Springhill Explosion 1956

01/11/1956 - Springhill No. 4 Mine - Explosion / Rail Haulage, Coal Dust Explosion

A coal dust explosion followed by fires occurred in the No. 4 Mine of the Cumberland Railway and Coal Company, Springhill, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia, at 5:07 p.m., November 1, 1956, and caused the death directly and indirectly of 39 men.

At the time of the explosion, 118 men were underground; of these, 30 were killed by flame and violence or died from breathing deleterious gases ; and 88 were rescued on the 3rd, 4th and 5th days after the explosion. On the surface, 42 men were working in the tipple and preparation plant ; of these 7 died as a result of flames and violence, and the remainder escaped relatively uninjured. During the rescue •operations 2 mine rescue men, or Dragermen, died a short distance inside the mine Portal apparently from breathing carbon monoxide.

From the evidence of witnesses, exhibits and the physical evidence found by an inspection of the mine, it is believed that the explosion originated along the back or auxiliary slope at a point approximately 30 feet above the 4400 foot level where a cloud of coal dust was ignited by an electric arc. While it is generally agreed that the explosion originated primarily as a dust explosion, the possibility that the presence of gas played a part cannot be discounted, particularly in the propagation of the explosion. The resulting explosion was propagated by coal dust, with the possibility of some assistance from gas in return air slopes, up the auxiliary slope; through the transfer tunnels, and up the main slopes to the surface. Downward propagation from the point of origin was stopped in the vicinity of the 5400 foot level on the auxiliary slope, apparently because rock dusting was adequate in this area. The suspended coal dust and the igniting arc resulted from the uncoupling and descent of six cars of a seven car train which were being hoisted in the auxiliary slope. The derailed, loaded mine cars, tumbled down the steep slope (about 35° at this point), collided with a steel wire armored 2200 volt alternating current transmission cable at several points and crushed it near the 4400 foot level where evidence of much arcing occurred. The cable was burned to separation at this point. The tumbling of the loaded cars and the downward movement of a high velocity air current suspended the coal and coal dust.

Coincidental with the uncoupling and running away of these mine cars, another train of loaded mine cars was being hoisted in the main haulage slope toward the surface. Coal dust blown from them by the high velocity air current undoubtedly added fuel to intensify the violence of the explosion.

This accident claimed the lives of 39 people.