History of Coal Mining in Nova Scotia
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Dept. Mines



The attention of the public, which for some years has been directed to the coal field of this County, was more effectually called, during the past year, to the many advantages it possesses. The actual produce, though small, was comparatively a large increase, and the active preparations now in progress warrant expectations of a continued proportionate increase for this and future years.

Important additions to our knowledge of the resources of the Spring Hill District have been made. The Black or Eleven feet seam, has been proved to the Westward, to lie in a straight line as far as Miller's Hotel, where it bends somewhat suddenly round to the Southward. The continuation appears to be further deflected until at a distance of about one mile from the Spring Hill Colliery, it, or a seam very similar, in character, is found trending still more to the Eastward and with a Southerly dip. Should subsequent explorations prove the correctness of this surmise, and determine the lay of the seam, untroubled by serious faults, a rapid developement of the coal trade in this county may be anticipated. The thirteen feet seam, originally discovered on the General Mining Association's property, has been proved to be an overlying seam, but has not yet been traced beyond the bend.

By these discoveries the prospective value of the contiguous areas owned by Mr. Livesey and others, on which much money has been spent in surface explorations, has been greatly enhanced snd stimulus given to further exploration.

In anticipation of the facilities for transit which the trade of this county must require when the collieries now being started are fully developed, and when the output exceeds the local demand along the line of the Intercolonial Railway, (as it must shortly do) a Company has already begun to build a Railway from Spring Hill to Parrsboro'. By this branch road the mines will be put into communication with tide water at the nearest and most convenient point for shipment, and the operators be enabled to compete in the markets of New England, at present chiefly supplied from Cape Breton. Analyses of the Coal, making it highly bituminous, warrant the expectation that it will be found suitable for gas making, for which purpose about two million tons are annually required in the towns of New England favorably situated for suppliance from the coast. The quantity at present provided for this purpose by Nova Scotia is somewhat under a quarter of a million of tons.


JOGGINS.--The changes made in the system of working and the facilities for increasing the production, mentioned in the last report, enabled this colliery to greatly extend its business during the past season. Two new incline roads worked by counterbalances have facilitated the transportation underground. The system of "longwall" adopted in one district of the workings has been proved well adapted to the requirements of the seam and will be extended to other portions of the workings as circumstances allow.

SCOTIA.--The business of this colliery is altogether local and is consequently small. The coal now mined is from the second seam 4' 3" in thickness, and underlying the main seam, which is 2' 9" in thickness, about ten feet. The slope which is 300 feet deep, dips at an angle of 38 deg.

SPRING HILL.---The crop openings used in 1872 for the extraction of coal were abandoned and slopes to the East and West three quarters of a mile apart have been started. The West slope has been driven some 400 feet and the requisite pumping and winding machinery erected. The engine is a single 16 in cylinder with a 4 feet 6 inch stroke, geared three to one, driving a 9 feet drum. Engines of a heavier class and more permanent character are in course of erection at the East slope, where in future the principal output is expected to be made. The ventilation of the present workings is effected by a furnace 6 feet wide erected at the outcrop. Twenty houses, each of two tenements, have been built for the accommodation of the workmen.


The bright prospects with which the coal trade of this County opened, were early marred by strikes, and later in the spring, the lamentable explosion at the Drummond colliery, destroyed all the hopes of the output exceeding that of the previous year. The falling off amounted to 38,767 tons, and the sale decreased 54,433 tons.

Much attention was given to prospecting, and explorations were extensively made in various parts of the county. At Caribou Island much interest was caused by the discovery of a seam which by the outcrop promised to be some four feet in thickness, but which subsequent operations failed to realize. The seam appears to be faulted were struck, and where it is regular, it has not yet been opened. Outside the well known field the explorations were attended with but indifferent success.

