the coal mining past in community celebrations and in the monuments located throughout the communities. A few communities have maintained mining museums, and these tell the stories in a very local context.
In Nova Scotia, coal mining by European settlers has a history that goes back about 300 years. In the earliest days, the coal mining activity was sporadic and unorganized. The coal miners of that time were soldiers and local settlers. They mined the coal out of necessity, in order to provide heat for their families and comrades during the cold winter months. This type of mining occurred mostly in locations where the coal seams were exposed in the cliffs of harbors, rivers and the Atlantic Ocean.
A century and a half later, in the early 1800's, authorities began to recognize the potential wealth of the coal resources within their jurisdiction. They noticed that mining activities were beginning to increase and spread throughout the region. It was evident that the activities were beginning to develop into commercial endeavors, and yet were still unorganized and unregulated. Upon realizing these realities, the authorities began the process of formalizing the coal mining industry.
All through the 1900's, the coal mining activities were organized within a structure of licenses, grants and royalties. The mining operations were conducted by companies and regulated by government. As a result of this, a relative degree of stability had been achieved in the coal mining industry.
It has often been said that the coal mines formed a nucleus for some Nova Scotia communities. By providing company owned stores and housing in the immediate vicinity of the mines, the companies played a major role in community development. As the mines prospered, so did the communities. When the mines closed, as they always did, they left behind a social legacy of success or failure: Some communities continued to exist in varying degrees of prosperity, while others collapsed into complete abandonment. The successful communities retain the culture and traditions, while the unsuccessful communities offer deep rooted memories for families to hand down, and intriguing stories for the interested historian.
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Last Modified: 2015-03-15
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