Westray Coal Mine Disaster

Pictou County, Nova Scotia

At 5:18am on 9 May 1992
the Westray coal mine exploded
killing 26 miners

In recognition of the grieving families and in commemoration of
the 26 miners who were killed in the Westray coal mine disaster,
we will remember them:

John Thomas Bates
Larry Arthur Bell
Bennie Joseph Benoit
Wayne Michael Conway
Ferris Todd Dewan
Adonis Joseph Dollimont
Robert Steven Doyle
Remi Joseph Drolet
Roy Edward Feltmate
Charles Robert Fraser
Myles Daniel Gillis
John Philip Halloran
Randolph Brian House
Trevor Martin Jahn
Laurence Elwyn James
Eugene William Johnson
Stephen Paul Lilley
Michael Frederick MacKay
Angus Joseph MacNeil
Glenn David Martin
Harry Alliston McCallum
Eric Earl McIsaac
George James Munroe
Danny James Poplar
Romeo Andrew Short
Peter Francis Vickers

We will remember them.

I make this pledge to the families.  Westray will not be some vague memory of a tragic accident.  It will be a living, active presence in workplaces across Nova Scotia.  Your husbands, your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your friends, will never be forgotten.  Every time someone wants to cut a corner or bend a rule, we will remind them there can never be another Westray and this government will not allow it.
Minister of Transportation and Public Works
speaking on the floor of the Nova Scotia Legislature, 1 December 1997

Brief Westray overview

Coal – the rock that burns – is a fuel, a source of energy.  Coal is composed mainly of carbon (50-98 percent), hydrogen (3-13 percent) and oxygen, with lesser amounts of nitrogen, sulphur and other elements.  Some water is always present, as are grains of inorganic matter that form an incombustible residue known as ash.

A small lump of coal

Coal provides a large part of the world’s energy supply (a largely unknown fact).  In the 1990s and continuing into the new millennium, coal was/is the primary energy source for about 55% of all electric power generation in the United States and Canada.  In Nova Scotia, coal accounts for about 80% of all electric power generation.

Electric Power from Coal
Nova Scotia
from coal

Source: 1996 Annual Report
Nova Scotia Power Incorporated

One kilogram of coal contains enough energy to generate about two kilowatt-hours of electrical energy – this figure varies considerably depending on the quality of the coal but 2 kWh per kilogram is a reasonably representative average for coal burned in a modern high-pressure boiler, producing steam at a pressure of about 2100 pounds per square inch [14,500 kPa] to drive a steam turbine to generate electricity.

Westray was an underground coal mine located in the tiny village of Plymouth, near Stellarton in Pictou County, Nova Scotia.  Westray was developed to extract coal from the Foord seam, long known for its high-quality coal and for being exceptionally gassy.

It has been known for centuries that methane-rich gases are trapped in most coal seams.  The quantity of gas trapped in any particular coal seam varies widely.  The Foord seam has been known since the mid-1800s as being exceptionally gassy.  Any digging or drilling activity that disturbs the Foord seam releases quantities of methane (firedamp), which doesn’t matter much in an open-pit mine with lots of fresh air, but in an underground mine like Westray, methane mixed with air can be an extremely dangerous explosive.  The Foord seam contains roughly 100 to 500 cubic feet [3 to 15 cubic metres] of methane per ton of coal.

The Pictou coalfield, with its thick and gassy seams, has been mined for some 200 years.

…Foord coal has among the lowest sulphur content of any North American coal… The Oil Coal Seam (or Stellar Seam) – seven layers below Foord – was mined in the early 1850s and oil extracted from it was used to light Boston streets; that ended when oil was discovered in Pennsylvania in 1859…
— Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 11 May 1992

Forty fathoms [about 80m] below the McGregor there is a seam known as the Stellar or oil coal seam.  This is a peculiar deposit, and at one time attracted some attention on account of its oil yielding qualities.  It was worked for a short time, and would probably have been continued but for the discovery of the oil wells of Canada and the United States.  The general thickness of the deposit is about 5 feet [about 150cm].  The central or oil coal portion has yielded upwards of 100 gallons of crude oil per ton [about 400 litres per 1000 kilograms].
— Source: “Coal-fields of Nova Scotia” by John Rutherford
The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers Transactions
Vol. XIX (1869-70), p113-167

Foord Coal Seam at Stellarton, Nova Scotia     Source

Photographed 24 May 2006 by Michael C. Rygel View large (high-resolution) image

The Foord seam, which Westray was mining, has hosted at least eight mines.  The Allan mine, the most productive and the one that lay just northwest of Westray’s workings, finally closed in the 1950s, but during its 40-year lifetime, it experienced at least eight methane explosions.  This history was well-known in Pictou County when the proposal to open a new mine, called Westray, was promoted in the late 1980s.

Local historian James Cameron has estimated that 576 deaths occurred between 1866 and 1972 in mining in Pictou County and that 625-650 died “from colliery misadventures in Pictou County” since coal mining began in the early 1800s.  In the Foord pit there is special danger “on account of the liability of cutting heavy feeders of gas”… – quoted from a report by Henry S. Poole, Inspector of Mines, in the Nova Scotia Department of Mines Annual Report, 1873.

Because of the promise of a substantial number of well-paid jobs in an economically depressed area, the development of the Westray mine received considerable political support from the provincial and federal governments despite the opposition of technical experts and despite the history of mining fatalities in the area.

Charlie Angus described it vividly: “When Curragh Resources’ mining boss Clifford Frame started talking about opening a mine in the economically depressed area of Stellarton, Nova Scotia, in the late 1980s, politicians flocked to him like seagulls at the beach.”

Pictou County has been a political powerhouse for decades.  The federal electoral district of Central Nova (which included Pictou County) was represented, from August 1983 to September 1984, by MP Brian Mulroney.  Mr. Mulroney’s next job was Prime Minister of Canada from 17 September 1984 to 24 June 1993, a time which included the promotional phase, the construction and the entire working life of the Westray Coal Mine.

From September 1984 to September 1993 – including the promotional phase of the Westray Coal Mine, its construction and its entire working life – Pictou County was represented in Ottawa by MP Elmer MacKay, a member of the federal cabinet as Solicitor General of Canada, then Minister of National Revenue, then Minister of Public Works – powerful senior ministerial offices.

The Provincial MLA for Pictou East, which included the Westray Mine, was Donald Cameron, who had been elected as MLA in 1974 and appointed Minister of Fisheries in October 1978.  By the time Frame began promoting the Westray coal mine, Cameron, then Minister of Industry and a member of cabinet for more than a decade, had a deep understanding of the levers of power in the Nova Scotia government.  Mr. Cameron was Premier of Nova Scotia from 26 February 1991 to 11 June 1993.

The Westray mine was promoted by Curragh Resources Incorporated – formerly known as Cyprus Anvil Mining Corporation, which in the 1970s was the largest non-government employer in the Yukon Territory – an Ontario company controlled by Clifford Frame.  In November 1987, Curragh incorporated a subsidiary company, Westray Coal Inc., to construct and operate the new mine.

Curragh Wikipedia

Sheep on the curragh

On 9 September 1988, Westray finalized a deal for the purchase of coal interests in Pictou County then owned by Suncor Inc. – 75% owned by Sun Oil Company (Sunoco) – and signed an agreement with Nova Scotia Power Corporation — Nova Scotia’s largest electric utility, then owned by the Nova Scotia government — which agreed to purchase Westray coal for its new coal-burning electric generating station at nearby Trenton, Nova Scotia.  A letter dated that same day was sent to Westray by Donald Cameron, provincial minister of industry, trade, and technology, which committed the province to a mining lease, a loan of $12,000,000 and a take-or-pay agreement for 275,000 tonnes of coal per year for fifteen years.

Relevant information is to be found in a 1986 report
“Suncor Inc. Pictou County Coal Project: Feasibility Study”
(a copy is on file at the Nova Scotia Legislative Library).

After two years of protracted and difficult negotiations, on 27 June 1990 a deal was finalized, between the Federal Government and Curragh Resources Inc., to provide funding for the development of the Westray coal mine.  Construction of the mine had been going forward for some time before that date.  Early in 1989, Curragh’s subcontractor, Canadian Mining Development, began driving (constructing) the main access tunnels.

The mine was financed through massive infusions of Federal and Provincial funds in the form of loans and loan guarantees.  The Federal contribution consisted of an 85% guarantee of a $100,000,000 bank loan.  The Province of Nova Scotia contributed $12,000,000 by way of a fully-subordinated loan – meaning that this loan will be repaid only after all other lenders have been paid in full, and if there isn’t enough money to go around (there wasn’t), the provincial loan will not be paid back.  The Provincial government also entered into a rather controversial “Take or Pay Agreement” whereby the province agreed to purchase any excess coal which was not taken by the Nova Scotia Power Corporation.

The contribution by Curragh Resources Inc. to the project consisted of a $9,000,000 cash investment plus a “deferral” of management fees allegedly owing to Curragh.

The official opening of the mine was on 11 September 1991.  500 guests watched as the local member of Parliament, Revenue Minister Elmer MacKay, arrived from Ottawa to cut the ribbon.

On 5 May 1992 — four days before the Westray mine exploded — the company’s name was changed from Curragh Resources Incorporated to Curragh Incorporated.

—  Source: “…as of two days ago, we have had a change of name… to Curragh Inc. and the dropping of the word ‘Resources’…” — testimony on May 7, 1992, by Colin Benner, president of Curragh Resources, as a witness before the Committee of the Whole of the Yukon Legislature during debate on Bill No. 52, the Faro Mine Loan Act, as reported in the Yukon Hansard for that date.

NOTE:  Mr. Benner finished his testimony on May 7th at 4:45pm Yukon time (according to the official Hansard report).  The Westray mine exploded on May 9th at 5:18am Nova Scotia time (according to the official report of the Westray Mine Inquiry).  Taking into account the four-hour difference between the Nova Scotia and Yukon time zones, the Westray mine exploded 32 hours and 33 minutes after Mr. Benner finished testifying before the Committee of the Whole of the Yukon Legislature.

The Westray mine commenced operations (began producing saleable coal) in June of 1991 amid claims of it being a veritable “State of the Art” operation utilizing the latest in mining technology and equipment with computerized safety monitoring devices which were said to be at the leading edge of current technology.  After the explosion, the claim that the mine was designed and built with state-of-the-art techonolgy was called into question.  The mine was plagued with serious ground control problems related directly to the geological configuration of the Foord seam.  This problem was exacerbated by the lack of competent planning.  The ground control problems led the Westray Mine Public Inquiry to conclude that “The cost of operating in such an adverse environment and the inherent uncertainties would suggest that the financial viability of the Westray project should have been in doubt from the very beginning”.

Production was erratic during the brief (less than a year) working life of Westray and production quotas were never realized.

At 5:18 Saturday morning, 9 May 1992, the mine blew up killing all 26 men working underground.  The explosion was so strong it blew the top off the mine entrance, more than a mile above, and blew away steel roof supports throughout the mine.  In the nearby towns, windows shattered and houses shook.

The mine ceased operations at the moment of the explosion and never re-opened.  117 miners who were not working on shift at the time were given twelve weeks severance pay.  Individual cheques to the miners ranged from $6,626 to $12,367.

Westray Coal Inc. and Curragh Inc. both went bankrupt.

Curragh Inc. filed for bankruptcy in Toronto on 5 April 1993.

Curragh’s residual assets were subsequently acquired by 1235866 Ontario Inc. (a corporation organized in the Province of Ontario, that is owned by former Curragh creditors including the Yukon government).  The Province of Nova Scotia’s $12,000,000 loan would never be repaid.  The Federal Government’s 85% guarantee of Curragh’s $100,000,000 bank loan was called by the bank after the explosion, and the government paid $85,000,000 to the bank — that money is gone forever (but, because these payments are now part of the government debt, the interest on the $12,000,000 is an expense paid every year by Nova Scotia taxpayers, while the interest on the $85,000,000 is an expense paid every year by Canadian taxpayers.)

