Westray Explosion 1992

09/05/1992 - Westray - Explosion / Methane Explosion, Coal Dust Explosion, Frictional Ignition

26 miners were killed in an underground explosion in the Westray mine at 5:20 in the morning of 9 May 1992.

The Westray mine is located at Plymouth, near Stellarton, in Pictou County, Nova Scotia. Westray was the only operating underground coal mine in Pictou County at the time of the explosion. The Pictou coalfield had been mined for some 200 years, and elements of the disaster rest in the nature of that coalfield with its thick and gassy seams. The Foord seam, which Westray was mining, has hosted at least eight mines. The Allan mine, the most productive and the one that lay just northwest of Westray's workings, finally closed in the 1950s, but during its 40-year lifetime, it experienced eight methane explosions.

Early in this Inquiry, I reached the conclusion that ventilation is the most crucial aspect of mine safety in an underground coal mine. Methane fires and explosions cannot happen if the gas is kept from accumulating in flammable and explosive concentrations. A coal mine can be quite "forgiving" with respect to other aspects of safety, as long as the ventilation system is properly planned, efficient, and conscientiously maintained. The other major requirement of coal mine safety is control of coal dust, through strict clean-up procedures and regular stonedusting.

This accident claimed the lives of 26 people.