Fernie & Elk Valley Culture Guide Issue 4 - Spring 2017 - Page 16

MINING HERITAGE

The Balmer North Mine Disaster

On April 3rd , 1967 , the worst fears of any coal mining community came true once again in the Elk Valley . As the afternoon shift walked into the main tunnel of the Balmer North Mine , a rock fell deep inside the mine . That piece of sandstone from the collapsing coal seam roof created sparks as it hit other rocks lying on the mine floor , igniting methane gas that had accumulated in a large unventilated and abandoned mined-out area called the gob . The methane flared violently and in turn caused the coal dust — ever present in the air and on the roadways of this relatively new mine — to explode .
That explosion tore through Balmer North in a matter of seconds and burst from the entry , rolling out across the valley floor . Fifteen of the 23 seasoned miners present were killed instantly by the devastatingly powerful force of the blast and the rest were seriously injured . The community reeled , mourned , buried their dead in Fernie , Michel , and Coleman .
Now 50 years later the Municipality of Sparwood and the Balmer North Miners Memorial Committee have formally acknowledged these 15 men and all miners lost in the Michel Creek area mines from Elkford to Coal Mountain , a total of 181 souls lost to accidents starting in 1901 . Their names can be found etched in granite at a monument in Sparwood ’ s Titan Park . Next to the monument , a lifesized bronze statue of an iconicallycrafted coal miner has been placed to commemorate those lost and honour the area ’ s mining heritage .
In a ceremony held on Monday , April 3rd 2017 , a parade of 181 school students each placed a white tulip at the base of the statue in memory of the 181 lost miners . Speeches honouring the miners and a commemorative video of moving interviews with survivors completed the tribute to those men lost mining the black gold in the Elk Valley .
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MINING HERITAGE The Balmer North Mine Disaster On April 3rd, 1967, the worst fears of any coal mining community came true once again in the Elk Valley. As the afternoon shift walked into the main tunnel of the Balmer North Mine, a rock fell deep inside the mine. That piece of sandstone from the collapsing coal seam roof created sparks as it hit other rocks lying on the mine floor, igniting methane gas that had accumulated in a large unventilated and abandoned mined-out area called the gob. The methane flared violently and in tu ɸ͕ѡӊQٕ)ɕ͕Ёѡȁѡɽ݅)ѡ́ɕѥٕ䁹܁QѼ)QЁͥѽɔѡɽ՝ )9Ѡѕȁ͕́)ɽѡ䰁ɽЁɽ́ѡ)م䁙ȸѕѡ͕́ͽ)́ɕ͕Ёݕɔхѱ䁉)ѡمхѥݕəհɍѡ)ЁѡɕЁݕɔ͕ɥͱ䁥ɕ)Qչɕɹ)ɥѡȁɹ5) ()9܀啅́ѕȁѡ5չ)Mݽѡ ȁ9Ѡ)5́5ɥ ѕٔ)ɵ䁅ݱѡ͔ԁ)́Ёѡ5 ɕ)ɕ́ɽɐѼ )5չхѽхāͽձ́)Ѽ́хѥĸQ)́չэɅє)ЁյЁMݽéQх)Aɬ9ЁѼѡյа)ͥ镐ɽ锁хՔ)Ʌѕȁ́Ѽ)Ʌєѡ͔Ё)ѡɕéɥх)%ɕ䁡5)ɥɐܰɅā͍)Ց́ݡєձ)ѡ͔ѡхՔ䁽ѡ(āЁ̸Ḿɥ)ѡ́Ʌѥٔ٥)٥ѕ٥́ݥѠ٥ٽ)ѕѡɥєѼѡ͔)Ёѡѡ)Y