More about the Westray Coal Mine Wikipedia

A little-known  fact  is that the  Westray  Coal  Mine  explosion and
the resulting bankruptcy of Westray Coal Inc. and Curragh Inc. had a
much stronger negative effect on the economy of the Yukon Territory
than  on  the  economy  of  Nova  Scotia.   Curragh  Inc.  had  mining
operations in the Yukon that were a much larger part of the economy
of the  Yukon  Territory  than the Westray  Coal  Mine’s  share of the
economy of  Nova Scotia.   When  Curragh’s  bankruptcy  halted  all
of Curragh’s mining operations in 1993, Yukon’s unemployment
rate soared, and many of Curragh’s creditors in
the Yukon lost large sums of money.

A debt that had been written off by the Yukon Government has
now been repaid, adding $1.47 million to government coffers.
Curragh Resources, operators of the now-closed Faro mine,
paid  out  money  owed  to several  parties,  including the
territory.   Details  of  the  negotiations  could  not  be
released because of a non-disclosure agreement.
— Yukon News, 24 March 2008

As of March 1992, the directors of Curragh Inc. were:
• Clifford H. Frame, Director, Chairman & C.E.O., Toronto, Ontario
• Ralph G.M. Sultan, Director, Toronto, Ontario
• Walter M. Bowen, Director, Toronto, Ontario
• James A. Hunt, Director, Pleasant Valley, New York
• John B. Mitchell, Director, Mississauga, Ontario
     (Listed here in the order that appears in the RJSC database.)
—  Source: #1926487, Registry of Joint Stock Companies of Nova Scotia

As of March 1992, the directors of Westray Coal Inc. were:
• Adrian M.S. White, Director, Exec vice pres. & C.F.O., Islington, Ontario
• Marvin H. Pelley, Director, Exec vice-president mining, Mississauga, Ontario
• Walter M. Bowen, Director, Secretary, Toronto, Ontario
• Clifford H. Frame, Director, Chairman & C.E.O., Toronto, Ontario
     (Listed here in the order that appears in the RJSC database.)
—  Source: #1890000, Registry of Joint Stock Companies of Nova Scotia

As of March 1992, the directors of Westray Coal Properties Inc. were:
• Walter M. Bowen, Director, Secretary, Toronto, Ontario
• George E. Whyte, Director, Toronto, Ontario
• Adrian M.S. White, Director, Exec v.p. finance & C.F.O., Islington, Ontario
• Marvin H. Pelley, Director, Exec vice-president mining, Mississauga, Ontario
• Clifford H. Frame, Director, Chairman & C.E.O., Toronto, Ontario
     (Listed here in the order that appears in the RJSC database.)
—  Source: #1932220, Registry of Joint Stock Companies of Nova Scotia

Chronology: Westray explosion, 9-10 May 1992
by Halifax Chronicle-Herald

Chronology: Westray Mine Public Inquiry, May 1992 – 1996
by Westray Mine Public Inquiry

Chronology: Westray legal proceedings, May 1992 – May 1995
Source: The Queen versus Curragh Incorporated
Supreme Court of Canada, [1997] 1 S.C.R   20 March 1997

This court decision contains a detailed timeline of the legal proceedings associated with the Westray Criminal Trial.  The timeline begins about one-quarter of the way down the page, at
paragraph 22: “To appreciate the complicated background and procedural activity that occurred throughout the course of this case it is helpful to follow a time line…”

Clifford H. Frame, P.Eng.
(Registered Professional Engineer)

Curragh Resources
Clifford Frame’s website

The Northern Miner 1987 “Mining Person of the Year”
Clifford Hugh Frame
Twice (1982 and 1987) named Mining Man of the Year

Dark day remembered
by Pat MacAdam
The Cape Breton Post
5 May 2012

NOTE:  In this article, Mr. MacAdam writes
“A Nova Scotia light and power generating plant was six miles away
from the pithead and provided a built-in market for Westray coal.”

Not true.  There was a coal-fired electric generating plant at Trenton, Pictou County,
but it was not owned or operated by the Nova Scotia Light & Power Company (NSL&P).
In fact, NSL&P never owned or operated any electric utility plant or equipment of any kind
at any time anywhere in Pictou County.  NSL&P went out of business in 1972, many
years before the Wesray coal mine began operation.
      ICS, 11 April 2013

Fifty Westray Clippings

Former Westray lab worker haunted by test results Halifax ChronicleHerald, 4 August 2014

Time marches on for Westray families New Glasgow News, 9 May 2008

Westray Miners Memorial Park New Glasgow

Westray Politics

They promoted it [the Westray coal mine] as the alternative energy source for the Province of Nova Scotia, low sulphur coal to replace high sulphur coal.  In fact, the day of Trenton 6 opening, Premier Cameron cut the ribbon and stated, “Look, no smoke coming, clean Pictou County coal,” being well aware that it was Cape Breton coal they were burning because they had not delivered any coal from Westray to the site as of that time. [boldface emphasis added]

Robert Burchell, testifying under oath during Day 44 of the Westray Mine Disaster Public Inquiry Commission, 3 April 1996, at Stellarton, Nova Scotia, as recorded at line 18 on page 9737 in the official transcript.  Trenton 6 was the Number Six generating unit at the Nova Scotia Power Corporation’s Trenton Generating Station in Pictou County.

Westray– Here’s what happened Martin O’Malley, CBC News Online, 9 May 2002
—  Source: The Horror of Westray
Teamsters Canada Rail Conference 2010

Westray in Hansard, 1987-1999

Westray in Hansard, 2000-2010

Westray-related items found in Hansard, such as:

  • Nova Scotia Legislature, Halifax,   2001 May 9
  • House of Commons, Ottawa,   2001 May 9:
    …It is some time since the Justice Committee recommended that the criminal code be amended so as to make sure that the kinds of people who are responsible for these kinds of events do not literally get away with murder, as is sometimes the case…
  • House of Commons, Ottawa,   2000 March 13
  • Newfoundland Legislature, St. John’s,   1999 December 2
  • Prince Edward Island Legislature, Charlottetown,   1999 May 4
  • House of Commons, Ottawa,   1997 December 2:
    …The report released yesterday reveals a chain of obvious preventable safety problems. As project financier, Ottawa must share the blame for turning the federally assisted job project into a tomb, a mine so unsafe that eleven bodies have yet to be recovered, and a whole region in Nova Scotia remains in mourning…
  • Ontario Legislature, Toronto,   1997 September 29
  • Manitoba Legislature, Winnipeg,   1996 April 3
  • Saskatchewan Legislature, Regina,   1996 March 15
  • Yukon Legislature, Whitehorse,   1993 March 15
  • Alberta Legislature, Edmonton,   1992 July 2
  • British Columbia Legislature, Victoria,   1992 June 19:
    …On May 9, 1992, just before dawn, a thunderous methane explosion roared through Westray’s Plymouth, Nova Scotia, underground workings, killing 26 miners. For six long, agonizing days Canada watched and waited, clinging to the hope that some might be found alive…
  • British Columbia Legislature, Victoria,   1992 May 11:
    …I therefore propose to send a telegram to the Mines minister of Nova Scotia and the mayor of Plymouth as follows: “We share your sorrow at the loss of 11 lives in the Westray mine disaster and pray that you will reach the other fifteen while they are still alive…

July 1991

(Ten months before the mine exploded) • In a letter to Labor Minister Leroy Legere, Liberal MLA Bernie Boudreau warns that the Westray coal mine “is potentially one of the most dangerous in the world.”
• The minister responds: “I assume that my department and the mines safety people are doing as good a job at Westray as they are doing at all other mines in Nova Scotia.”
—  Source: Maclean’s, v109 n29 p22, 15 July 1996

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of this document:
Running for Cover: From the Start,
the Westray Mine was a
Disaster Waiting to Happen

Maclean’s, 15 July 1996, v109 n29 p22 Archived: 2001 June 08
Archived: 2001 November 17
Archived: 2002 January 10
These links were accessed and found to be valid on 04 May 2012 and 27 Dec 2013.

Leroy Legere “confused”

Leroy Legere was Minister of Labour from February 1991 to November 1992.  In his report on the Westray Mine Disaster, Justice Peter Richard said that Legere “appeared to have a confused and uncertain appreciation of his role as a minister of the crown”, that he had “little understanding of the operation of the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Department of Labour” and that it was incumbent on Legere “to keep informed and to ensure that adequate remedial action was taken” once he was informed of deficiencies in his department — things Legere failed to do.
(All quotations taken from v2, pages 529-530, of the Inquiry report.)

Index to the Westray Mine Public Inquiry Transcript

Leroy Legere appointed Southwest Region School Board boss News release, 29 June 2000

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of this document:
NDP comment on appointment of Leroy Legere
as school board boss
Archived: 2002 July 06
Archived: 2003 July 10
Archived: 2004 March 09
Archived: 2005 January 02
Archived: 2006 January 04
These links were accessed and found to be valid on 04 May 2012.

Management intimidated workers, bullied compliant inspectors, and then evaporated into bankruptcy with millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money

Dr. Susan Dodd, testifying before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in Ottawa, on 22 May 2002
…When I first started thinking about this, it didn’t seem possible that…the burden of holding the culprits responsible would fall to bereaved relatives of the dead.  But not only was it possible, it’s exactly what happened…ten years ago when the highly subsidized Curragh Resources (Westray coal mine) management intimidated workers, bullied compliant inspectors, and then evaporated into bankruptcy with millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money…

We need to recognize organizational culture as something people make and remake on a daily basis, and that deaths like those in the Westray mine are not the inevitable outcomes of things left undone.  It’s not a matter of neglect, but of the consequences of positive acts, of choices made in pursuit of profit, and these days, of increasingly deregulated workplaces.

Often the authors of those choices are hidden within the black box of the corporate hierarchy, and this black box is a culture within which corporate decision-makers decide on the priorities of the organization.  If this government wants people to believe there is justice in this country, it will need to draw on the rich literature on corporate criminology and develop ways to either shed light on the contents of such black boxes or to compensate for this lack of transparency by finding means to discipline the corporation as if it were an agent in its own right…

Susan Dodd

The Ocean Ranger: Remaking the Promise of Oil
by Susan Dodd, Fernwood Publishing
Jan 2012, 200 pages, ISBN: 9781552664643
Review by Halifax Chronicle-Herald
Review by St. John’s Telegram
The Ocean Ranger oil rig sinking and the  Westray  coal  mine  explosion are remembered
as tragedies in Canadian industry.  In 1982, 84 men died off the coast of Newfoundland, on
a drilling rig owned by  Mobil  Oil Canada and operated by  Ocean  Drilling  and Exploration
Company.  In 1992, 26 men died underground in Pictou, Nova Scotia, in a coal mine owned
and operated by  Curragh  Resources.  In both  events, a  root  cause  of  the  deaths was
collusion between corporation and government in the name of economic development…
Westray and the Ocean Ranger: “tragedy” and forgetting in Atlantic Canadian Industry
Unsettled accounts of Westray’s Aftermath
Susan Dodd, 1999, PHD Dissertation for King’s College, Halifax

The Writing of the Westray Story: A discourse analysis of the aftermath of the Westray coal mine explosion
by Susan M. Dodd, June 2002

Coping with traumatic, unjust loss:
Understanding the long-term impact
of the Westray Mine explosion

…although many studies have been conducted on grieving people, the loss experienced by family members of the fallen Westray miners is unique.  “This traumatic loss has been complicated by the senselessness of the event, the belief that justice has been denied, and the betrayal felt by many of the family members.”  The aftermath of the disaster is well documented.  The response from the parent company (Curragh Resources) and the Government of Nova Scotia was that the explosion was an accident.  This explanation outraged family members of the deceased.  Their loved ones had openly criticized the dangerous conditions underground and had even reported the company to the provincial Department of Labour.  The families argued that the explosion was entirely foreseeable and preventable – that it was a case of criminal negligence… after a series of mishandled criminal prosecutions and despite the findings of the inquiry, no one was ever held accountable for the 26 deaths… Although the sample size is small, it is believed that the results still shed light on how people cope with losses that are perceived to be unfair…
— Source: Carleton Now May 2007 (Cover Story)
Carleton Now is the “flagship internal communications vehicle” of Carleton University, Ottawa

Death by Consensus: The Westray Mine Story by Harry Glasbeek and Eric Tucker, 1993

Underground coal mining in Pictou County virtually ceased by the end of the 1950s as a result of the loss of markets to fuel oil, aging facilities, and deep seams which were expensive to mine.  But the local Foord coal seam has some particularly attractive features, which made it likely that there would be someone new coming forward to resume mining in the area.  The coal seam is unusually thick, varying from two to eight metres, its sulphur content is below one percent, and it has a high energy content between 10,000 and 12,000 British Thermal Units per pound.  Reserves are estimated at about 45 million tons.  But, as its history has shown, the seam also presents some significant problems for profitable and safe mining.  The area in which the seam is located is widely known to be gaseous, exuding significant quantities of methane, and is highly geologically faulted.  This increases the risk that the roofs of the underground rooms will collapse…

Harry Glasbeek is Professor Emeritus and Senior Scholar, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto.  He has studied corporate crime and written a book about it called Wealth By Stealth: Corporate Crime, Corporate Law, and the Perversion of Democracy.

