An area teeming with deposits of coal, in the early 1900s Vancouver Island was bustling with development that resulted in many small communities like Cassidy. Established in 1918 just south of Nanaimo, Cassidy was built by the Granby Company to house workers of the Granby Mine and their families. The newly constructed town had many modern and comfortable facilities that made it very popular with coal-miners. By 1928, the Granby mine in Cassidy employed over 500 employees who produced over 1,000 tons of coal in one eight-hour shift.
While known for its popularity, it also gained a reputation as one of the most dangerous in the area. Pockets of highly explosive methane gas would accumulate throughout the mine due to poor ventilation, often triggering dangerous blow-outs. These blow-outs became such a hazard that blasting was even prohibited at this particular mine. Eventually the Granby mine ceased operation for various reasons, one being the dangerous condition of the mine.
In the early mining days, safety was not a high priority for owners who instead focused on profits. A lack of safety regulations and scientific understanding meant many injuries and deaths for workers. It wasn’t until later in Nanaimo’s mining history that safety started to become a priority. Government regulation, the establishment of unions and safety teams, like the 1927 – 1928 Cassidy Mine Rescue Team pictured here after winning the Vancouver Island Mining Safety Association Shield, ushered in a new era of safe work practices, saving countless lives in the process. (From the collection of the Nanaimo Archives)