‘Like a drive-by shooting’
SYDNEY, NS — For some people, today might mark an anniversary or birthday, but for Steve Drake of New Waterford it signifies the “economic homicide” of Cape Breton. Drake said Jan. 28 marks the 20th anniversary of the death of the coal mines when then-Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale announced plans to privatize the coal mining industry on Jan. 28, 1999.
“They did it like a drive-by shooting,” Drake said. “I stood side by side with 200 coal miners and their families at the Delta Hotel in Sydney and shook my head as Minister Ralph Goodale hammered the final nail into the coffin of our beloved coal industry,” Drake said.
“The government handed out information kits like they were lottery tickets, like we had all won something.” The federal government’s announcement included plans to close Devco’s Phalen coal mine by the end of 2000 and sell the company’s Prince mine and other operations.
According to information in this story from the Beaton Institute and Drake’s personal library, a total of 1,667 people worked at Cape Breton’s two remaining coal mines. Four years prior, more than 2,200 worked at the mines. When Devco began in 1967 there were 6,300 workers.
Drake, now a crown prosecutor in Sydney, started in the coal mines in 1977 at Lingan mine as an industrial electrician apprentice. His first day was a backshift underground. He was president of the local United Mine Workers of America district from 1994-2002.