Glasbeek says that the creation of the corporation allowed for this “fungibility of responsibility.”  “Sometimes the executives plead the corporation to relieve the executives from responsibility,” Glasbeek says.  “Sometimes the corporation causes the executives to plead, a couple of people take the fall.  And it is very difficult.  We have created a separate entity with separate property.  You have a functional notion that property yields the income stream and wealth to people outside the separate entity.  You have in-between actors who belong to both classes, the corporation and the outsiders.  So, you have multiple personalities with different legal duties and rights that the actors are allowed to take on at any one time.  That allows a shifting of responsibility that we cannot control.”

Call it Multiple Corporate Personality Disorder (MCPD).  Glasbeek says this disorder undermines our notion of responsibility, which “supposedly depends on the individual taking responsibility for his or her own actions.”  “What we have designed is a creature that allows that responsibility to be shifted at the whim of those people who are actually operating that system,” Glasbeek says. “That’s an endemic design flaw.”

Glasbeek has no illusions that criminal prosecution will bring corporate criminals to justice.  “My notion of prosecuting more often is to bring attention to this embedded difficulty – it is not because I believe that this will actually change the situation in and of itself,” he says.

—  Source: Multiple Corporate Personality Disorder: The 10 Worst Corporations of  2003 by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

The Invisible Friend

…Children often invent invisible friends to take the blame when they misbehave.  But kids grow up and, as they mature, they are taught to take responsibility for their own conduct.  Not so for the titans of capitalism who continue to blame their “invisible friend” (ie the corporation) who commits crimes on their behalf.  This is how the corporation is designed in law to create a class of legally irresponsible profit-maximizers.  They have no reason to care about the way in which profits are garnered by their creature, the corporation.  Indeed, there is an incentive to have the corporation act wrongfully, illegally and criminally if that pays!

But despite the pretence that a corporation is a real person, unlike you and I it has no physical, corporate body that can think and act.  Live human beings have to do that for it.  But when they think and act on behalf of their corporate bodies, they can claim that they are not acting as people in their own light, but as the corporation.  It’s a short step to the claim that they are not personally responsible for any thinking and acting that might do harm and/or breach a law.

True, sometimes directors or managers are held responsible if it can be determined hat their thoughts and acts are their own, rather than those of the corporation.  But the starting position is that senior managers have a measure of immunity, although not quite the privilege of total legal irresponsibility enjoyed by the shareholders.  The senior managers’ prestige and rewards tend to rely on improving the value of the shareholders’ interests.  This will encourage wrongful corporate behaviour if it is likely to pay off in increased shareholder satisfaction.

Innocent even if guilty

Then there is the legal flipside.  Because the corporation needs others to think and act, it cannot be guilty of a criminal offence.  There is no wrongdoer whose intention to commit an illegal act can be proved.  No-one seems responsible – not the senior management, not the shareholder, not the corporation.  To get around this, the law is forced to use another pretence: it holds the corporation ‘criminally responsible’ when its acting mind and will exhibit wrongful intention.  In a large corporation, this is immensely difficult to prove.  It helps immunize corporations from criminal prosecutions.  Increased incentive for wrongdoing – if it pays.

Corporations commit an enormous number of offences.  One conservative study notes that 60 per cent of Fortune 500 companies are convicted of an offence annually.  Many of them are common misdemeanours – not getting a permit or a licence, failure to record or publish information, not getting appropriate insurance coverage.  These do not lead to the clamour for revenge inspired by common street crime.  But many corporate offences are just plain evil incarnate and cause horrible hurt and damage…

—  Source: The Invisible Friend (corporate personhood) by Harry Glasbeek, 2003

Risk Awareness and Risk Acceptance
at the Westray Coal MineAn attempt to understand miners’ perceptions, motivations and actions prior to the accident.
by Gerald J.S. Wilde, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
April 1997

This report describes the results of an analysis of the public inquiry hearings held after the Westray Coal accident in May 1992. At the request of Mr. Justice K. Peter Richard, Commissioner, I investigated the content of the hearings in order to develop insight into the degree to which Westray employees perceived the risk of accident as imminent and why the miners either accepted or rejected the risk they perceived. While some miners terminated their employment with the mine because they were unwilling to accept the accident risk, others continued to work until the accident happened. Various factors that contributed to the employee perceptions of accident risk were identified, and it may be inferred that the perceived probability and expected seriousness of an accident was both high and general throughout the underground workforce. Moreover, the willingness to accept high levels of danger amongst those miners who did not quit may be atrributed to the operation of various factors, among which economic pressures and economic incentives played a major role. Mine management, rather than putting in place a safety-incentive programme of a type known to significantly improve cautious and accident-free performance, instituted instead a remuneration schedule with a progressive production bonus component that appears to have exacerbated risk acceptance and the frequency of imprudent practices among the miners. The pursuit of short-term economic gain may well have set the stage for the fatal explosion and the mine’s premature demise. At the top of his paper (next above), Dr. Wilde has the following quotation — from Day 33, February 20, 1996, of the transcript of the Westray Mine Public Inquiry Commission — in bold red type:
“One thing about Westray: the money was good if you worked the overtime and that.”

They learned how to lie to themselves

Risk Management and Technology by Roy Brander, Calgary, Alberta
Presentation to the National Defense Industrial Association Conference
Vancouver, 29 February 2000

…The way we blind ourselves to honest assessment of risk goes back a long way.  I wrote an essay on risk management philosophy in general, giving Titanic as the specific example, and put it on the Web (see “The Titanic Disaster: An Enduring Example of Money Management vs. Risk Management” below) … As individuals, we may learn from close shaves and warnings;  as a society, we only learn from blood… The touchiest thing in risk management is the calculation of cost per fatality averted… Vaughn’s five steps: New information would come in that signalled danger. Engineers would document the danger and express concern.  This evidence would be given close examination, but of course by a process that was aware that terrible schedule or money consequences would result from a negative decision.  However, unacceptable risks with life or mission cannot be just accepted; the positive decision would be that the risk itself was in fact tolerable.  What was a deviation at step one would, after further launches, become the new normal.  So the cycle could repeat — a few more percent of change each time… There were no lies told… It was far deeper than that.  They learned how to lie to themselves… (boldface emphasis added)

The RMS Titanic and its Times:
When Accountants Ruled the Waves
by Roy Brander, Calgary, Alberta

(This is a slightly different version of “Risk Management and Technology” above) Elias Kline Memorial Lecture, 69th Shock & Vibration Symposium
Minneapolis, October 1998

…The week in 1995 I wrote the original essay, thousands of semi-trailers in Canada were being pulled off the road to have their outer wheels inspected.  Two cars full of people had been killed in two weeks by semi wheels that had come loose and run wild.  It turned out that such things had been happening every month or two all along; this was just the first time that several fatalities had happened.  As individuals, we may learn from close shaves and warnings;  as a society we only learn from blood… The touchiest thing in risk management is the calculation of cost per fatality averted.  It makes perfect sense to an engineer, but in public debate, such numbers can always be twisted in any direction… The problem for the engineer is to tackle these fears with his own art, which involves quantifying things.  The summary of one paper in those conference proceedings went right to the heart of the issue – he had calculated the cost per fatality averted for various different approaches of ship subdivision, so as to recommend which design to use.  This is good engineering and I wish all society thought that way; but I guarantee you that any politician or top bureaucrat will flee the room, eyes averted, if he shows them the paper; they’ll want deniability in public debate… I think that all engineers face the same two kinds of problems in the end.  The junior ones have to crank out the most effective design they can, given a cost envelope and set of standards.  The senior ones have to run the calc in reverse, starting with a design that fits their conscience, to sit on the standards committees, and push for the cost envelope that will make it possible.  Sometimes they don’t, or can’t, push hard enough.  But to be fair, they do have a handicap – scientific people often don’t communicate well with policy makers, or the general public.  They tend to argue with facts, formulas, simulations, and other kinds of sweet reason.  These don’t work well.  What does work well are shameless appeals to emotion… Like baby seals covered in oil.  And always, always, casualty lists.  Best of all are individual stories of casualties, to make the deaths real.  We only learn from blood. (boldface emphasis added)

The Titanic Disaster: An Enduring Example
of Money Management vs. Risk Management

by Roy Brander, Calgary, Alberta
Calgary, April 1995

(This is the original version of “Risk Management and Technology” above)

As I sit down to write, it is 11:40pm, April 14th, 1995.  Ignoring the time zone difference, it was 83 years ago this minute that the RMS Titanic, on her maiden voyage in 1912, struck an iceberg… Most of the problems all came from a larger, systemic problem: the owners and operators of steamships had for five decades taken larger and larger risks to save money – risks to which they had methodically blinded themselves.  The Titanic disaster suddenly ripped away the blindfolds and changed dozens of attitudes, practices, and standards almost literally overnight.  The perception persists that the Titanic was, if obviously not “unsinkable” (though the White Star line actually never used that word in advertising), then very safe, as safe as the art could build her.  That, despite various errors, the accident was mostly enormous bad luck.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It was amazing good luck that there had been no similar accidents years earlier.  For over 50 years, safety standards had been steadily deteriorating in various ways – almost always because of pressures to be “competitive”… The first great liner, the Great Eastern, built in 1858, was designed by I.K. Brunel, England’s most celebrated engineer, who got every feature he wanted.  Great Eastern was not the most profitable ship, but she was a triumph of safety.  She had an entire inner hull two feet inside the outer.  Inside that, the ship was divided by 15 transverse bulkheads, and one lengthwise into 32 compartments.  Watertight lower decks further divided those… All risks need rational consideration, and some must be accepted… Even today however, it is still often the case that money management wins out over risk management…

The Westray Mine Explosion:
An Examination of the Interaction
Between the Mine Owner and the Media by Trudie Richards
Canadian Journal of Communication, v21 n3 1996

Abstract: Technological crises are predictable and inevitable, particularly in a high-risk industry such as mining.  Corporations are advised to have a crisis communication plan to facilitate proactive behaviour.  Such a plan presumes a commitment to honesty, openness, and ethical behaviour.  Journalists are also encouraged to have a crisis communication plan so that they are prepared for inevitable events, informed about the industries in their area, and able to tell the story substantively, accurately, and in context.  The Westray coal mine, owned by Curragh Incorporated of Toronto and located in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, exploded on May 9, 1992, killing the 26 miners who were underground.  This paper analyzes the relationship between Curragh and the media, particularly during the week following the explosion.  It observes that the relationship was severely tested, as is often the case in time of crisis and human tragedy.  The paper also observes that neither Curragh nor the participating media had crisis communication plans, which negatively affected their performance.  It concludes that Curragh did not satisfy legitimate media needs and that the company’s lack of open, prompt, and accessible communication fed a media suspicion that officials had something to hide.  On the other hand, journalists relied on human interest, made mistakes, and decontextualized their coverage of the story.

