Stellarton Surface Mine

Check out this time lapse video of the Stellarton surface coal mine being reclaimed:

The video shows how a mine is refilled with the rocks and dirt removed during its operation. Fresh soil is added and grass seed is planted. Rain and sunshine do the rest.

Other parts of the mine are now fully reclaimed with a track and field facility, the town’s water tower and a scenic wetland area promoting biodiversity.

The Stellarton mine, which started in 1996, is fixing subsidence issues caused by 200 years of pick-and-shovel mining, including many bootleg mines. The mine is stabilizing the land so it can be built on, while also creating jobs for Nova Scotians and providing fuel to Nova Scotia Power. (Coal still provides over half of Nova Scotia’s electricity).

Fixing the site is necessary because many historical mines and quarries did not take proper care of the environment. There simply was not good understanding in prior generations of human impacts on the world around us, and the importance of protecting it. Bootleg/illegal mines also left an unfortunate legacy of safety issues.

The modern mining industry and its regulation are completely different. A mine's environmental assessment often takes 3-5 years and costs over a million dollars. It generates dozens of scientific studies.

Before getting operating permits, mining companies must get government approval of reclamation plans and post reclamation bonds (money in escrow, basically) that ensure funds are available to properly take care of sites – as the Stellarton mine is doing. In fact, reclamation is a key part of the mining process today.

Stellarton had a large number of historical mines in a relatively small area and the modern Stellarton mine covers at least a half dozen historical operations, including the Bye Pits, Dalhousie Pits, Foord Pit, Cage Pit, Albion Mines (Thom Pit), Foster Pit and the MacGregor Mine.

Stellarton was founded by the General Mining Association, which had a monopoly on most Nova Scotia minerals from 1827-57. The town was originally named Albion Mines but the name was changed to Stellarton in 1870. It was named for a kind of soft, oily coal found in 1798 called Stellar coal, or stellarite, which, when burned, gave off sparks resembling stars.

The GMA arrived in Nova Scotia in June 1827 when a ship called the Margaret Pilkington, carrying 200 tons of mining equipment, skilled engineers and experienced miners, sailed into Pictou harbour.

Many Nova Scotians resented the GMA’s monopoly in that era but the company did many good things for Nova Scotia. It invested heavily and brought the industrial revolution to the province. Our first steam engines were built by the GMA to power pit hoists and pumps, and to drive coal ships. Nova Scotia's first railway (meaning it was powered by steam, not horses) was the Albion Mines Railway, built in 1839 to haul coal from the Stellarton mines to docks in Pictou Harbour. It was only the second steam railway in Canada.

GMA also helped professionalize Nova Scotia’s mining industry by founding permanent mining communities and bringing skilled British miners to the province. Today, many Nova Scotians are descendants of those early miners.