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City of Nanaimo lowering flags to commemorate mine disaster

Explosion that killed 150 miners happened 135 years ago on May 3
Nanaimo’s No. 1 mine. (Submitted photo)

The City of Nanaimo will remember the lives of 150 miners who were lost 135 years ago in the province’s worst mining disaster.

A release by the city, issued on Monday, May 2, noted that to mark the anniversary and to honour the memory of the lives lost, flags located at city facilities will once again be lowered to half-mast on Tuesday, May 3, as per the resolution passed by Nanaimo city council in 2015.

“We will all take a moment on May 3 to remember the many lives lost in this tragic event,” said Mayor Leonard Krog in the release.

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, the release 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.”

Residents and visitors are invited to go to the walk-through coal mine exhibit in the Nanaimo Museum to learn more about Nanaimo’s coal mining history and this tragic accident. More information on the exhibit can also be found at

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

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