Coal mining in the Maccan/Jubilee area of Cumberland County started around 1862.

From 1862-1951, 28 companies operated at least 18 mines in the area but the mining was hard and not very productive – only 135,000 tons were extracted over nine decades, and it came from mostly thin, poor-quality coal seams that would likely have been ignored in any other coal-mining area of the province.

Here is an example of how tough the miners had to be: thin coal seams meant the tunnels were small and narrow (i.e. claustrophobic!). It is said that the men had to crawl into many tunnels on hands and knees and exit them by crawling out backwards because there was no space to turn around. And this was hundreds of feet underground in many cases.

The five coal seams in the area are shown as black lines in the aerial picture below. The hope was that the five small seams, about two or three feet thick each, would merge north of Harrison Lake to form one large seam, the Chignecto. However, this hope did not pan out – the good coal in the Chignecto Seam was only three-feet thick. (FYI, the expression “pan out,” meaning something that is successful or works out well, comes from prospectors panning for gold.)

By comparison, the thickest coal seam in Nova Scotia is the Foord seam in the Pictou Coalfield, which is 13.4 metres thick in places.

Here is the history of coal mining in the Maccan/Jubilee area:


Mining started in 1862 when John P. Lawson and Patrick Ward built a railway from the Maccan River to their mine site on the north side of Harrison Lake.

The Maccan Mine had a 30-metre-deep shaft sunk through three coal seams with the intention of working a 20-inch seam first.

No production was recorded from this site until 1864. The company also sunk a slope (decline tunnel) on a seam called "Big Bed" (even though it was only four-feet thick) but abandoned that work in May 1864.

By 1866, the 30-metre shaft was abandoned and most of the production from the Maccan Mine was through a slope on the east side of a large fault. In geology, a fault is a fracture, or zone of fractures, between two blocks of rock. Faults are caused by geological forces like tectonic plate movement and they allow the blocks of rock to move relative to each other. Faults are a challenge in mining because they can cause deposits to be split, moving part of the deposit to a different, often hard-to-find, location. The aerial photo below which marks the coal seams in black shows four faults in the area – breaks in the black lines. The new slope addressed this challenge by providing access to the other part of the coal seam.

By 1872 Lawson and Ward 1862 had extracted a total of 6,000 tons of coal and the Maccan Mine became known as the Lawson Mine. Production ceased in June.

In 1887, S. E. Freeman took over operations and in 1888 he reported just over 100 tons of production.

In 1892, the Lawson mine was abandoned after an engine house fire.

In 1898, Jeff Lockhart is removing crop coal (coal exposed at surface) in the Lawson area.

In 1905, the Lawson property was controlled by the Eastern Coal Company Ltd., but no operations were conducted until 1914.

In 1914, Elvin Long and Company commenced operations in the Lawson area to the west of the fault. This is the area that was previously abandoned in 1866.

Leonard Betts took over Long’s operations in the Lawson area in 1916 on a sublease from the Eastern Coal Company Ltd.

A Mr. Barnes took over operations in the Lawson area in 1917 under a sublease from the Eastern Coal Company Ltd.

Operations in the Lawson area were abandoned in January 1919.

In 1922, the Lawson Coal Company started operations in the Lawson area, to the east of the fault, last worked in 1892. The main slope was refurbished and a return airway was sunk approximately 250 metres to the east. (Ventilation is a key safety measure in underground coal mines. Methane is a gas formed as organic matter decomposes in the absence of oxygen, such as when plants die in wetlands, marshes and swamps – the sorts of places where coal usually forms. The methane is trapped in the coal as it forms and is released as coal is mined. Methane is combustible, so underground coal mines use ventilation systems to vent methane and prevent it from pooling and triggering fires and explosions.)

The Enterprise Coal Company took over operations from the Lawson Coal Company in 1927. Lawson had averaged almost 6,000 tons annually from 1922 to 1926, totalling 27,000 tons of coal extracted. Enterprise produced more than 10,000 tons in 1927 but operations shut down the next year.

In 1930 J. H. Legere opened the Lawson #5 Colliery on the west side of the Maccan River, north of Harrison Lake, after obtaining a sublease from Charles Smith.

In 1932, John Rector took over Legere's sublease and operated the Lawson #5 Colliery. However, the Lawson #5 Colliery was abandoned in June 1933.

