Joggins Colliery

The Joggins Fossil Centre is at the site of a former coal mine – an example of how former mines and quarries can contribute to communities after extraction is done.

The Centre is at the former Joggins #7 coal mine, part of the larger Joggins Colliery which operated at several sites between 1871 and 1930. (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 was mined in Joggins for centuries. It was used in the forges at Samuel de Champlain’s Habitation in Port Royal as early as 1603. Acadians mined coal in Joggins in the early 1700s. By 1715, the Joggins coal seam (then-called the King seam) was being mined by the British and sent it to Annapolis Royal and to New England markets.

In 1757, British troops were mining coal from the Joggins seam for use at fortifications on both sides of the Bay of Fundy.

Under pressure from the provincial government in 1846, the General Mining Association (GMA) drove a tunnel on the Joggins coal seam from the shoreline and sank another tunnel 300 metres inland. The GMA had a monopoly on most Nova Scotia minerals from 1827-57 but could forfeit sites that it did not work if others expressed an interest in mining them. This led to the GMA sometimes working sites, often doing the bare minimum, just to maintain its monopoly. (For more about the GMA:

The pressure from the provincial government was caused by renowned geologist, Dr. Abraham Gesner, who had applied to open a mine at Joggins. Gesner was one of many Nova Scotians who opposed the GMA’s monopoly because it prevented Nova Scotians entrepreneurs from pursuing opportunities, and it effectively prevented development of much of the province’s mineral resources. (Gesner, from Cornwallis, Annapolis County, was a geologist and the inventor of kerosene.)

In 1866, the General Mining Association was working a 100-foot shaft located approximately 700 metres east of the tunnel on the shoreline.

What we call the Joggins Colliery really began in 1871 when the Joggins #1 slope was sunk near the GMA’s hoisting shaft. It is not clear if the General Mining Association drove the slope, as this property was sold to T. W. Daniel, A. Barnhill and A. Jardine during the year. This group in turn sold the property to the Joggins Coal Mining Company on October 24.

In 1872, the Joggins Colliery was sold to the Joggins Coal Mining Association.

In 1879, the Joggins #2 slope was sunk approximately one kilometre east of the #1 slope. The company was planning to work the Joggins seam east of a large fault which marked the eastern edge of the #1 mine’s workings.

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. In this case, the fault made it necessary to sink a new slope east of the fault to access part of the coal seam that had been severed.

The aerial photo below marks with black lines the various coal seams in the area (from bottom to top, the Joggins, Queen, Kimberly, Forty Brine and Fundy seams). It shows the faults in the Joggins seam and the nearby Queen seam with breaks in the black lines. Faults can also be seen in the Kimberley (the third seam) and the Fundy (top-right).

In 1882, the Joggins Coal Mining Association sank another slope, Joggins #3, approximately 800 metres east of the #2 slope. The #3 was immediately west of the Dump Road.

In 1883, The #1 slope was abandoned and operations were transferred to the #2 and #3 slopes.

Shipments of Joggins coal to Saint John, New Brunswick, were in decline in this period due to rail having made it possible to ship coal from Springhill. A branch line connecting Joggins to the main line in Maccan was completed in 1887, making Joggins coal more competitive again.

In 1884, a furnace shaft was constructed at the Joggins operation, greatly improving ventilation in the workings. 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 Joggins Railway Company and Joggins Coal Mining Association merged in 1889 to form the Joggins Coal and Railway Company.

In 1891, the old tunnel at the shoreline was being cleaned up and re-timbered by the Joggins Coal and Railway Company. This will be used to drain water from the workings of the Joggins #2 and #3 slopes.

In 1892, the Joggins Colliery was sold to the Canada Coals and Railway Company.

In 1896, a strike at the Joggins #2 and #3 collieries idled the operations for most of the year.

In 1904, the Canada Coals and Railway Company declared bankruptcy and the Joggins Colliery was sold to a group of American interests.

On June 1, 1907, ownership of the Joggins Colliery was transferred to the Maritime Coal, Railway and Power Company owned by Messrs. Patrick and David Mitchell.

In September 1907, the Joggins #7 slope was sunk near the shore to tap the submarine coal beneath Chignecto Bay. (As above, this is where the Joggins Fossil Centre is today.) A new rail spur was constructed to serve the operation and the Joggins #2 and #3 mines were closed.

The first coal was hoisted from #7 in 1908.

By 1910, electrical power for the Joggins #7 was supplied by the Maritime Coal, Railway and Power Company from its Chignecto Plant, the first power plant in North America located at the mouth of a coal mine (

In 1914, the Betts Brothers opened the Silver Leaf Mine, which was a pillar-robbing operation in the upper workings of the Joggins #2 Colliery. The output was sold to the Maritime Coal, Railway and Power Company.

(“Room and pillar” is a mining system in which "rooms" of ore are dug out while "pillars" of untouched material are left to support the roof. Pillar robbing, or pillar drawing, means to extract the pillars of ore between rooms. It was often done as the final mining activity before shutting down a room and pillar mine.)

In 1923, coal quality problems in the lower levels of the Joggins #7 Colliery forced the Maritime Coal, Railway and Power Company to concentrate its efforts on pillar removal in the upper sections of the colliery.

The Joggins #7 Colliery closed in 1927. Its slope was 4,800 feet long, virtually entirely under Chignecto Bay.

In 1928, the Maritime Coal, Railway and Power Company started a pillar removal operation in the upper reaches of the old Joggins #2 and #3 collieries, which had been abandoned in 1907. This continued until 1930 when the #2 and #3 collieries were abandoned for good.

The Maritime Coal, Railway and Power Company also operated several short-lived mines on the Joggins seam in the 1920s: the Beech Grove (1922-24), the Casey (1923-26) and the Spud (1924-28). Because the Casey and Spud mines were interconnected by tunnel, the Spud mine came to be called Casey after the original Casey was closed in 1924.