The warning signs were all there. Yet economics dictated that the residents of Springhill, N.S., continue their blind reliance on coal — the ultimate fossil fuel.
One hundred and seventy-four men were working deep within the Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation (DOSCO) colliery at Springhill, N.S., on the evening of Oct. 23, 1958. That’s when death came calling. “At the surface (in Springhill), people … felt a bump,” a Nova Scotia Energy and Mines senior geologist would say many years later. “That wouldn’t explain what the miners felt deep underground. It was much more violent.”
It has been guesstimated that the force of what locals ever after came to refer to as “the Bump” was the equivalent of about 1,000 tonnes of dynamite being exploded underground. That may well have been so, for the grim consequences of the upheaval still stand as one of Canada’s worst workplace disasters. the hard-luck town of Springhill had a long, painful history of such misfortunes.
Whenever there’d been an emergency at DOSCO’s No. 2 coal mine, a whistle normally had sounded. On this particular evening, it didn’t, at least not initially. Not that it mattered. The instant people heard the rumble and felt the ground shake, they knew there was trouble at the mine. Big trouble.
In Miners Memorial Park on the town’s Main Street, the iconic “White Miner” memorial statue quivered atop its five-metre-tall plinth. For 63 years, that solitary marble figure had borne silent witness to the harsh realities of life in this one-industry town.
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