Researchers criticize Westray mine safety by Amanda Leslie-Spinks, 1996

…the job of gouging and moving coal is much like it was in the early 18th century.  Methanometers have replaced canaries as early detection systems, but the linear process of extraction and the risks of methane gas and flammable coal dust haven’t changed.  Why then is the fatality rate for mine workers still five times the national average for workers?

Evidence from Westray shows a long-standing pattern of safety violations: combustion engines refueled with the motors running, a “volunteer” system for applying limestone to reduce coal dust concentrations, cigarette butts and oily rags littering the mine floor.

“We found at Westray a pattern of behaviour that sociologists call mock bureaucracy – a situation in which workers fail to follow regulations and the managers fail to enforce compliance,” says Hynes, whose investigation of Westray is part of his doctoral research.  Rules are ignored because they are perceived as “bureaucratic paraphernalia” without legitimacy in themselves.  What is remarkable at Westray though, he says, is that rules tied to workers survival, which should be deeply meaningful, were ignored.

…a network of financial and political forces pushing managers to value production results over safety rules.  For instance, an agreement with the Bank of Nova Scotia linked financing to production data.  Government funding also depended on a commitment to the Nova Scotia Power Corporation to produce a certain number of tons of coal per year.

Miners had their own reasons for participating in unsafe working procedures.  One worker left his job to avoid dangerous conditions, and suffered penalties in his UIC claim.  In job-strapped Nova Scotia, brutal labour market discipline could have stopped miners from taking action.

But why would miners make matters worse by smoking in areas where explosions were a constant and predictable danger?  Hynes and Prashad point to the culture of danger that has always surrounded mining.  Memorials found in many mining towns depict the miner as a tragic hero and probably incline the workers to accept higher risks as part of their occupational identity.  Hynes and Prasad conclude that while managers and miners broke safety rules for different reasons, they ended up supporting each other in making Westray a dangerous place…

Making Sense of Bad News:
The Media, Sensemaking, and Organizational Crisis by Caroline J. O’Connell and Albert J. Mills
Canadian Journal of Communication, v28 n3 2003

Using Westray as an example, at a surface level, reports of events at the mine seem contrary to common sense and raise many questions. Why did miners (who stood to lose their lives), managers (who stood to lose their business and their reputations), and inspectors (who stood to lose their jobs and their credibility) appear to ignore dangerous levels of coal dust? What were they thinking? Did the situation make sense to them? Clearly, the press, and later the Richard inquiry, were able to make sense of events by imposing a common sense framework on events, thus rendering the accounts plausible. A Weickian account, on the other hand, suggests that we need to understand events not simply through what makes sense to us but through the processes by which a dominant sense of the organization came to be enacted by those involved.

The importance of Weick’s (1995) approach is that it directs us away from rational accounts of organizations that focus on coping with or reproducing hierarchical notions of organization. Instead it directs our attention to the process of organizing and the social psychological linkages that encourage a sense of organization (Weick, 1969). Thus, as important as the Richard inquiry is in establishing responsibility and discouraging a repeat of the events that led to the disaster, another disaster will occur unless we understand the social psychological processes whereby people put themselves in harm’s way…

A Systems Dynamics Analysis of the Westray Mine Disaster… by David L. Cooke, University of Calgary, Faculty of Management, 2002

…Westray management placed priority on “production at all costs” over safety in the mine, which created a chain of events leading to the disaster.  Safety incidents, resulting from unsafe conditions in the mine, risky behaviour on the part of miners, and management’s tolerance of both unsafe conditions and risky behaviour led to production losses.  These losses reinforced management’s drive to produce coal, which reduced their relative commitment to safety, creating a “vicious circle” that ultimately led to the fatal explosion in the mine… At facilities with poor safety performance and a high incident rate, experienced workers will not tolerate an unsafe working environment indefinitely, and will eventually leave for a job in a safer environment.  Having gained experience working in safe well-managed mines, many experienced miners chose to leave Westray taking their experience and personal safety committment with them.  Replacement miners were generally hired locally with little or no relevant experience.  By late 1991, only 15 of 70 miners on staff were certified to work in a coal mine.  Experienced miners left the company and novices took their place…

Patterns of ‘Mock Bureaucracy’ in Mining Disasters:
An Analysis of the Westray Coal Mine Explosion
by Timothy Hynes and Pushkala Prasad
Journal of Management Studies, v34 n4 July 1997

Recent studies on the antecedents of industrial crises have tended to focus on disasters in high-risk systems involving complex technologies and tightly-knit processes.  This paper examines events leading up to mining disasters which past research has characterized as being typically more foreseeable and avoidable.  We discuss how many mining disasters are likely to be the result of ‘mock bureaucracies’ or situations characterized by overt violation of safety rules at the workplace.  Using the Westray mine explosion as an illustrative case, the paper traces the development and institutionalization of a mock bureaucracy in an organization.  Implications for further research and understanding of industrial crises are drawn…

Given that the technologies used are relatively simple (especially in comparison with nuclear reactors and most chemical processing plants), mining disasters are more often caused by organizational rather than technological failures.  Relatively straightforward operator errors and the disregarding of expert warnings and safety rules appear to be the leading causes behind mining and other earthbound disasters…

Why Your High-Risk Industry Needs a Communications Plan by Omar Ha-Redeye, postgraduate student at Centennial College, Toronto
March 2007

Communication issues in high-risk industries can be summarized as due to:
• internal resistance to safety and reputation feedback
• failing to properly participate in public debate
The case of the 1992 Westray mines accident, one of the worst industrial disasters in Canadian history, illustrates these failures.  The result of the Westray disaster was that the company and its owners became bankrupt.  Much of this can be attributed to the poor internal and external communication strategies the company employed…

Risk Management – An Area of Knowledge for all Engineers A Discussion Paper by
Paul R. Amyotte, P.Eng., Halifax & Douglas J. McCutcheon, P.Eng., Edmonton
October 2006

The most critical lessons from Westray, however, are the ones that transcend industrial boundaries and are related to the basic principles of risk management.  These lessons are found in the risk management deficiencies previously identified.  These deficiencies clearly indicate the need for attention to both system and attitude (or cultural) perspectives.  A risk management system – implemented, supported and enforced by management personnel – is absolutely essential.  The only acceptable attitude toward industrial safety – both morally and, in the case of present-day Nova Scotia, legally – is expressed by the Internal Responsibility System, or IRS.  This concept, which is the foundation of occupational health and safety legislation in Canada, states that every individual in an organization is responsible for health and safety.  Primary responsibility lies with each person (manager, supervisor, employee, contractor, etc.) to the extent of their authority and ability to ensure a safe and healthy workplace… This is clearly a lesson applicable to all engineers… [boldface emphasis added]

The Westray Conundrum by Dean Jobb, assistant professor of journalism at University of King’s College, Halifax
Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Canada Magazine, April/May 1998

Westray won an award as Canada’s safest mine barely a month before it sent 26 men to their deaths.  Six years later, with the release of the report of the Westray Inquiry, a baffling and disturbing picture emerges that should make every health and safety professional think long and hard about how safety systems fail.

The Westray Conundrum: Anatomy of a mine disaster by Dean Jobb, assistant professor of journalism at University of King’s College, Halifax
Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Canada Magazine, April 1998

One Saturday morning in mid-April of 1992, Carl Guptill got together with four miners from his old shift at the Westray coal mine in Pictou County, Nova Scotia.  Guptill himself had been fired from the mine, branded a troublemaker for blowing the whistle on unsafe practices.  He had told government mine inspectors about a long list of illegal practices and mindboggling safety hazards, but his warnings had been ignored, leaving him at the mercy of bosses who didn’t want to hear about safety problems.  The mood around Roy Feltmate’s kitchen table that morning was tense as they talked about the worsening conditions in the mine.  Four crews worked the mine, and the men had even calculated that there was a 25 per cent chance they would be underground when the disaster they considered inevitable struck.  We know what happened.  We know how it happened.  But we have not even begun to understand why it happened…

Disasters Canadian Style
Posted on the newsgroup alt.survival on 10 November 2004
Westray underlines the complexity of laws as they are now applied.
Criminal prosecutions, inquests and a Royal Commission of Inquiry
clashed  with  one  another  and  slowed  the  pace  of  investigations;
five years elapsed before the Royal Commission brought out its report.

The Westray Mine Disaster Case

…Coal mining is dangerous and underground mining in Pictou County has always been very dangerous.  From 1838 to 1950, when it ceased due to the advent of fuel oil, aging facilities and deep seams too expensive to mine at the time, 246 miners had been killed in a series of explosions.  From 1866 to 1972, another 330 were killed in other kinds of accidents (i.e. stone falls, crushing by coal cars, mangled in machinery).  The Foord coal seam, of which the Westray mine was a part, while particularly dangerous, was singularly attractive. Unusually thick, with low sulfur content and high BTU rating, its reserves were estimated at 45 million tons. The location is known to exude large quantities of methane, is geologically faulted so that mine roofs will collapse, and has a problem of spontaneous combustion (even in the absence of sparking machinery.)  Indeed, almost a year before the disaster, one provincial opposition politician argued, “because of the fault structure and gas contained in the formation of coal seams in Pictou County, Westray mine is potentially one of the most dangerous mines in the world”…

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of this document:
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Westray Miners Testify by Merle MacIssac, Maclean’s, 29 January 1996

…The official quest for answers about the Westray coal mine disaster could only be described as a circular crawl.  A myriad of lawyers, judges and government officials have pushed the Westray files back and forth between Halifax and Ottawa.  Charges under the province’s occupational safety legislation were initially laid against the owners of the mine, Curragh Inc., and four Westray officials, but were later withdrawn to clear the way for the Public Inquiry.  The Inquiry itself, originally scheduled to begin in the fall of 1992, was delayed until November 1995 by arguments over how it might prejudice criminal proceedings.  And finally, charges of manslaughter and criminal negligence against mine managers Gerald Phillips and Roger Parry skidded to a stop in June 1995 when Nova Scotia Supreme Court Judge Robert Anderson accused the Crown of failing to provide appropriate disclosure of evidence.  Nova Scotia’s Appeal Court subsequently ordered a new trial, a decision further appealed by the defendents to the Supreme Court of Canada…

Corporate Criminal Responsibility and the Westray Mine Disaster

Westray was an underground coal mine in Stellarton, near New Glasgow, Pictou County, Nova Scotia that blew up on May 9, 1992 killing all 26 people working in the mine instantaneously.  Westray was a corporation wholly owned by Curragh Resources, a company controlled by Clifford Frame and based in Ontario. The development of the mine in Stellarton received considerable political support from the provincial and federal government despite the opposition of technical experts and despite the history of mining fatalities in the area.  Local historian James Cameron estimates that 576 deaths occurred between 1866 and 1972 in mining in Pictou County and that 625-650 died “from colliery misadventures in Pictou County” since the industry’s debut in the early 1800s.  The Federal MP for Pictou County was Brian Mulroney, later Prime Minister of Canada and the Provincial MLA was Donald Cameron, then Minister of Industry and subsequently Premier of the province…

What has been done about the recommendations of the Westray Inquiry?  The Nova Scotia government hired a consultant, Ian Plummer, a former Inspector of Mines of Ontario, to review the activities of the Ministry of Labour.  Plummer’s report was released with no substantive recommendations to improve health and safety of workers in the province.  Instead, he hides behind bureaucratic reorganization of the department without any consideration of the lack of effectiveness in protecting workers’ lives.

