Fundy Coal Seam

Joggins is famous for its fossil cliffs and the incredible insights its geology gives us into the origin of coal and the nature of evolution. Less well-known is the fact that coal was mined in Joggins for centuries.

The Joggins area has five main coal seams, three of which saw significant mining as early as 1603 when coal from Joggins was used in the forges at Samuel de Champlain’s Habitation in Port Royal.

The Fundy seam (aka the Hardscrabble seam) outcrops on the shore a short distance north of Joggins. A total of seven mines operated on the seam at various times and it was also one of the most bootlegged coal seams in Nova Scotia.

Mining on the Fundy seam began in 1866 when the General Mining Association, which had a monopoly on most Nova Scotia minerals from 1827-57, drove an inclined tunnel from the outcrop on the shore. The tunnel was a few metres above high-water mark on the shore. This was called the “New Mine” because the company already had a mine nearby on the Joggins seam, where the Joggins Fossil Centre is located today (

The provincial government’s mines inspector wrote “…the coal is taken direct from the mine into a covered shed, out of which it is removed at a lower level, and carried along a wharf to the ships. This is but a temporary arrangement, but it is a very usual one on first opening mines similarly situated.”

In 1871, the General Mining Association sold its Fundy property to T. W. Daniel, A. Barnhill and A. Jardine, who subsequently transferred it to the Joggins Coal Mining Company in October that year.

In 1875, the Joggins Coal Mining Company sank a new slope (tunnel) approximately 500 metres from the shoreline. This mine would be known as the Cumberland Colliery. The General Mining Association’s tunnel from the shore was used both to drain the workings and to transport coal to the wharf.

The Cumberland mine shut down in 1877 due to a combination of lack of demand and competition from mines in other districts. The mine’s principal market was Saint John, New Brunswick, where its coal was used to heat homes. However, the Great Fire of Saint John in 1877 drastically reduced demand after 200 acres of the city were destroyed.

There was also growing competition, mainly from Springhill, which was exporting to Saint John by rail. Lack of transportation had long been a major obstacle to coal mines in Cumberland County but mining grew rapidly in Springhill after the Intercontinental Railway opened in 1872.

After the Cumberland mine shut down in 1877, it lay idle for over two decades.

In 1903, the Fundy Coal Company took over the property. It sank its Fundy #1 slope to the east of Lower Cove Road but shut down in 1907 due to labour problems.

In 1908, the Atlantic Grindstone and Coal Company took over operations on the Fundy Seam but struggled to produce consistently and the mine shut down in 1909. It started again in 1910 but only produced 300 tons of coal per year for the next three years.

In 1913, production at Fundy #1 exceeded 2,500 tons and the Atlantic Grindstone and Coal Company repaired the incline tunnel to the shoreline, which was almost one kilometre long at that time.

Operations were suspended again in Fundy #1 in 1915. The Clark Brothers and Company reopened the mine in 1917, only to shut it down again in 1919.

The Fundy Coal Company took over again in 1920 but shut the mine down permanently in 1923 due to poor coal quality.

The National Coal Company briefly operated a separate mine about one kilometre east of Fundy #1 from 1922-24.

In 1925, the Canadian Coal Company opened the Fundy #6 Colliery to the east of the Fundy #1 Colliery. The workings of the two collieries were interconnected. A sublease was issued to the company by the Emmerson Coal Company.

The Trestle Brook Coal Company opened the Trestle Brook Mine approximately 200 metres to the west of the former National Mine. A sublease was issued to the company by the Victoria Coal Company.

In 1929, the Fundy #6 closed in May, but it was reopened in September by the Fundy Coal Company. The Trestle Brook Mine was closed that year.

In 1934, the Fundy #6 Colliery ceased operations in March due to poor coal quality. Also, the Shore Coal Company opened the Seashore slopes near the shoreline to access the deeper resource of the Fundy seam, which was left untapped by earlier operations. The Seashore slopes were driven in what is known as the "Dirty" seam (because its coal was high in ash) to avoid the old collapsed workings abandoned in 1908. The Dirty seam lies approximately 20 feet above the Fundy seam.

The Seashore Colliery closed in February 1940, but Hugh Gordon started operations to remove pillars that had been left in place to support the mine’s roof. (This was often done as the final mining activity before shutting down a mine.) The mine closed in 1943 and the Fundy seam was idle for the next 20 years.

In 1963, the Fundy #7 Colliery was opened by Thaddius LeBlanc and Donald Reid. The mine was known locally as the "Black and White.” This colliery is the most easterly operation on the Fundy seam and is located approximately 700 metres east of the National Mine.

In 1966, the Fundy #7 Colliery closed after producing just over 5,500 tons in the previous four years.

A pit known as the Arseneau reportedly existed in this area. No details are available on it, but it was likely worked in the early 1940s as Albert Arseneau is known to have conducted operations on the Queen and Joggins seams around that time.

The Fundy seam was one of the most bootlegged coal seams in Nova Scotia despite being relatively narrow and low quality – it was a lot of work for small reward. There were between 150-200 small bootleg mines on the seam. The quantity of bootlegging activity was likely partly due to the fact that the seam was in an out-of-the-way location, making it easier to do illegal mining. Bootlegging took place there right up to the 1980s.

Interestingly, the Fundy seam’s bootleg mines were virtually all slope mines, meaning they were entered via decline tunnels. Almost all bootleg mines elsewhere in the province were entered through vertical shafts, not sloping tunnels. Bootleggers likely used slopes on the Fundy seam because the old mine road paralleled the seam’s outcrop and bootleggers probably found it easier to haul coal up a tunnel and emerge right next to the road, instead of hauling it up a shaft and then having to transport it to the road. Also, the dip of the Fundy coal seam – its decline angle – is relatively steep, which likely made decline tunnels easier for following the coal seam.

In 2014, the Government of Nova Scotia backfilled and landscaped approximately 140 bootleg mine openings to eliminate potential safety hazards.