Following the discovery of coal on the Island at Fort Rupert in 1835, coal has been the primary resource that lead to the formation of Nanaimo as we know it today. In the early years following discovery, coal mining was originally carried on by the legendary Hudson’s Bay Company. But in 1862, the HBC disposed of its coal lands in Nanaimo, selling all 6,193 acres of land to the Vancouver Island Coal Mining and Land Company, a company based out of England. In a business move to protect stakeholders, the company changed its name in 1889 to the New Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company, cementing its stake as one of the major players in Nanaimo’s rich coal history.
The NVCM Co. operated over a large area on Vancouver and adjacent islands, owning thousands of acres as well as six mining shafts. The Number 1 Shaft was Nanaimo’s principal coal mine, located in the heart of downtown with its entrance at the foot of Dickson Street, close to the edge of the harbour. At one point, about 1,500 men were employed in these mines, a figure which represented a large portion of the City’s 8,000 inhabitants. (From the collection of Nanaimo Archive)