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Social Science Disasters & Disaster Relief

Blood on the Coal

The True Story of the Great Springhill Mine Disaster

by (author) Ken Cuthbertson

Initial publish date
Sep 2023
Disasters & Disaster Relief, Mining, Post-Confederation (1867-)
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2024
    List Price

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The riveting true story of one of Canada’s worst mining disasters, told in the voices of the men who survived it

Foreword by Anne Murray

They said it was the world’s deepest and most dangerous coal mine. That claim was probably correct. What is certain is that in October 1958, the Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation’s No. 2 colliery at Springhill, Nova Scotia, was a leading candidate for both those dubious distinctions. The mine was the proverbial “disaster waiting to happen.” And it did.

Springhill was the quintessential one-industry town. Its existence depended on coal, and in 1958 the market for that commodity was dying. And yet something far worse was to come. On the night of October 23, a “bump” in the mine—actually a small earthquake—shook the ground beneath the town. Seventy-five miners died and scores more were injured in what remains one of Canada’s worst underground disasters. The lives of the survivors were shattered, and Springhill would never be the same again.

In compelling detail, Ken Cuthbertson tells the stories of three of the miners and one of the doctors who cared for them following the disaster. This remarkable book is based on historical documents and interviews, as well as new interviews with the last of the surviving miners and their loved ones. It is a story of heroism, sacrifice and the indomitable strength of the human spirit.

About the author

KEN CUTHBERTSON is a veteran journalist with more than thirty years’ experience writing for newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US and the UK. His family origins are deeply rooted in Nova Scotia, the home of his maternal ancestors, who settled there in the early 18th century. He is the author of four books, including Inside: The Biography of John Gunther (shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-fiction) and A Complex Fate: William L. Shirer and the American Century. Ken Cuthbertson lives in Kingston, Ontario, with his family.

Ken Cuthbertson's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"This is a profoundly human story of resilience and survival, how nineteen miners endured the terror of entombment after a Canadian industrial disaster in 1958. It is also a critical and timeless account of the usually unintended consequences of corporate decision making, and how working people are obliged to bear the high and often tragic cost of livelihood." — Linden MacIntyre, author of The Wake: The Deadly Legacy of a Newfoundland Tsunami

“Cuthbertson seamlessly weaves together the overlapping in-the-moment stories from above and below ground through the voices of those who lived them — the trapped miners, their helpless families, their determined rescuers, the mine managers, town doctors, and journalists who brought the story of the disaster to the world.” — Stephen Kimber, author of Alexa: The Changing Face of Canadian Politics

“In this gripping, searing and fresh telling of a terrible mining disaster and rescue operation that unfolded some four thousand metres underground, Ken Cuthbertson offers both an uplifting reminder of the resilience of the human spirit and a cautionary tale about an ancient fossil fuel. The history lesson here? For safety’s sake, and for the sake of the planet, leave old black coal where it lies.” — Lawrence Scanlan, author of A Year of Living Generously: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Philanthropy

“The timing of Blood on the Coal couldn’t be better: like the Covid pandemic, the Springhill Mine Disaster showed us that all too often it takes a tragedy to teach us a lesson about our safety protocols. And that all too often we don’t learn that lesson.” — Wayne Grady, author of Pandexicon