Ian Plummer, as a mines inspector, sat on the panel of industry experts which awarded Westray the mining industry’s J.T. Ryan Award for Safety as the safest coal mine in Canada in 1991, eleven days prior to the explosion that killed 26 men…

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of this document:
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Westray Mine Disaster Archived: 2001 April 30
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Archived: 2002 June 06
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Minister Accepts Report
On Department’s OHS Division
Nova Scotia Department of Labour, 16 April 1998

…A result of the Westray inquiry, the study was commissioned in January (1998) by Justice Peter Richard of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.  It was conducted by Ian Plummer, retired provincial co-ordinator of mining for the province of Ontario.  Mr. Plummer reviewed the division’s internal responsibility system, staff competency, training programs, internal and external communications, performance management systems and organizational structure.  Over the course of his study, Mr. Plummer interviewed division managers, staff members and officials of similar organizations in other jurisdictions…

Progress Report on
Westray Inquiry Recommendations Nova Scotia Department of Labour, 04 December 1998

The Nova Scotia government has followed through on its commitment last December to act on all 74 recommendations in the Westray Public Inquiry Commission report.  An updated report on the government’s response shows that there has been some progress on every one of the recommendations… Implementation of the recommendations is ongoing.

Mine Safety Award Rescinded

Company Officials Fudged Accident Statistics

The Gazette
Montreal, 5 May 1998

Westray Coal Inc. has been stripped of a prestigious mine-safety award bestowed [eleven days] before its Nova Scotia mine exploded, killing 26 men.

The Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum rescinded the John T. Ryan Trophy last month, based on an inquiry’s finding that company officials fudged accident statistics.

It is the first time the 57-year-old award, given annually to the Canadian coal mine with the fewest accidents, has been rescinded. The Westray inquiry reported in December that mine management was derelict in its duty to train miners and run a safe mine.

The Ryan award, administered by the Montreal-based institute, is based on the ratio of hours worked to the number of reportable injuries.

Westray reported 15 injuries in 1991, but inquiry evidence showed at least three other injuries were not disclosed.

The company won the award on April 9, 1992, one month before the massive explosion of gas and dust.

Westray manager Gerald Phillips and underground manager Roger Parry are to stand trial next year on charges of manslaughter and criminal negligence causing the miners’ deaths.

John T. Ryan Trophy

Mine Safety Appliances Company of Canada Limited was founded in Montreal in 1937.  In 1942 the head office was relocated to Toronto.  The name was officially shortened to MSA Canada Inc. in the 1980s.  In 1941, MSA Canada began sponsoring the John T. Ryan safety trophies to promote safety in coal and metal mines.  Named the John T. Ryan Trophy in honor of the co-founder of Mine Safety Appliances Company (in the United States), the trophies have since become the most prestigious safety awards in the Canadian mining industry.  They are still sponsored by MSA Canada and are now presented nationally and regionally in three mining categories: metal, coal, and select other mines such as potash, salt, gypsum, etc…
— Source: Canadian Enterprises Gallery

Safety Incentives and Recognition Creating an Achievement-Based Safety Culture
by Wayne Pardy, Vice President of Safety Management Services, PPM International Safety Technologies
31st Annual CSSE Professional Development Conference, 18-20 November 2001, Vancouver

Westray — 1992 John T. Ryan Trophy winner
    • Based on “injury” statistics only (frequency or recordable injuries)
    • Frequency not a good indicator of “risk”
    • Tells you nothing about risk management
    • Too easy to “cook the books”
    • Only about “records”…

Hazmat Clinic: Do Incentive Programs Work?
Perhaps, But Only if Used Carefully
by Wayne Pardy and Ralph Stuart, 27 July 1998
…The John T. Ryan Trophy was first introduced in 1941 by the Mine Safety Appliances Company of Canada (now MSA Canada Inc.) to promote mine safety achievements.  Eligibility for the award is based on calculating the frequency of reportable injuries.  While Westray management was notorious for its ignorance of safety, it apparently was interested in the outward trappings of safety.  Westray applied for the John T. Ryan Trophy, and won.  In an 9 April 1992 memo to employees, the Vice President and General Manager of the Westray mine congratulated the workers on their achievement.  The problem with the award, as evidenced by so many “safety” awards of this type is that it tells you nothing about safety or risk management.  It simply tells you that for a given period, usually the artificial period of one year, lost time and injury frequency or severity was low, but it doesn’t tell you why.  On the other hand, a key finding of the Westray report examined the issue of the production bonus system.  Depending on the work being done, workers could earn a bonus for average monthly production in excess of 500 tons per machine shift.  Workers had a percentage of their bonus deducted if they missed work: a one day absence meant a 25% reduction; a two day absence meant a 50% reduction.  These competing incentive schemes gave a clear indication of management’s priorities.  The report concluded that based on the evidence of the miners and an outside expert’s analysis of that evidence, the bonus scheme based solely on productivity was clearly not conducive to safety at Westray…
— Source: Hazmat Clinic: Do Incentive Programs Work?

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of this document:
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Westray Bill Gets Royal Assent

2003 November 7 — Legislation that the United Steelworkers has promoted for nearly 12 years became law today when Bill C-45, the ‘Westray’ Bill, was given Royal Assent in the Senate.  The legislation amends the Criminal Code of Canada to hold corporations, their directors and executives accountable for criminally negligent acts in the workplace…
Bill C-45 – Justice Minister Introduces Measures to Protect Workplace Safety and Modernize Corporate Liability
Department of Justice, Ottawa Ottawa, June 12, 2003 — Today in the House of Commons, the Honourable Martin Cauchon, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, introduced legislation that will help ensure organizations, including corporations, are held accountable when they commit criminal offences…

Bill C-45 – Amendments to the Criminal Code Affecting the Criminal Liability of Organizations
Complete official text of Bill C-45
Department of Justice, Ottawa

Queensland Mining Industry Health & Safety Conference 2005 Australia
This report contains many informative nuggets about mining hazards and effective means to improve working conditions for miners.

[page 22]
Westray was a room and pillar mine in Nova Scotia in Canada, which exploded in 1992 killing 26 miners.  The district had a long history of gassy mines and explosions which had resulted in the closure of all mines by the 1950s.  Westray was opened in 1989 by a small entrepreneurial company convinced they would bring new thinking to reinvigorate coal mining in an economically depressed area.  They received considerable government support.  Unfortunately gas did accumulate and exploded.  The source of ignition was never determined…

[page 22]
The Williams Station Mine belonging to Pyro Mining Company is a long wall coal mine in Kentucky.  An explosion in September 1989 resulted in the deaths of ten miners.  The explosion took place during a long wall move… The ignition source for the explosion could not be determined but there were plenty of candidates, including a cutting torch, explosive caps, and a defective scooptram.  Subsequent charges resulted in prison terms for three of the mine executives including 18 months for the General Superintendent.  The charges were lying to MSHA inspectors and failing to follow safety procedures… (boldface emphasis added)

[page 22]
Southmountain Number 3 was a privately owned coal mine in Virginia.  An explosion in December 1992 killed eight miners.  The cause of the explosion was ascribed to an accumulation of methane due to poor ventilation practices, ignited by a cigarette lighter.  MSHA prosecuted the mine and five individuals, exacting $2,100,000 in fines.  The mine owner pleaded guilty to concealing his identity and received a six month jail sentence.  The Superintendent pleaded guilty to allowing smoking in the mine and other safety violations and received a twelve month jail sentence… (boldface emphasis added)

[page 31]
Digging into the earth to provide raw materials for the community’s fundamental needs is an honourable and rewarding occupation.  It is also one which exposes participants to considerable risks.  Managing those risks is the business of mining professionals.  There is no reason that mining cannot be safely conducted with a goal of zero fatalities.  Achieving that goal requires an understanding of the mistakes made by others in the past and taking actions to prevent those mistakes occurring again…

[page 89]
“Everyone, and that includes you and me, is sometimes careless, complacent, overconfident and stubborn.  At times each of us becomes distracted, inattentive, bored and fatigued.  We occasionally take chances, we misinterpret and we misread.  These are completely human characteristics.” …I think we can at this stage of our evolution be reasonably confident in saying that people will continue to make mistakes and human error is here for the foreseeable future…

[page 14]
The Bottom End: Regulating Incompetents and Recalcitrants
The mining industry itself has recognised that while “some will be content to comply with whatever is seen to be the minimum requirements, others will have little motivation even to achieve that”.  While not confined to small and medium sized operators, this group is likely to include a disproportionate number of small, unsophisticated operators.  How should this group best be regulated?  Unsurprisingly, the recalcitrant and the incompetent are likely to respond to different regulatory strategies…

The Westray Mine Explosion: Aftermath
Did we learn anything from it?
— Mr. Justice K. Peter Richard, Supreme Court of Nova Scotia

One of the most frightening aspects of the Westray debacle is the realization of how quickly we forget! …A safe workplace demands a responsible and conscientious commitment from management — from the Chief Executive Officer down.  Such a commitment was sadly lacking at the Westray mine.  Since there was no discernible safety ethic, including a training program and a management safety mentality there could be no continuum of responsible safety practice within that workplace.  Complacency seemed to be the prevailing attitude at Westray — which at times regressed to a heedless disregard for the most fundamental safety imperatives.  As I stated in the report, compliance with safety regulations was the clear duty of Westray management.  To Insure that this duty was undertaken and fulfilled by management was the legislated duty of the inspectorate.  Management failed,  the inspectorate failed, and the mine blew up.

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of this document:
The Westray Mine Explosion: Aftermath
Did we learn anything from it?

Mr. Justice K. Peter Richard Archived: 2001 August 3
Archived: 2001 November 21
Archived: 2002 January 10
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Archived: 2003 February 1
Archived: 2003 June 18
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Liars, Cowards and Tricksters Westray Coal Mine Disaster

Written Submission 8 August 1996, on behalf of the United Steelworkers of America, with Appendix A Joint Recommendations on behalf of The Westray Families Group, the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, the United Steelworkers of America, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and the United Mineworkers.

United Steelworkers of America

Oral Submission by David J. Roberts
to the Westray Mine Public Inquiry Commission, Day 77, 22 July 1996
on behalf of the United Steelworkers of America

…Nothing better illustrates the incompetence with which the inspectors dealt with the dust problems at Westray than their actions after the coal dust orders were issued on April 29th, 1992 (ten days before the mine exploded).  The order had four parts: The coal dust was to be removed immediately and stone dusting was to be done immediately.  Within fifteen days, a stone dusting plan was to be developed and filed and within fifteen days a dust sampling program was to be developed and filed.  The company was to notify the Department, in writing, when it had complied with each part of the order.  As we know from the evidence, nothing was done… What is worse, nothing was done by the Department to monitor compliance… One reason for the paralysis of the inspectors may lie with the dominant philosophy in the health and safety division of the Department.  It was, and apparently still is, a philosophy of non-engagement that in this case encouraged blind deference to the decisions of the mine operator… There was a sinister side to the management of the mine beyond the incompetence and the neglect… However, it would be wrong to suggest that Westray or Curragh were rogue companies that can be set aside as anomalies.  They were part of the Canadian mining industry.  Their executives were leading lights in that industry.  In a sense, the industry as a whole must bear some responsibility for what happened here.  We regret the fact that both the Coal Association of Canada and the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum refused your invitation to participate in these hearings.  The Institute was the body which awarded Westray the John T. Ryan Trophy for mine safety a few weeks before the mine blew up…

Nova Scotia Government Oral Submission by Reinhold Endres Q.C.
to the Westray Mine Public Inquiry Commission, Day 77, 22 July 1996
on behalf of the Nova Scotia Government

…The lack of training and education of miners and company officials in safety matters played a prominent role in the failure to develop a culture that rejects acceptance, condonation, and participation in activities which present unmanageable safety risks.  We agree that we could have done more to detect that deficiency, we agree we could have done more by way of education.  Policies, procedures, and safety practices should have been scrutinized more systematically for their adequacy, and more effort should have been made to determine their impact on day to day activities.  We now know that the reality at Westray often did not match company records, or what the inspectors were led to believe by management, or the things they saw at the mine…

Stay of Proceedings Nova Scotia Department of Labour, 30 June 1998

The Public Prosecution Service announced today the criminal prosecution against Gerald Phillips, Roger Parry and Curragh Inc. has ended.  A Stay of Proceedings in this case has been entered with the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.