A Company has been formed with the intention of proving, if possible, the measures lying north of the New Glasgow Conglomerate. A borehole has been put down 500 feet at Sutherland's Point, and shales, very similar in appearance to those of the coal bearing basin to the south, have been reached. The encouragement thus given will, it is hoped, induce the Company to proceed in their investigation and continue the boring for another 500 or 1000 feet. The value of such an undertaking, in the event of its being successful, cannot be overestimated, for as the measures lie regular and but slightly inclined, a large tract of country would in all probability be proved by the one operation.


ALBION MINES.--The General Mining Association have transferred this property with all their rights, leases, and real estate, in the county to the Halifax Company (Limited) who have since carried on the operations under the same management.

In the deep seam worked by the Cage Pit, the engine plane has been extended to a total length of 700 yds., and levels driven from the bottom to the north and south. An attempt was made to pump the water from the deep by a Cameron pump, the steam for which was conveyed through 1000 yards of naked pipes, but it was found that the pressure reduced from 35 to 8lbs. was not sufficient for the work. Preparations are being made to encase the pipes in some non-conducting material. The ventilation effected by a small furnace amounts to 9,900 cubic feet of air per minute.

In the Main seam worked by the Foord Pit, the north levels have been driven three quarters of a mile; and near the face a pair of stone drifts have been started to the west to intersect the Deap seam, which, it is expected, they will do at a distance of 180 yards. It is proposed in this way to drain and in part work that seam. The Guibal Fan, to which reference was made in a previous report, was put in operation and was found by experiment to give when running at the moderate speed of 47 strokes, 75,000 cubic feet of air per minute, of which quantity 64,400 feet passed through the returns. Shortly after the fan was started, the use of powder was resumed in these workings and the practice initiated in conformity with the new Act. No powder is used in the levels where there is the greater likelihood of feeders of gas being cut, and there the men still use the wedge. On the south side the levels have been driven through the fault, which was ninety feet thick, and a self acting inclined road made to win the rise coal.

The manufacture of Coke has been continued, and the quantity is stated to have been 462 tons. Of late it has been made of dull, the screenings from slack coal.

ACADIA.--Although the sales from this colliery are 13,088 tons behind those of last year, they have not been surpassed by those of any other in the Province. The brunt of the strikes in the spring was borne by this colliery, and work had hardly been renewed when it was again suspended for a time in consequence of the Drummond explosion. The exploitation of the mine has since been much extended and the slopes for a new lift are being driven. The pillar working has been continued and has been followed in places by the subsidence of the surface to the no small anxiety of the inhabitants of Westville. A fourth set of three boilers, of the same kind as those previously in use has been added to supply the increased power required as the workings extend to the deep. When tested in the autumn, 29,000 cubic feet of air were found passing over the furnace per minute.

