Santa might give naughty kids a lump of coal, but coal is actually a very important material in your life.

Nova Scotia coal was first mined 350 years ago and today, coal is still an essential fuel in Nova Scotia and in most jurisdictions around the world.

Here is everything you ever wanted to know about ... COAL!


  • Sydney Mines used to be called Lazytown because farmers found few people awake when they came to sell food. They didn't know coal miners woke at dawn to get ready for the day shift! After the men went to work, wives would return to bed for some extra sleep.
  • A "colliery" is a coal mine and its associated buildings. Colliery only refers to coal mines, not other types of mines, because it's an alternate spelling of "coalery," which is no longer used. The word colliery first appeared in the 1500s.
  • Coal is the world’s most abundant energy source.
  • Proven coal deposits exist on every continent, including Antarctica. 
  • Coal has been used for nearly as long as mankind has thrived. In fact, coal was used to provide heat in caveman times.
  • We first mined coal in Nova Scotia in 1672 in Cape Breton – about 350 years ago!
  • The first commercial coal mining venture in Canada was established by the French in 1720 in Cow Bay, Cape Breton, to supply the fortress of Louisburg.
  • The world-famous Cabot Links golf course in Inverness is built on a former coal mine. Coal was first discovered at the site in 1863 and was mined until 1958.
  • Canada is the world’s third largest exporter of metallurgical coal, after Australia and the United States. Metallurgical coal is used in the manufacturing of steel.
  • While Nova Scotia’s use of coal is declining, coal still generates over half of Nova Scotia’s electricity. Coal plays a major role in keeping our lights on, and in powering places like homes, hospitals and schools.
  • The Donkin coal mine, in Cape Breton, is mostly under the Atlantic Ocean. Its tunnels start on land and go under the ocean floor.