Earlier today the Westray prosecution team notified the defence for Mr. Parry and Mr. Phillips and members of the Westray families of the service’s decision.  Efforts have been made to contact all concerned parties to advise them of this decision.  “Based upon the evidence available to the Crown, the prosecution service concluded that there is no reasonable chance that a conviction would result on either charge if the matter proceeded to trial,” said Marc Chisholm, Q.C., lead Crown attorney on the case.

After a lengthy period of re-examining thousands and thousands of documents and assessing the opinions of dozens of experts, the Crown determined there was insufficient evidence to reconstruct, in sufficient detail, the events surrounding the explosion of May 9, 1992.  The expert’s opinions differ on several key issues.

“The net effect of these differences, in our opinion, is that there is no reasonable chance that a conviction will result if the matter proceeded to trial,” said Mr. Chisholm…

The current members of the Westray prosecution team have indicated they would like to submit to the deputy director a report on their handling of the prosecution since December 1995.  This would include what was done, why it was done, the process the prosecution team followed and lessons learned… The deputy director’s report once completed, will be made public.

Do Canadian Corporations Now Have a Licence to Kill?
by Allen Martin

…On the eve of our national holiday, Canada Day, July 1, 1998, government prosecutors have announced that the Westray managers, Phillips and Parry, will no longer have to face criminal prosecution for their role in the death of 26 men on May 9, 1992.  Despite the public testimony, and the two volumes of documentation of mismanagement, violations of safety regulations and practices, and failure to protect the safety of the workers from the Public Inquiry into the Westray Explosion, this is not enough to prove a crime by a corporate manager, according to the Crown Attorney in charge.  Mr. Justice Richards was very careful in his report to describe the behaviour of the Westray managers as “willful blindness” towards what was happening and the tragic consequences that could and did result.  “Willful blindness” is a standard of proof sufficient to convict you or I of any crime, but not, so it seems, managers and CEO’s.  The behaviour of the office of the Crown Attorney from the beginning has been nothing more than a cover-up and a screw up.  The Supreme Court of Canada had to order them back to trial!  Judges at all levels have commented on the bad behaviour of the prosecution.  Now we are expected to accept their judgement to give up…

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of this document:
Do Canadian Corporations Now Have a Licence to Kill?
by Allen Martin Archived: 2001 February 11
Archived: 2001 April 22
Archived: 2001 October 05
Archived: 2002 February 03
Archived: 2002 June 09
Archived: 2002 August 02
These links were accessed and found to be valid on 1 January 2008.

Are accidents inevitable or can they be managed?

There are two conflicting theories about man-made disasters, which modern academics cannot reconcile. The first which has existed since the mid-1980s is known as Normal Accident Theory NAT. This holds that no matter what organisations do, in complex, tightly-coupled systems accidents are inevitable.

Examples of complex, tightly-coupled systems would be a nuclear power station, a railway network, an offshore platform or a ship. The theory is that unexpected interactions in the complexity of the system will sooner or later occur, which the organisation fails to comprehend in time, causing a sequential breakdown occurring along an unpredictable path which leads to ultimate disaster.

Tight-coupling describes systems with multiple functions, involving components closely linked together, with many control parameters and inferential information. Safety devices are built in and improvisation is hardly possible.

During design, Failure Modes and Effects and Consequences Analysis FMECA or other techniques will have determined and dealt with all the hazards revealed — but as we shall see no amount of study will find all possible failure paths and the cost benefit analysis, even if thorough, will inevitably involve errors of judgement.

A good example is the modern aircraft glass cockpit or flying by wire where increasingly the pilot has limited powers to override built-in safety devices.

The alternative theory is Highly Reliable Organisations HRO.

This is more recent and more optimistic. It asserts that organisations can have a significant effect on accident prevention. HROs depend on redundancy, back-ups and warnings to arrest runaway chain-reactions. Secondly HRO de-centralises the authority to make decisions and depends on teamwork e.g. HAZOP to remove or mitigate hazards or develop protection measures. No organisation however has complete knowledge of its technology and HRO requires a long trial and error learning process and constant training.

I suspect we could divide any group into pessimists and optimists, but I hope professional safety managers would count themselves with the latter and agree that HRO which is the theoretical basis of risk assessment, is at the very least doing something positive and is most likely to be worthwhile…

What, if anything, can be learned from history?

The loss of life was severe in the case of the troopship HMS Birkenhead which struck a rock in shark-invested waters off South Africa in 1852 and the heroism of the soldiers who remained mustered on the deck allowing all the women and children to reach the lifeboats was what caught the public’s admiration. To the Admiralty however, the hard lesson was that the ship’s ability to survive damage had been disastrously reduced by the practice of cutting openings in the main water-tight bulkheads to better accommodate the cavalry. Modification without reassessment of the original design criteria always has the potential to compromise safety…

There is usually an obligation to respond to public pressure whenever there is a serious accident, and the usual knee-jerk reaction is to tighten the law. This was how the railway companies compiled their rule books. After every accident inquiry a new chapter of rules was added — but as technology advanced, speeds rose and the network became more and more complex, the rules where always dealing with yesterday’s problems and accidents still happened despite them…

Source: Effective Safety Management Without Regulation 19 February 1998
by R.K. Pudduck, Head, Ship Safety Management Office, Ministry of Defence, United Kingdom

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of this document:
Effective Safety Management Without Regulation Archived: 2001 December 17
Archived: 2002 June 12
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Archived: 2003 February 01
These links were accessed and found to be valid on 24 March 2010.
The following is quoted from the item immediately above:

“This was how the  railway  companies  compiled  their
rule books.  After every accident inquiry a new chapter
of  rules  was  added — but  as  technology  advanced,
speeds rose and the  network  became  more and more
complex, the rules were always dealing with yesterday’s
problems and accidents still happened despite them…”

An excellent book has been written on the evolution of
railway technology in the U.K. in the years 1830 to 1940,
and the methods that railway managements and governments
used to improve the safety of railway operations: Red for Danger
A History of Railway Accidents and Railway Safety
by L.T.C. Rolt
David and Charles, London England
ISBN 0-7153-8362-0 (fourth edition 1984)

Red for Danger, by Lionel Thomas Caswell Rolt
fourth edition, David & Charles, Newton Abbott, England, 1982

The following remarks made by Mr. R. Smith, before a Select Committee of the House of Commons, in 1835, describe the continual escape of high-pressure flammable gas from a coal seam located near the surface in Pictou County:

The ebullition of fire damp (methane) at the East River was similar to that of a steam boiler, with the same kind of rapidity, so that putting flame to it on a calm day it would spread over the river, like what is commonly termed ‘setting the Thames on fire’; it often reminded me of that saying.  It is very common for the women to go to the river with the washing they have to perform for their families and dig a hole about ten inches deep by the river side.  This they then fill with pebbles, and put a candle to it; by this means they have plenty of boiling water.  I mention this to show how highly charged the coal was with gas.  When we first reached the seam at a depth of 180 feet [60m], the gas roared as the miner struck the coal with his pick; it would often go off like the report of a pistol.  The noise which the gas and water made in issuing from the coal was like a hundred thousand snakes hissing at each other.
  — page 44 The Coal-Fields and Coal Industry of Eastern Canada, A General Survey and Description by Francis W. Gray, Canada Department of Mines, 1917

Westray Mine Public Inquiry Commission
Stellarton, Nova Scotia

3 days Preliminary, 12 & 13 July 1995 and 4 October 1995.
77 days In Session, from 6 November 1995 to 22 July 1996.

Mr. Justice K. Peter Richard, Commissioner
John P. Merrick, Q.C., Commission Counsel
Jocelyn M. Campbell, Associate Commission Counsel
Deirdre Williams-Cooper, Chief Administrator

…documents have been withheld
through negligence, inadvertence
or design…

Statement of Justice K. Peter Richard

Halifax, Nova Scotia
Monday, 12 June 1995
For Immediate Release

The decision of Mr. Justice Anderson granting a stay in the criminal proceedings against Gerald Phillips and Roger Parry has opened the door for the Westray Mine Public Inquiry to proceed with hearings.  Although I have not had the opportunity to read the full decision, the media reports indicate that Justice Anderson’s decision was based on a very thorough and reasoned review of the law and its application to the facts of the case.

Over three years have been wasted at great expense to the people of Nova Scotia.  To the throw-away costs of the criminal investigation and aborted trial must be added the costs of maintaining the Inquiry “on hold” as well as the costs of defending the court challenges which eventually concluded with the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada allowing the appeal of the Inquiry and the United Steel Workers’ (sic) of America.

In a statement issued at the time of the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, I indicated that I was hopeful the Inquiry could commence public hearings as early as the fall of 1995.  In May of 1992 I issued an order (having the same force and effect of an order of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia) requiring that all documents relating to Westray be given up to the Inquiry.  With the assurances given by Curragh, the several departments of the provincial government and the federal Department of Justice we at the Inquiry felt reasonably confident that all relevant documents had been secured in the Inquiry offices.  Inquiry staff spent four months during the summer of 1992 cataloguing and indexing those documents for use at the hearings.

Now it appears that a substantial portion of the relevant documents have been withheld through negligence, inadvertence or design.  According to the evidence before Justice Anderson there are documents at the offices of the Department of Labour both in Halifax and Stellarton.  In a recent letter to Inquiry counsel, the Minister of Justice undertook to respond to our concerns respecting missing documents.

There is a significant number of documents in storage in Toronto which we had been told were duplicates of material presently in the possession of the Inquiry.  It now appears that some of these documents have not been deposited with the Inquiry – either in original or copy format.  It is essential to the proper preparation for the Inquiry that all relevant documents be reposed with the Inquiry and that Inquiry staff be the sole determiners of the relevance of such documents.

I have instructed counsel to advise me as to the appropriate action required to positively identify and acquire all documents which have been withheld from the Inquiry.  I will be meeting with counsel within the week to fully canvass the implications of the evidence which came out before Justice Anderson at the “stay” hearing.  After that meeting, and depending on the advice of counsel we may be able to more closely estimate a startup time for the Inquiry as well as the action necessary to secure possession of those documents which had been retained in non-compliance with the May 1992 Inquiry order.
E-mail header:
Date: Fri, 16 Jun 1995 13:06:26 -0300
Sender: [email protected]
To: Multiple recipients of list <[email protected]>

The above was found 26 August 2002,
on a hard drive in a long-unused 486 computer.
According to Google, no other copy now exists on the Internet.
On 16 June 1995, this media release was posted
on the following Internet discussion groups:
ns.general 3657   can.legal 8200   can.general 52087

Westray Mine Public Inquiry
Preliminary Hearing

Halifax, Nova Scotia
Friday, 30 June 1995
For Immediate Release

The Westray Mine Public Inquiry will hold a preliminary hearing into the sufficiency of document publication and disclosure.  The hearing is to obtain assurances that all relevant documents have been or will be provided to the Inquiry.

