Thorburn Coal Mines

The Pictou coalfield is roughly 18x6 km and comprises 15 major coal seams in the Westville, Stellarton, and Thorburn-Greenwood areas. Although small, the coalfield has produced about 55 million tonnes in the last two centuries.

Coal was discovered in the Pictou coalfield around 1790 by Scottish settlers. The first substantive mining operation was Collier John MacKay’s mine, sunk in 1809 on the west side of East River.

The first mine in Thorburn was the MacBean/Vale Colliery which opened in 1867 and closed in 1971. (Some records say it opened in 1872.) Its coal was hauled to New Glasgow by horse and wagon, and sent by rail to Halifax. The MacBean family sold the mine to the Vale Coal, Iron and Manufacturing Company which installed a rail line to New Glasgow to handle the growing volume.

Other Thorburn mines include:

  • Greenwood Colliery (1918-1966)
  • Acadia No. 2 Colliery (1920-1921)
  • Acadia No. 3 Colliery (1920-1939)
  • Greenwood No.1 Colliery (1926-1930)
  • Greenwood No.2 Colliery (1926-1966)
  • Acadia No. 8 Colliery (1938-1939)

From 1875-1976, 9.3 million tons of coal were mined in Thorburn.

In 1886 three of the four major coal companies operating in the Pictou coalfield - Vale, Halifax, and Acadia - merged to form the new Acadia Coal Company. Acadia was the main coal producer in Pictou County until 1966. Over that time it became a subsidiary of Nova Scotia Steel and Coal, which in turn was a subsidiary of BESCO and later DOSCO.

In the modern era, Thorburn Mining Ltd. operated the Thorburn mine from 1997-2000. It extracted the remaining coal and reclaimed the site, removing old buildings and equipment, and returning it to nature.

Few people lived in Thorburn before the first coal mine opened. The area was originally called the Vale but the name was changed to Thorburn in 1885.

The Museum of Industry in Stellarton has great info on historical mining in Nova Scotia, including the Pictou coalfield. Check it out at

Reclaimed Thorburn mine.