INTERCOLONIAL.--During the early part of the year this colliery was worked most energetically, and every preparation made to increase the output as rapidly as possible. The exploration of the mine was further increased by driving the main slopes some 300 feet or more to the deep to open out a fourth lift thus making them about 1750 feet in length. A large stock of coal was banked on the surface and about 7000 tons stowed in the upper workings of the mine. In all, a greater quantity was on hand, than that possessed by any other company when the spring trade opened with every prospect of a successful year's business. Early in May the shipping had already become vigorous, when a strike of the colliers for certain privileges and higher rates of wages closed the workings. After a week's intermission, an agreement was made with the men and they resumed work on the 13th. About noon on that day, a shot fired in one of the low levels on the south side of the pit ignited the coal. Every exertion was made, as detailed in the evidence at the inquest, to put out the fire, but the peculiarly broken condition of the face of the level prevented the men from attacking the flame where the burning gas directly issued in great volume from the solid coal. The fire spread rapidly and as it was soon evident that the chances of subduing it were small, an order was issued that all the hands, who were disinclined to assist at the fire, should leave the pit. Many had previously left, having been driven out of their bords by the smoke. The boys, all except one, had gone up, and of the rest, all but about a dozen men who remained with Richardson, the overman, at the fire, left the lowest landing to walk up the slope. Richardson and his men who so heroically remained to battle with the fire, so long as there was the slightest hope of success, must soon have followed to endeavor to check as speedily as possible the progress of the flames, and save the pit by closing all openings. No attempt to do this was, however, made, for before many of the men who were in the slope had time to escape, an explosion of gas, unexampled on this continent for violence, occurred, dealing on all sides death and destruction. The details are given in the published abstract of the evidence taken at the inquest. The force of the explosion was so great that the wooden rope rollers were torn from the track and hurled out of the slope as from the mouth of a cannon, falling in the woods some two hundred yards back of the bankhead. Great baulks of timber 14 feet long, by 9 inches through, were cast up out of the Campbell pit to so great a height that on falling, they struck the ground with such force as to fracture them, and the rush of air swept away as would a hurricane the exposed roof of the bankhead. Many explosions took place during the afternoon, and the second occurring about two hours after the first, killed four volunteers who were nobly endeavoring to rescue some men then. known to be alive at the bottom of the pumping pit. By the second explosion the ventilation was thoroughly destroyed, and as hopes could no longer be entertained that any life still existed in the mine, all the preparations to explore the workings were then abandoned, and attention alone directed to saving property. The violence and frequency of the explosions struck terror into the hearts of all who rushed to the scene and paralyzed the efforts of those who sought to close the openings. All the available water was turned in to cut off the lower workings, and effectually seal the bottom of the pumping pit. Still the fire raged, despite of every exertion, for 36 hours, and the flames shot up with a fierce roar to the height of from thirty to forty feet from the many openings along the crop. Two days passed before the men engaged in filling the openings had effectually sealed this fiery grave of fifty-five of their comrades.

The workings remained closed until the end of October, when one of the slopes was opened and air allowed to circulate between it and an opening made by a fall near the rise. At the end of a fortnight and just when appearances seemed to warrant preparations being made to re-open the workings in a regular manner, the return air showed unquestionable signs that the fresh air was finding its way into places where the heat was still sufficiently intense to cause combustion of the coal or the bituminous shales of the roof. In consequence the pit was again closed and remained so up to the end of the year. Preparations are now in progress to make an entry by No. 1 slope, conducting into the mine no more air than is requisite to supply the men working at the end of the brattice, timbering the slope and stopping the crosscuts in the hopes that by leaving the air of the mine undisturbed the necessary stoppings may be built to cut off the south side where the fire raged most fiercely and enable the north side to be separately re-opened. The prospects of success are most encouraging.

An apparatus, invented by M. Denayrouze called an aerophore, has lately attracted much attention in England, and the tests made have proved it to be of practical value for just such service. By its aid, says the inventor, a man, encumbered by no more than 8 or 10 lbs. weight of apparatus, may penetrate at once and to a great distance into a pit filled with choke damp or any other gas, remain there for several hours, carry a lamp with him without danger, and have free use of his arms. The apparatus is of two kinds; a low pressure apparatus, which requires that air should be pumped to the miner through india rubber tubing from the nearest point at which pure air can be found; and the high pressure apparatus, which enables the miner to carry his own supply of fresh air in a receiver, and thus make him independent of communication from without. So satisfactory were the experiments considered, that the apparatus was regarded as invaluable for enabling a miner to explore a working charged with gas or to recover a man who could not otherwise escape, and orders were at once given for several to be kept at the collieries in the neighbourhood of the place where the experiments were made.

To keep up a small business until a new winning can be made, a pit some 70 feet has been sunk to the coal lying to the south of the second fault. Subsequently a slope was started and engine erected to continue the workings to the deep and the coal lying between the faults. A small pit was also opened on the second seam and the coal gives promise of being of marketable quality. The seam yields about ten feet of clean coal.

NOVA SCOTIA.--On the workings of this colliery approaching the southern boundary of the area, several holings were made into the rise workings of the Acadia, so that instead of a solid barrier of unwrought coal existing, as required by the terms of the leases, to keep the workings distinct, the communications are numerous and the value of the reservation destroyed. A late survey of the surface and workings proves the correctness of the plan of this colliery's workings and exonerates the Company from any liability connected with the destruction of the barrier.