“What I simply want is public assurance that all documents necessary for adequate preparation and conduct of the Westray Mine Public Inquiry are now in the possession of the Inquiry,” said Inquiry commissioner Justice K. Peter Richard.

He noted that recent revelations at the criminal trial in Pictou did little to instill a feeling of public confidence in the manner in which documents were handled, and that this hearing is intended to reassure everyone there are no impediments to the fulfillment of the Inquiry’s mandate.

The Inquiry will give notice to a number of persons to appear at the hearing and address the Westray document issue.

“The hearing is strictly a procedural step to help us in our preparations for the Inquiry,” added Inquiry counsel, John Merrick.

The hearings are scheduled to take place July 12 and 13, 1995, at the Citizenship Court at 5281 Duke Street in Halifax.
E-mail header:
Date: Wed, 5 Jul 1995 13:04:00 -0300
Sender: [email protected]
To: Multiple recipients of list <[email protected]>

Media Advisory — Westray Mine Public Inquiry

HALIFAX, July 7, 1995 /CNW/ — The Westray Mine Public Inquiry will hold a preliminary hearing into the sufficiency of document production and disclosure on July 12 and 13 at the Citizenship Court at 5281 Duke Street in Halifax. Proceedings will start at 9:30am each day and conclude at 4:30pm.

Interested media are invited to attend.

A room adjacent to the courtroom will be set aside as a working room for the media. No cameras or other recording devices will be permitted in the courtroom itself.

John Merrick, counsel for the Inquiry will make himself available at the conclusion of each day’s proceedings for approximately 15 minutes in the media room to answer questions about the day’s activities. Cameras and recording devices may be used for those sessions.

The media’s cooperation is sought in not using the hallways outside the courtroom to gather or conduct interviews, as the office space adjacent is shared by other government departments and such activity would be disruptive…

Westray Mine Public Inquiry news release, 7 July 1995

Media Advisory — Westray Mine Public Inquiry

HALIFAX, Sept. 15, 1995 /CNW/ — Media are advised that a hearing has been scheduled to determine the validity of claims of privilege being asserted with respect to documents in the possession of the law firm of MacIntosh, MacDonnell & MacDonald — former counsel for Curragh Resources Inc.

The hearing follows an Order by Commissioner Richard dated September 12, 1995 calling for MacIntosh, MacDonnell and MacDonald to hand over any documents, records and files that might have relevance to the Inquiry.

In addition, a determination of privilege will be made regarding certain documents of Curragh Resources Inc. and Westray Coal Inc. obtained from Downtown-U-Store-It in Toronto, Ontario.

The hearing will take place on October 4, 1995 starting at 10:00am, in the Citizenship Court, 5281 Duke Street, Halifax. Media are invited to attend.

Westray Mine Public Inquiry news release, 15 September 1995

Media Advisory — Westray Mine Public Inquiry

HALIFAX, Oct. 30, 1995 /CNW/ — A briefing session for the media will be held at 2:00pm on Wednesday, November 1 at the Inquiry offices in Halifax (1801 Hollis Street, 15th floor).

Inquiry counsel John Merrick and Jocelyn Campbell will be available to answer questions relating to the upcoming Inquiry, which will start hearing evidence on November 6 at the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry in Stellarton.

Westray Mine Public Inquiry news release, 30 October 1995

“I have 26 reasons, your honour,
why this probe has to stay here”

Don’t Move Mine Probe, Families Beg

Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 15 Feb 1996, page A1

Never Say “No”
In all the governments I have dealt with, and I’ve worked for five Prime Ministers, the activities or the manner in which the Prime Minister’s Office represents itself is uniformly the same.  It is — never say no.  I mean you do not want to author an opinion that the Prime Minister said no, when he has had no involvement, where there has been no basis for suggesting that that was his position.  You can say “maybe”, you can say “tomorrow”, you can say “not as much”, “over a longer period of time”, “let’s review it further”, but you simply don’t declare yourself as saying that, somehow, an opinion was associated with anybody at the bureaucratic level that the Prime Minister has said no, because he is hectored by everybody, all the time – his ministers, and special interests who are pleading for support – and if he begins to be portrayed as favouring some ministers or some interests over others, you can imagine what rabbits you would send running on all sorts of issues, and what issues there would be in terms of cabinet solidarity and cabinet confidences.  So Prime Ministers remain studiously above the fray… I sat there, at the top, and was aware of this very very careful position that the Prime Minister’s staff and the Prime Minister himself took, and he’s no different than other Prime Ministers…

—  Harry Rogers, former Deputy Minister of the Department of Regional Economic Expansion, Ottawa, in testimony during Day 61 of the Westray Mine Public Inquiry Commission, 21 May 1996, at Stellarton, as recorded in the official transcript.

This part of Mr. Rogers’ testimony is found on
pages 13364 and 13365 of the official transcript.

Abrasive, Abusive, Offensive
Clifford Frame… was personally abrasive and abusive, and a very difficult and unattractive person to do business with – probably the most offensive person I have met in business or in government.

—  Harry Rogers, former Deputy Minister of the Department of Regional Economic Expansion, Ottawa, in testimony during Day 61 of the Westray Mine Disaster Public Inquiry Commission, 21 May 1996, at Stellarton, Pictou County, Nova Scotia, as recorded in the official transcript.  Mr. Frame was the chairman and largest shareholder of Curragh Inc., owner and operator of the Westray coal mine.  Here, Mr. Rogers was responding to questions by Mr. John Merrick, solicitor for the Westray Mine Public Inquiry Commission.

This part of Mr. Rogers’ testimony is found on
page 13368 of the official transcript.

Abrasive Abusive Bully
(Q.)  Mr. Rogers… You used a number of adjectives yesterday when you were asked to describe your impression of Mr. Frame and I caught “abusive, abrasive, unpleasant” and “offensive,” among others.  What was the context in which you derived that opinion of Mr. Frame?
(A.)  Well, in direct consultations with him.
(Q.)  What was going on?  I mean, how – what was the behaviour that brought about your assessment?
(A.)  Just what I said, abusive, and offensive, and rude, and denigrating.  I can’t elaborate further, except that that was my experience.
(Q.)  These were in the negotiations you were having…
(A.)  On the occasions that we met…
(Q.)  Was he trying to bully you?…
(A.)  Yes.

—  Harry Rogers, former Deputy Minister of the Department of Regional Economic Expansion, Ottawa, in testimony during Day 62 of the Westray Mine Disaster Public Inquiry Commission, 22 May 1996, at Stellarton, as recorded in the official transcript.  Here, Mr. Rogers was responding to questions by Mr. David Roberts, solicitor for the United Steelworkers of America and the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour.

This part of Mr. Rogers’ testimony is found on
pages 13527 and 13528 of the official transcript.

Index to the Westray Mine Public Inquiry Transcript

Government’s Competing Priorities
The nature of government… is continuously coming down on all sides of the issues… My favourite personal anecdote is of a provincial Roads Department who is laying off the staff on a lift bridge.  And so as the attendant at the lift bridge is finishing his last day, he asks his supervisor, “Would you rather I left the bridge up so the boats can go through, or leave it down so the cars can go across?”  I mean, that sort of conflict in the policies of government is inherent in the nature of government.  You want to accomplish environmental objectives, and you develop a low-sulphur coal mine.  You want to protect the employment in Cape Breton, that’s also another government objective.  The fact that there’s conflict between the two is, as I say, inherent in what governments do all the time.

—  Harry Rogers, former Deputy Minister of the Department of Regional Economic Expansion, Ottawa, in testimony during Day 61 of the Westray Mine Disaster Public Inquiry Commission, 21 May 1996, at Stellarton, Pictou County, Nova Scotia, as recorded in the official transcript.  Here, Mr. Rogers was responding to questions by Mr. John Merrick, solicitor for the Westray Mine Public Inquiry Commission.

This part of Mr. Rogers’ testimony is found on
page 13374 of the official transcript.

Harry Rogers Born in Toronto and educated at The University of Western Ontario, where
he was gold medallist in economics and political science, Mr. Rogers worked
for the Ford Motor Company from 1955 to 1969, serving in financial executive
posts in  Singapore,  South Africa and Dearborn, Michigan.  He was General
Manager of  Ford  in  Japan  from 1967 to 1969.  For the next nine years, he
occupied a variety of senior executive positions with Xerox in North America
including a term as vice-president, Operations, Xerox of Canada Limited.

Mr. Rogers moved to the federal public service in 1978 as the first Comptroller
of Canada.  He has served as  deputy  minister  in  seven  Government
of Canada departments.  From 1984 through 1990 he served as Deputy Minister
in the Department of Revenue – when the Scientific Research and Experimental
Development  Program  was  set up in 1984, the position of the then Minister of
National Revenue,  Elmer  MacKay,  and of his  Deputy  Minister,  Harry  Rogers,
was that the  administrative  system  was to be aimed at delivering incentives.  He
served as Deputy Minister in the Departments of Regional Industrial Expansion and
Science and Technology.  He served for six years as Deputy Minister of Industry,
Science and Technology.  He also served as Senior Advisor to the Privy Council
Office and Deputy Minister, Office of Federal Economic Development (Ontario).

In his testimony before the Westray Public Inquiry, Mr. Rogers stated that he had
“worked for five Prime Ministers.”  He was referring to the period 1978-1995, when
he was working at the Deputy Minister level in the Canadian civil service.  During
this period, there were six individuals who were Prime Minister, in the following
sequence – Trudeau, Clark, Trudeau, Turner, Mulroney, Campbell and Chrétien.

Complete Testimony of
Harry Rogers Links  to  individual  pages  in  the
Official Transcript of the Westray Public Inquiry

21 May 1996

The Politics of Coal
The politics of coal is the politics of regional disparity.  It is the politics of subsidy, subvention, soot, grime, black dust and danger.  And somewhere, under all this, there is profit for some and a livelihood for many…
—  Dalton Camp, commenting in the Halifax Daily News, 6 June 1996, on the Westray Mine Public Inquiry Commission’s investigation of the events leading to the Westray Mine Disaster.

God Help Us All
These are the people the government picked to watch over us.  God help us all.
—  Colleen Bell, commenting on the testimony, given to the Westray Mine Public Inquiry Commission, by Nova Scotia government mine inspectors Albert McLean and John Smith.  Reported in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald 16 May 1996.  Ms. Bell is the sister-in-law of coal miner Larry Bell, who was killed in the explosion in the Westray Mine, 9 May 1992.

Examination of Mr. McLean, 6-13 May 1996
Examination of Mr. Smith, 14-16 May 1996

Ornery, Awkward, Nosy Bastards
(Q.) Tell me about your mine inspectors in England, what kind of people are they?
(A.) Well, pardon my expression, usually bastards.  And I mean that in the nicest possible sense; it’s a professional requirement to be an inspector.
(Q.) Yeah.
(A.) We have a – we call the place they have to go for their training “Awkward School” because they come back the most ornery, awkward sort of people you could ever wish to meet which makes them very persistent, very nosy, and very sort of, you know – I forget – I can’t think of a phrase for it, but getting to the bottom of everything.  You know, investigative sort of attitude.  Believe nothing, question everything, check everything.  Not all inspectors, some inspectors are better than others, but that is the general type of inspector we get… I went to awkward school, but I never became an inspector… People often say I would have made a great one, you know, because I’m such a nosy bugger…
—  Andrew Liney testifying under oath, answering questions put by John Merrick on Day 19 of the Westray Mine Public Inquiry, Stellarton, Nova Scotia, 16 January 1996, as recorded in the official transcript.  Mr. Merrick was the Solicitor for the Inquiry Commission, and Mr. Liney was testifying as an expert in coal mine ventilation.

This part of Mr. Liney’s testimony is found on
pages 3539 and 3540 of the official transcript.

