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May 3, 1887: Remembering 150 lives lost in B.C.’s worst-ever mining disaster

City of Nanaimo lowering flags to commemorate Esplanade Mine explosion that killed 150
Nanaimo’s No. 1 mine. (Submitted photo)

Flags in Nanaimo are at half-mast today to remember the lives of 150 miners who were lost 135 years ago in the province’s worst mining disaster.

In the No. 1 Esplanade Mine explosion on May 3, 1887, 46 women lost their husbands and 126 children lost their fathers, devastating the small community of approximately only 2,000 people, a release from the City of Nanaimo noted.

“Starting at 5:55 pm … two explosions occurred 260 metres below sea level in what was known as the city’s largest mine, No. 1 Esplanade Mine. The blast was so forceful it rocketed through the underground shafts for almost a kilometre. The underground fire burned for two weeks.

“Because of such damage, the last of the bodies could not be recovered until July. Unfortunately, seven men never were recovered and remain somewhere beneath the Nanaimo Harbour to this day,” read the city’s release. “A jury blamed the explosion on the firing of an unprepared and badly planted charge that ignited accumulated gas fuelled by coal dust.”

More information on the tragedy can also be found at

READ MORE: South end remembers victims of No. 1 Esplanade Mine

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About the Author: Nanaimo Bulletin News Staff

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