The operations have been of the ordinary character though much extended. Some trouble has been occasioned by the tender nature of the roof, coupled with the high inclination of the seam, and some bords have been lost by "crushes". The ventilation is effected by a furnace, over which some 44,000 cubic feet of air pass per minute.

VALE.--The past year was spent in perfecting the arrangements for working on a large scale. No mining was done beyond driving the slopes and the levels when the main slope had reached a total depth of 850 feet. The chief expenditure was on the surface, building dwellings, constructing a railway to New Glasgow, and preparing a shipping wharf at Pictou Landing.


The trade of this County amounted to 520,189 tons, exceeding that of the year before by 37 per cent. The success attending it was attained notwithstanding the serious check received by the hurricane of the 24th August, which, by disabling a large number of vessels and damaging shipping piers, reduced the shipments by at least 25,000 tons below what they would otherwise have been.


SYDNEY.--The detention unfortunately caused in the sinking of the new pits at Lloyd's Cove by the irruption of a heavy feeder of water which necessitated the lining of the shafts with cast iron tubbing, has prevented the output from this colliery being much augmented. The progress lately made in the sinking renders it probable that one of the shafts will reach the seam before the end of the current year, and the new winning be in full operation in 1876. When this is effected, the facilities for production will be greatly increased.

The difficulties attending this enterprise being of an unusual character, at least, hitherto unmet with in this country, the means adopted to overcome them are worthy of note. At the place where the sinking is in progress, the coal is expected to be struck at a depth of 696 feet. To win it, two shafts were started in the year 1867, and the erection of the requisite machinery begun. When the shaft intended for the winding shaft had reached the depth of 267 feet, the heavy feeder of water, which caused the temporary abandonment of work, was struck. Preparations had then to be made to case the shafts and while sinking to pump the water until a water-tight stratum on which to seat the wedging crib of the tubbing was reached. But first an adit was driven through the measures from the seashore, a distance of 516 feet, for the discharge from the pumps. For the pumping, an engine of 240 horse power was erected; the cylinder of which is 62 inches in diameter with a stroke of 9 feet. The cylinder stands over a staple shaft in which, when complete, the upper lift of pumps will be placed, the piston rod projecting through the bottom of the cylinder for the attachment of the spears. For the sinking, a 20 inch set of pumps are used, hung in blocks from the surface. Powerful crabs, seven in all, are in use for putting in and lifting the pumps, spears, cradles, &c.; the main ropes being 14 inches in circumference. The winding engine is a direct acting horizontal engine of 160 horse power, having two cylinders, each 36 inches in diameter with a five feet stroke. The rope drum is 18 feet in diameter. Each engine is supplied with steam from a set of four plain cylindrical boilers 5 feet 6 inches in diameter and 35 feet long, fed with water by a donkey engine of 7 inch cylinder. The flues lead into a chimney 85 feet high. A jack-engine with two horizontal cylinders 14 inches in diameter, is at present employed in sinking the pumping shaft.

When the sinking of the winding shaft was temporarily abandoned, every preparation was made to continue that of the pumping shaft, and during the past year the water-bearing strata were pierced, 300 feet of tubbing inserted, and the feeder in that shaft dammed back. For much of the time the engine had to combat with 650 gallons of water per minute. At the end of the year the pumping shaft stood at a depth of 335 feet, and the staple pit in which work was resumed, on the feeder in the pumping shaft being tubbed back, at 305 feet. In the latter, tubbing is now being put, and it is expected that the whole of the 301 feet of tubbing required will be shortly in place. When this is completed the remaining 70 feet in the staple pit and the 379 feet in the pumping shaft will be resumed dry. To estimate the difficulties connected with such an operation and the detentions occasioned, it must be remembered that all the changing of buckets and clacks has to be done from the top of the shaft, and that very much time is consequently consumed. First the spears have to be raised, disjointed one by one, the bucket changed, or if it be the clack that is done, the "fish head" attached with which to get hold of the clack, the spears reconnected, and the clack withdrawn, replaced, and the operation repeated with the bucket. Then the pump is again started, and after some hours' pumping the water, which has rapidly accumulated during the changing of the bucket, is removed, and work resumed.

