Allan Shaft 1912

In 1912, there were four fatal accidents in Stellarton’s Allan Shaft, sad examples of why the modern mining industry is so committed to safety. Nothing is more important than ensuring our friends and colleagues get home safely to their families each night.

The provincial Department of Mines’ 1912 annual report described the Allan Shaft accidents:

William Archibald Cameron, 23-year-old carpenter, was working with other men on installing a shaker screen, part of the system of sorting extracted coal. He was holding a piece of lumber when he stepped back and “his clothes caught on a wheel on the main driving shaft of the screens and picking tables. This shaft was running 120 revolutions a minute. He was carried around until the machinery was stopped, but the man was dead.”

William Mueller, 34 years old, was killed on January 23 when “a fall of coal partly covered him. When taken out, he spoke but died about twenty minutes later. The doctor could not find a bruise on any party of the body. The jury of inquest’s verdict was that he died of shock.”

On July 13, Arthur Hayman, 25 years old, was sent for timber. “He started to the surface, and was not seen alive afterward, on being missed, search was made for him and his body was found about two hours later, in the sump in the 962-feet bottom.” He had fallen down the shaft.

On July 30, James D. McDonald, 24, was clearing a place to install a prop to help support a tunnel’s roof. Coal fell on him, breaking his leg above the knee and crushing him. “He was immediately taken to Aberdeen Hospital but died before reaching there.”

Despite these tragedies, the Acadia Coal Company’s management was not reckless with the lives of its workers. For example, the mine’s production in 1912 was lower compared to the previous year because one of the mine’s best-producing sections was shut down for months due to concerns about a potential fire.

A Department of Mines inspector visited the mine on February 8 and did not find any indications of fire. The section in question had “a strange odour” but its temperature was a normal 53 degrees Fahrenheit and there was “no smell of coal smoke.”

The inspector visited again on February 13 and found conditions were the same. On February 19 he visited and found that management had walled off the section suspected of having the fire. The mine’s general manager and chief engineer said the miners refused to work there and that the temperature had risen to 66 degrees. “They thought it better to wall off the place, and take no risks,” according to the inspector. “I insisted on getting into the section, as I was sure no fire existed at a temperature of 66 degrees. They thought it better since it was walled off, to let it remain so for a period of three months.”

During those three months, the temperature in the section averaged 53 degrees.

After three months, the inspector ordered that an opening be made in the walls so the area could be examined. Company management were reluctant so instead, pipe was inserted into the section so the air could be tested. “A very large quantity of fire damp [methane] came out of the return air-way but no odour of any other kind. This test was conclusive. There was no fire in the section.”

It was not until July 28 that a 4X4 foot opening was made so the section could be inspected visually. This confirmed that there was no fire and work resumed in the section.

Nova Scotia’s mining and quarrying industry has reduced its injury rate 90% since the Westray public inquiry report was released in 1997. We believe the most important thing to come out of a mine is the miner. We honour those hurt in past mining accidents by making every effort to prevent accidents today.

Today, the Allan Shaft is the site of Sobeys’ headquarters, an example of how former mines and quarries go on to serve communities other ways after extraction is done. See the mine’s story at