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On 3 May 1887, the Nanaimo mine in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada killed 150 miners. Only seven miners survived, and the mine burned for a full day.


The Nanaimo Mine


The Vancouver Coal Company operated the Nanaimo Mine. The Number One Coal Mine opened in 1884, at the foot of Milton Stree in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. Its shafts and tunnels reached under the harbor to Protection Island, Newcastle Island, and the Nainamo River. The mine re-opened after the explosion; it produced 18 million tons of coal before it closed permanently in 1938.


The Explosion


The explosion occurred in the Number One Coal Mine, after explosives were improperly laid. Many miners were killed instantly, but other were trapped by the explosion and resultant cave-in. Those who were left trapped wrote farewell messages in the dust on their shovels. More than 150 children were left fatherless, and 46 women were widowed. Most of the dead were immigrants.


A Revised Death Toll


In the past, official documents had put the death toll at 148. Researchers have revised that number to 150, including 53 Chinese immigrants. The Minister of Mines listed these Chinese workers in the government inquest as "Chinamen, names unknown," followed by a tag number. Employers in British Columbia at the time were not required to report the deaths of Chinese workers; this regulation came into effect in 1897. A monument on Milton Street commemorates the event, listing the names of white miners, and a tally number for the dead Chinese miners.

Chinese Blamed for the Disaster


At the time, many white residents of Nanaimo blamed the Chinese immigrants employed in the mine for the explosion. They claimed these immigrant workers were incapable of reading signs and instructions in English, and blamed their illiteracy for the deaths of the more than one hundred white miners. While it was true that most of the Chinese immigrants were illiterate, this was common of all the miners, regardless of their race.





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