LINGAN.--The working of this colliery was of the ordinary character up to the 1st June, when a fire occurred, and the openings had to be closed. Subsequently an incline road, known as Hall's slope, was opened and some coals were thus obtained, but the business was greatly retarded in consequence of the fire.

The fire is supposed to have originated by a body of gas--ejected perhaps by a fall of the roof--coming in contact with the furnace fire, and causing an explosion which would temporarily reverse the current of air, and occasion the fire which was shortly afterward discovered to be burning in the coal adjoining an underground boiler supplying steam to a force pump at the deep. In confirmation of this theory, the wooden cupola at the top of the air shaft, was seen suddenly to burst into flame, and then as a reversion of the air took place, the flames for a short time poured down the upcast. The stoker at the underground boiler seeing the flames pouring out of the furnace doors, left and went up the slope. The furnace man happened at the time to be getting coal for his fire, and did not see the reversal of the current. The pit was not at work at the time, and no lives were lost. Attempts were made to put out the fire, but they proved ineffectual, and in fear of an explosion the put was closed. The south side still remains so, although no fear now exists that the fire is still burning.

A new furnace has been erected at the foot of a new upcast 65 feet deep, sunk further to the Northward where there is greater natural elevation.

At the Barrasois a small quantity of coal has been mined in the land area.

VICTORIA.--One of Cameron's special steam pumps has been placed half way down the slope to relieve the main set of pumps which it is expected will be shortly required for the farther extension of the slopes to the deep.

GARDINER.--The shaft in course of sinking, last year has been put down to the coal and levels and headways are being driven to open up the mine. Substantial machinery has been erected. For winding, two horizontal engines, with cylinders 20 inches in diameter and a four feet stroke, directly act on the shaft of the drum which is 8 feet in diameter. For pumping, two of Cameron's steam pumps have been placed below; one with a 14th inch cylinder, 24 inch stroke and 7 inch plunger, the other with a 12 inch cylinder, 12 inch stroke and 6 inch plunger. Steam is supplied by four plain cylindrical boilers 27 feet long and 3 feet 3 inches in diameter. The winding rope is of steel four inches in circumference. The pit tubs adopted are 3 feet 7 inches long, 2 feet deep and 2 feet 10 inches in breadth. The wheels 9 1/2 inches in diameter, and the guage 2 feet 2 inches.

RESERVE.--The ventilation has been improved by substituting for the fire lamp a furnace which is 5 feet 6 inches wide and 6 feet from the floor to the crown of the arch. To carry off the surface water an adit has been driven from the outcropping of the seam in a depression.

The coal wagons in use on the Glasgow and Cape Breton Co.'s railway were found in practice to be unsuited for the coal and the loading of large vessels at the shipping pier at Sydney. They have been altered and a flat substituted for the pitched floor. To empty them tipping tables have been put at the pier, and they have been found to work satisfactorily. There can be no question but that for tender coals,--and all the coals of Cape Breton require careful handling,--drops and reverse shoots are destructive. Besides the saving of the coal by having it slide directly from the wagons on to the shoots instead of dropping many feet on to the shoots or from a height directly into the hold of the vessel, an advantage is gained by the use of tipping tables and wagons with side or end doors, in that a less elevation above the vessel's deck is required.

Too little attention has been hitherto paid by shippers in Cape Breton to the size of the coal sent to market. Much of it gets broken up and shaken by being so tumbled about, that it suffers much at the ports of discharge with a consequent depreciation in value. The change in the manner of shipping at the pier at Sydney cannot be otherwise than beneficial to the coals passing over the Glasgow and Cape Breton railway.

