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Hillcrest mine disaster

Hillcrest mine disaster
DateJune 19, 1914 (109 years ago) (1914-06-19)
Time09:30 MST
LocationHillcrest, Alberta
Coordinates49°34′23″N 114°22′44″W / 49.573°N 114.379°W / 49.573; -114.379
CauseGas explosions[1]
Outcome189 of 228 workers killed

The Hillcrest mine disaster, the worst coal mining disaster in Canadian history, occurred at Hillcrest, Alberta, in the Crowsnest Pass region, on June 19, 1914, 9:30 am.[2]

The disaster was reported by several news outlets including the Calgary Herald as the world's third-worst mine disaster at the time, after the Fraterville Mine disaster and the Courrières mine disaster.[3]


The mine started operations at 7:00 a.m. on June 19, 1914. At approximately 9:30 a.m., an explosion ripped through the tunnels, up the slopes and burst from the entries of the mine. John Brown, the general manager of the mine, rushed to the fan room to reverse the suction of air, which would push depleted oxygen back into the mine in an attempt to save any survivors. Initial rescue efforts were hampered by the complete destruction of the one entrance to the mine.[4]

Of the 237 men who entered the mine that day, only 48 were rescued, many of them suffering from the effects of toxic gases.[2]


The accident had a profound effect on the town of Hillcrest Mines, which in 1914 had a population of about 1,000. A total of 189 workers died, about half of the mine's total workforce, which left 90 women widowed and about 250 children fatherless. Many of the victims were buried in a mass grave at the Hillcrest Cemetery. The Government of Alberta held an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the explosion in 1915.

Condolences came from across the country, including a brief message from King George V, but the commencement of World War I soon overshadowed this event.

I am grieved to hear through the press of the terrible disaster at Hillcrest coal mine by which it is feared hundreds have lost their lives. Please express my deepest sympathy with the sufferers and also with the families of those who have perished.

— King George V

Of the 189 victims of the disaster, many were immigrants, including 43 from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, of whom an estimated 30 were Ukrainian by ethnic origin, including 6 from one village, Karliv (now Prutivka), Galicia.[5]

Operations at Hillcrest mine continued until Hillcrest Collieries, the mine owners, went into liquidation in April 1938, and the mine was officially closed on December 2, 1939.[2]

A monument to the Hillcrest mine disaster and the lives lost was placed at the Hillcrest Cemetery.

In 1990, Canadian folk-singer James Keelaghan recorded "Hillcrest Mine", one of his best-known songs. The disaster is also featured in the song "Coal Miner" (album Heads Is East, Tails Is West, 2014) by Joal Kamps, an Alberta-based Rocky Mountain folk-pop singer.

Other area mining accidents

On September 19, 1926, another explosion occurred in the Hillcrest mine when the mine was idle, killing two men.

Other explosions at other coal mines within the Crowsnest Pass region also caused deaths:

  • Coal Creek, 1902 (128 men killed)
  • Michel, 1904 (7)
  • Coleman, 1907 (3)
  • Bellevue, 1910 (30)
  • Michel, 1916 (12)
  • Coal Creek, 1917 (34)
  • Coleman, 1926 (10)
  • Michel, 1938 (3)


This article includes a list of general references, but it lacks sufficient corresponding inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (April 2009) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
  1. ^ Venzi, Ron. "The Hillcrest Mine Disaster". Coal Miners Memorial. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Crowsnest Pass Historical Society (1979). Crowsnest and its people. Coleman: Crowsnest Pass Historical Society. pp. 213–224. ISBN 0-88925-046-4.
  3. ^ "Disaster is third Largest Colliery Tragedy Known". The Calgary Daily Herald. No. 3533. June 20, 1914. p. 1. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  4. ^ Buckley, Karen Lynne (April 2002). Death, dying and mourning in the Crowsnest Pass: an examination of individual and community response to death and danger in the mines, 1902-1928 (PDF). Calgary, Canada: University of Calgary. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  5. ^ Kaltenbrunner, Matthias (September 27, 2019). "The Globally Connected Village: A Ukrainian-Canadian History". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-19. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  • Anderson, Frank W. Canada's Worst Mine Disaster. Frontier Books, 1969.
  • The Hillcrest Mine Disaster National Film Board of Canada, 2006.
  • Hillcrest Mine Disaster
  • Unofficial Hillcrest Mine Disaster website
  • Commission Appointed for the Investigation and Enquiry into the Cause and Effect of the Hillcrest Mine Disaster. Report. In Alberta. Dept. of Public Works. Mines Branch. Annual Report, 1914. Edmonton: J.W. Jeffery, Government Printer, 1915. p. 160-169.
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Hillcrest mine disaster
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