In 1939, John D. Betts opened the Lawson #3 mine to the west of the Eastern Coal Company Property last worked in 1919. However, the mine was shut down the following year after producing fewer than 500 tons.


The second earliest area worked was in Jubilee when, in 1884, William Patrick opened a slope on the Rector-Lawson seam. A pit was sunk on two feet of cannel coal, which may be the farthest easterly representation of the Joggins Bench seam. (Cannel coal was also known as candle coal because it lights easily and burns with a bright, smoky flame.) Unfortunately, an engine house fire at the Patrick Mine curtailed production in 1887 and the mine was abandoned the following year.

In 1910, the Black Diamond Mine, located between the Lawson area and the Jubilee Mine, was opened by the Maritime Coal, Railway and Power Company, the same company that built in Chignecto the first power plant in North America located at the mouth of a coal mine (

The Maritime Coal, Railway and Power Company closed the Black Diamond Mine in July 1911 but re-opened it in April 1914. The mine was closed again in June 1916.

In 1921, the Carter #1 Mine was opened by the Carter Coal Company on a sublease from the Dominion Coal Company. This mine is believed to be the re-opening of William Patrick's former operation, which was abandoned in 1888. The mine was located just west of the Black Diamond operation that closed in 1916.

In 1924, the Carter #1 Mine was closed and operations were shifted to the Carter #2 Colliery, a half mile to the west on the Joggins Bench seam.


In 1894, William Patrick sank a slope near Maccan Station. Its location is uncertain (believed to be immediately East of Route 302), but it may be the same mine put into production the following year by J. T. Smith.

After being operated by G. J. Harrison for several years, Smith's Mine, at Maccan Station, closed in July 1901.

In 1905, the Eastern Coal Company Ltd. purchased the J. T. Smith property and, in 1906, sank two slopes to the east of the Smith Mine. Boreholes were being used in an attempt to locate the workings of the Smith Mine, for which no mine plan is available.

The Maccan dam was constructed around this time to serve the mine. The 1907 Department of Mines annual report described it as being “12 feet high and 200 feet across a valley, and just below the junction of two brooks, when completed, it is calculated to hold nine million gallons water.”

The Eastern Coal Company ceased operations near Maccan Station in 1910 due to fault trouble.


The Jubilee Mine was opened in 1897 by N. C. Schureman, U. J. Wetherby and Amos Terris. The mine was located just over two miles west of the Lawson area.

In 1901, the Jubilee Mine was also called the "MicMac" and it was leased to J. H. Patrick.

In November 1903, the Jubilee Mine was taken over by the Bayside Coal Company of Boston. A second slope was sunk near the #1 slope, but on another seam.

The Jubilee Mine, also then-called the Empire Mine, was closed in 1907. The Jubilee #2 slope was pumped out in January 1908 by P. W. McNaughton, but the operation was closed again later in the year.

In May 1915, the Atlantic Coal Company re-opened one of the Jubilee slopes. In 1916 W. L. Barnes was operating at Jubilee on a sublease from the Atlantic Coal Co. but he abandoned the operation in February 1917.

The following year, Isiah McCarthy & Son re-opened the Jubilee mine in January on a sublease from the Atlantic Coal Company but operations again came to a halt later that year.

In 1920, the New Jubilee Coal Company opened a mine called the Jubilee, south of the highway between River Hebert and Maccan on what is believed to be the Forty Brine Seam. The mine was closed after producing just over 1,000 tons. The colliery may also have been known as the Shaw Mine.

In 1924, the Carter Coal Company, on a sublease from the Cumberland Railway and Coal Company, opened the Carter Mine #2 in the Jubilee area. These workings are the most easterly to be conducted on the Joggins Bench seam.

In 1926, the Phoenix Coal Company took over operations at the Carter #2 Mine and renamed it the Phoenix Colliery. Coal thickness was only 24 inches with an 11-inch parting.

In 1936, John Rector removed less than 100 tons of coal from the Jubilee site. An incline was driven to intersect the overlying Joggins/Phoenix seam.

After an apparently successful application for Government of Nova Scotia funding, William Taylor (former operator in Joggins with Oswald Fife) started a new slope in the Jubilee area in 1950. A couple of tunnels were driven from the underlying Rector-Lawson seam to the Joggins seam, but due to poor quality and bad roof conditions operations ceased in 1951.

This was the last attempt at coal mining in the Maccan/Jubilee area.