LORWAY.--The workings at the West Pit in the crop coal of the Lorway seam have been closed, and the sinking of the permanent pits has been discontinued.

EMERY.--This colliery has been opened by the Lorway Co. on a seam overlying the Lorway seam and underlying the Phelan, worked at the neighbouring Reserve Colliery. A slope has been driven and levels won off on both sides. The seam shows 4 feet 9 inches of coal, underlaid by 2 feet 6 inches of fireclay and 1 foot 6 inches of coal.

SCHOONER POND.--On driving, the slope down some 600 feet the seam was found to thin down from 8 feet to 4 feet 3 inches, and the dip to flatten from 1 in 10 to 1 in 18. At this point the sinking has been stopped and the workings temporarily abandoned. No doubt the seam will be found further to the deep to resume its old dip and to be of the same thickness as it is to the West, the flattening and thinning being due merely to a local trouble. The seam is the same as that worked at the Emery Colliery, and as it has been variously named the Ross, Spencer and McPhail, names designating seams in the Low Point and Cow Bay sections, it has been thought better to avoid confusion in the future, and to re-name it the Emery.

INTERNATIONAL.--The ventilation of the pit has been brought under control by a furnace six feet in width, built to the rise of the present workings. A planeway is being driven to the deep and bords opened on both sides. The wire rope being worked by an engine on the surface and conducted down the winding shaft to the planeway.

GLACE BAY.--At the Hub pits the operations have been of the customary character. At the Harbor, the pits for the new winning have not yet reached the coal, but the sinking is being steadily prosecuted.

CALEDONIA.---The leading headway has been driven to the crop and a travelling road made of it. A self-acting incline road has been made on the East side, worked by a 4 feet clip drum and a steel wire rope 630 feet long. The dip of the incline is one in twelve. On the surface two eight tenement and four two tenement dwellings have been built.

ONTARIO.--No change has been made in the method of working, and the business remains small.

BLOCEHOUSE.--The business of the colliery suffered severely by the August storm, which damaged the shipping wharf so that for a time only vessels of moderate draft of water could be loaded.

GOWRIE.--A modified system of longwall working has been started in one district of the pit for an experiment. The seam appears well adapted for longwall working pure and simple, and it is expected that the workings in connection with the new pit will be so conducted. A light locomotive has been placed on the railway to replace the horses previously employed. In the mine two self-acting incline roads have been made and found economical.


NEW CAMPBELLTON Colliery, the only one in the county, was re-opened after lying idle for some five years. The operations have been chiefly directed to restoring the railway, buildings and openings to the mine. Some new machinery has been procured for furthering the output of this year.


CHIMNEY CORNER.--The destruction of the engine house and miners' dwellings by fire on the 3rd March suddenly brought the operations of this colliery to a standstill. They have not since been resumed.


Many licenses to search were taken out in this county during the year, and it is said that the Northerly extension of seams, supposed to be identical with those of Sea Coal Bay, have been proved in several places, but I have no reports to confirm the statement.


A small seam about two feet in thickness has been discovered cropping out in the Kennetcook river, and dipping to the South at an angle of 40 degrees. The seam probably belongs to the lowest beds of the coal measures, and although of no present commercial value, may be so as a guide to further explorations, which, as the measures appear much disturbed, must, to have any likelihood of success, be systematically made. At the place of discovery the thickness of the overlying measures can be but a few hundred feet, as rocks of the Lower Carboniferous are seen dipping in a contrary direction on the opposite banks of the river.


In this county also there appears to be an outlying patch of the lower coal measures, and at the head of Country Harbor some thin seams are said to have been found, but no indication of a workable bed has yet been discovered.


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Last Modified: 2000-12-28

Originally Printed by: The Citizen Publishing Company

The information contained on this site is not provided for the purpose of factual
representation. Instead, it is provided in an historical context. Every effort has
been made to ensure that this information represents the actual content
of the published Nova Scotia Department of Mines annual reports.
Nevertheless, no warranties are provided in any respect.

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