Canada: Province Marks 30th Anniversary of Westray Mine Disaster
May 10, 2022 - Three decades have passed since an explosion at a mine in Plymouth, Pictou County, killed 26 workers. Today, May 9, Nova Scotians will gather to mark the 30th anniversary of the Westray disaster.
“Nova Scotians will never forget that day when those hard-working men didn’t return home to their families,” said Karla MacFarlane, MLA for Pictou West and Minister of Community Services, on behalf of Premier Tim Houston. “The families continue to carry the trauma of that day, and the community shares their grief on the loss of their loved ones in a preventable tragedy.”
On the morning of May 9, 1992, a massive explosion, caused by a buildup of methane gas and excessive coal dust, erupted through the Westray coal mine. Despite an intense and heroic search and rescue effort that continued for six days after the explosion, there were no survivors and only 15 of the 26 bodies were recovered.
A public inquiry found that the explosion was preventable, and the inquiry’s recommendations resulted in significant changes to workplace health and safety.
Nova Scotians will gather in the New Glasgow area to mark the 30th anniversary of the explosion, including an assembly at Westray Miners Memorial Park. Organizers include relatives of the deceased workers, the United Steelworkers Union, Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, WCB (Workers’ Compensation Board) Nova Scotia and the Province of Nova Scotia.
Even though some occupations carry more risk than others, one thing is true no matter what job you do: all Nova Scotians deserve to return home to their families at the end of the workday. We must do everything we can, every day, to prevent workplace fatalities and injuries. In this way, we can make sure those who lost their lives are never forgotten.Jill Balser, Minister of Labour, Skills and Immigration
“I will never forget the day the call came in to us at the WCB about the Westray Mine explosion. The 26 men lost forever, the lasting heartbreak, the deeply preventable failure of safety – we must remember it, always. Tragedies like Westray, and too many others, must be the reason we do all we can to ensure workers and employers across the province don’t just know the rules when it comes to safety, but truly care about why they matter so much.
On May 9, we will recognize the sacrifice made by the 26 miners who were killed at the Westray Mine explosion in 1992. We will stand in solidarity with families and former co-workers to honour the memory of the 26 Westray miners. They are victims for whom the law failed; they paid the ultimate price of going to work. That’s why we will continue to fight for better laws and safety regulations. By working together, we can make change, change to ensure every worker comes home to their family at day’s end. No job is worth dying for.Danny Cavanagh, President, Nova Scotia Federation of Labour
the Westray explosion is one of the deadliest mining disasters in Canadian history
the Province established a Commission of Inquiry to review the Westray tragedy shortly after it happened
the report of the Westray Mine Public Inquiry was titled The Westray Story: A Predictable Path to Disaster and included 74 recommendations to improve health and safety in the mining industry
the majority of the recommendations were addressed with the implementation of the Underground Mining Regulations in 2003
Remembering Westray – 30 Years Later (WCB Nova Scotia video): https://youtu.be/ktrwE-9KOLw