The Westray Mine was a coal mine in Plymouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. It was owned and operated by Curragh Resources Incorporated (Curragh Inc.), which obtained both provincial and federal government money to open the mine, and supply local electrical power utilities with coal. It opened in September 1991, but closed eight months later when it was the site of an underground methane explosion on May 9, 1992, killing all 26 miners working underground at the time.
The week-long attempts to rescue the miners were widely followed by national media until it was obvious there would be no survivors. About a week later, the Nova Scotia government ordered a public inquiry to look into what caused one of Canada's deadliest mining disasters and published its findings in late 1997. The report stated that the mine was mismanaged, miners' safety was ignored, and poor oversight by government regulators led to the disaster.
A criminal case against two mine managers went to trial in the mid-1990s, but ultimately was dropped by the crown in 1998, as it seemed unlikely that a conviction could be attained. Curragh Resources went bankrupt in 1993 partially due to the disaster. 117 miners became unemployed almost immediately after the explosion; they were paid 12 weeks' severance six years after the mine's closure, but only when the provincial government was pressured to intervene. The mine was dismantled and permanently sealed in November 1998, ending a 200-year history of mining the Foord coal seam.
On September 11, 1991, the mine was opened to great local fanfare, but immediately problems began to surface, when multiple roof collapses occurred within the first few months. Two months prior to the opening, MLA Bernie Boudreau wrote to Nova Scotia Labour Minister Leroy Legere asking why the mine was using potentially dangerous mining methods not approved for coal mining. The Labour Ministry gave Currough Inc. a special permit to use these methods to tunnel until they reached the coal seam, but not actually mine coal.
Legere was not aware that the company continued to use these methods, three months after the mine opened. Accusations were made by mine workers of company cutbacks in safety training and equipment and of negligent and outright criminal behaviour toward safety inspections. Miners complained about working in deep coal dust. In November 1991, coal miner Carl Guptill made safety complaints to Labour Ministry inspectors, but they were not investigated, and he was fired in January 1992 for making his claims.
Today a memorial sits in a park in nearby New Glasgow at the approximate location above ground where the remaining 11 miners are trapped. The memorial lands were protected by the Nova Scotia government and further mineral exploration is prohibited within the 250 acre site. The memorial's central monument, engraved with the names and ages of the twenty-six men who lost their lives in the disaster states, "Their light shall always shine."