Cameron Passes Buck at Westray

A “pivotal role” in the development of the Westray project
The testimony so far makes the disaster almost sound inevitable

Cameron Passes Buck at Westray
by John DeMont, Stellarton, Nova Scotia, Maclean’s, 10 June 1996
It was vintage Donald Cameron.  Last week, the former Conservative premier of Nova Scotia spoke of his integrity and strength of character before launching into a bout of finger-pointing.  His onetime Liberal opposition, officials in his own government, Ottawa bureaucrats, even the dead miners themselves – he said these were the ones responsible for the disaster at the Westray coal mine in Plymouth, N.S., four years ago, which left 26 miners dead and helped drive his government into political oblivion.  Rambling on before the inquiry, which he, as premier, had called into the disaster, he lashed out at the media and the inquiry itself for trying to link his ardent promotion of the project to the tragedy.  Then, when the proceedings broke for lunch, Cameron, now Canada’s consul general in Boston, sprinted down a hallway, giddily taunting reporters with the words “what a bunch of fools,” as he climbed into a waiting car.  Day 66 of the Westray inquiry was supposed to provide a flash of insight.  Instead, it was simply bizarre.  “We’ve heard over and over again that safety starts at the top, the proper approach begins at the top, mind-sets begin at the top, quality begins at the top,” inquiry lawyer John Merrick dryly pointed out to reporters after grilling Cameron.  “We’re seeing the top.”  It was not a pretty sight.  Cameron’s testimony was no different than that of any of the other bureaucrats and politicians who have sat in the witness chair and refused to shoulder any blame for the explosion that ripped through the Westray mine on May 9, 1992, eight months after it opened.  But if Cameron felt like the accused, he had good reason.  As what Merrick called “the swirl of politics” cleared, the former premier’s pivotal role in the Westray drama seemed unmistakable.  The testimony so far makes the disaster almost sound inevitable…
—  Source: Cameron Passes Buck at Westray Maclean’s

“Mr. Cameron’s testimony was
an embarrassment and a disgrace.”

This statement appeared in the lead editorial in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 29 May 1996, commenting on the appearance of Donald Cameron before the Westray Mine Public Inquiry Commission in Stellarton, Nova Scotia, on 28 May 1996.  Cameron was the Premier of Nova Scotia on the day the Westray Mine exploded, and, as a member of the provincial cabinet, had been deeply involved in the intricate negotiations which led to the establishment of the Westray Coal Mine.

Complete Testimony of
Donald Cameron Links  to  individual  pages  in  the
Official Transcript of the Westray Public Inquiry

28 May 1996

29 May 1996

Index to the Westray Mine Public Inquiry Transcript

If They Stopped Not Digging It…
That crowd over there agreed to give Clifford Frame the following arrangement.  They would buy 150,000 tons of coal if it stayed in the ground.  Now let’s work our way through that now at $51 a ton.  We were assured in the House over and over again (Interruptions).  The member for Hants West is awake and I am thankful for that.  Let’s consider 150,000 tons at $51 a ton every year.  Now the interesting part, let’s consider Mr. Frame, a shrewd operator it turns out.  If he didn’t dig the coal he would get $51 a ton.  If he dug the coal, now take the labour costs, the risks and all of the other things, and he would get less than $51 a ton.  Now Clifford Frame could figure this out, he would say, let’s see, if I leave it in the ground I get $51 a ton, if I mine it, I get less than that and it costs me money to do it…

If they stopped not digging it, how would they know they were taking the day off?  We had a discussion in this House one day in which the government was charged with, maybe next year they wouldn’t dig the same ton of coal and get paid twice for not digging it.  They told us no, that there is a map and they are able to indicate that as they move from a block of coal they don’t dig this year and a block of coal they don’t dig this year, then they know which block of coal they didn’t dig…

—  John MacEachern, MLA for Cape Breton East, speaking on the floor of the Nova Scotia Legislature on 9 December 1997, during a discussion of the controversial “take or pay” clause in the contract between the provincial government and Westray Coal Inc.  The complete text of Mr. MacEachern’s remarks is recorded in Hansard at page 1024.

Westray Inquiry Winds Down
by Jennifer Wells with David Estok, Maclean’s, 15 July 1996
…In a Maclean’s interview in March 1996, John Merrick, chief councel for the Inquiry Commission, said there were many reasons why it was important to get Frame to testify.  “We would like to know how the company became involved with the project, we would like to know management’s position as to how the project was developed.  We would like to know their views on some of the statements that have been made as to the approach to safety that was being displayed.”  The jurisdictional chaos has effectively divorced an examination of Westray from that of Curragh, its corporate parent.  And Frame is key to a number of pieces in the puzzle.  There is, first, his role in what Donald Cameron calls the “political swirl” surrounding the financing of the $127,000,000 mine, for which Curragh anted up just $9,000,000 in cash.  Then there is the web of Frame operations in the months leading to the explosion.  Even before Scotiabank put pressure on Curragh over the Sa Dena Hes loan payback, the company had been slammed by low commodities prices at its Faro lead-zinc mine in the Yukon.  Desperate for cash, Frame put Westray up for sale in the fall of 1991, with Morgan Stanly & Company in New York City acting as sales agent…

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Westray Verdict
by Brian Bergman, Maclean’s, 15 December 1997
…Justice Peter Richard of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court delivered his long-awaited Public Inquiry report into the 9 May 1992 Westray mine explosion that killed 26 men… Richard blamed the tragedy on a series of appalling safety lapses at the mine, to which provincial authorities repeatedly turned a blind eye.  He said the initial source of the blast was sparks struck by a machine called a continuous miner as it cut into the coal seam in the early morning hours of May 9.  The sparks ignited a cloud of methane gas – a gas that seeps naturally from coal – sending men racing down one shaft as a rolling flame licked above their heads.  When the flame hit a thick layer of coal dust, it set off a massive explosion that burst through the mine, killing the men within seconds.  Those initial sparks would have faded harmlessly, said Richard, if Westray officials had not flouted provincial mining regulations by allowing hazardous levels of coal dust to accumulate and by failing to properly ventilate the mine to prevent methane buildups…

…Toronto-based Clifford Frame, the former chairman of Curragh Inc., who has always denied any responsibility for the tragedy and who has also publicly attributed the explosion to worker error, waged a lengthy legal battle to avoid testifying before the Richard inquiry.  To prevent any further delay in releasing his report, Richard said he had given up chasing Frame.  From the offices of his new company, Mineral Resources Corp., Frame issued a terse news release last week, stating again that “human error” caused the mine to explode.  Frame added that he “will ever grieve” for the 26 dead men.

“Bluster and bullshit” is the way Allen Martin sums up his views on Frame.  But his wrath is not reserved for Frame alone.  In trying to find out why his brother and 25 others died, Martin says he has lost his faith in all authority figures.  “They lie to you every time they speak,” he says.  “I’ve no respect for them at all.”  It is a cynicism, and a sadness, that even Richard’s illuminating report could not dispel.

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The key to any successful regulatory regime is compliance, and the key to compliance is enforcement.  As has been so graphically illustrated in the Westray experience, regulations, no matter how effective on paper, are worthless when they are ignored or trivialized by management and when their enforcement is in the hands of an apathetic and insensitive inspectorate…
–  Chapter 4: Training at Westray in the Consolidated Recommendations, Westray Mine Public Inquiry report

Westray Coal Mine Public Inquiry Report
issued 1 December 1997

Westray Coal Mine Public Inquiry Report, Contents
Westray Coal Mine Public Inquiry Report, Executive Summary
Westray Coal Mine Public Inquiry Report, Summary
Prelude to the Tragedy: History, Development, and Operation
The Explosion: An Analysis of Underground Conditions
The Regulators: Departmental and Ministerial Responsibility
The Aftermath: Rescue Efforts and the Inquiry
Westray Coal Mine Public Inquiry Report, In Conclusion
Westray Coal Mine Public Inquiry Report, Consolidated Findings
Westray Coal Mine Public Inquiry Report, Consolidated Recommendations
A Westray Coal Mine Public Inquiry Chronology
was available in 1998 at
but for some reason was removed in 1999
from the Government website.
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“…a masterpiece of clarity, forthrightness,
wisdom and compassion…”

“ ‘The most important thing to come out of a mine is the miner.’ – words attributed to Frédéric LePlay, a French sociologist and inspector-general of mines in the 19th century and quoted by Nova Scotia Justice K. Peter Richard in his report on the Westray mine disaster.  The Executive Summary of this report is a masterpiece of clarity, forthrightness, wisdom and compassion.”

That is the appraisal of the Executive Summary of Justice K. Peter Richard’s Report on the Westray mine disaster, in Review of 1997 Events in Corporate Ethics by David Selley, in Management Ethics, Jan-Feb 1998.  Mr. Selley is past-chair and a director of the Canadian Centre for Ethics and Corporate Policy and a consultant in auditing standards, methodologies and techniques.
—  Source: Management Ethics, Jan-Feb 1998 (page 3)

Ethics in the News
Bill C-259

On June 6, 2000, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights urged the federal government to introduce legislation based on C-259, a Private Member’s Bill.  The bill calls for more accountability on the part of corporate executives for workplace safety and arose from the public inquiry into the Westray mining disaster…
—  Source: Management Ethics, September 2000 (page 2)

Dealing with Corporate Crimes in Canada

By Chantal Plamondon

In May 1992, 26 miners met their death amid rocks and coal in the depths of the Westray Mine in Nova Scotia.  The public inquiry launched following the disaster pointed to several managerial defects in the operation of the mine and in the application of basic safety measures aimed at protecting the workers.  Although the ingredients of criminal negligence seemed to be present, neither the corporation nor any of its managerial officers were ever found guilty of any crime.  After a fierce legal battle lasting several years, charges against the corporate leaders were dropped in June 1998.  Canada’s regime of corporate criminal liability bears an important share of the blame with regard to the difficulty the Crown faced in prosecuting both the corporation and its officers… [boldface emphasis added]
—  Source: Management Ethics, Spring 2001 (page 1)

The Report of the Westray Public Inquiry Commission

Statements in the Legislature
as reported in Hansard, 1 December 1997

Hon. Don Downe,
Minister of Transportation and Public Works

Dr. John Hamm,
Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Robert Chisholm,
Leader of the New Democratic Party

Premier’s Office
Westray Response Committee
List of Committee Members

The province is committed to a timely evaluation and response on the Westray inquiry report released in Stellarton today, Dec. 1, by Justice Peter Richard.  Premier Russell MacLellan today announced the establishment of a cabinet committee to respond to the report and recommendations of the Westray mine public inquiry.  “The Westray report is a priority with this government,” said the premier. “We are committed to a thorough and thoughtful review and response.”

The committee is chaired by Don Downe, Minister of Transportation and Public Works, and includes Housing and Municipal Affairs Minister Guy Brown, Justice Minister Alan Mitchell, Labour Minister Gerald O’Malley and Natural Resources Minister Ken MacAskill.

Mr. Downe was in Stellarton to receive the report on behalf of government. “We owe it to the families, the miners and all Nova Scotians to provide answers and take action very quickly,” said Mr. Downe. “We will give the issues serious attention and serious review.” He indicated that a preliminary plan for dealing with the report’s recommendations will be announced before Christmas.  In May 1992, 26 miners were killed in an explosion at the Westray coal mine, operated by Curragh Resources Inc. of Toronto. The government of then-premier Donald Cameron commissioned the Westray inquiry to examine the cause of the disaster and make recommendations.

Peter MacLellan, Office of the Premier
902-424-3750, e-mail: [email protected]
Jennifer MacIsaac, 902-424-3219, e-mail: [email protected]

Source: [Government press release #120102, 1 December 1997, 11:10 am]

Department of Transportation & Public Works
Westray Response Committee

Note to Editors: The following are remarks made tonight by Don Downe, chair of the Westray Response Committee, in the House of Assembly.

Mr. Speaker: Tonight I’d like to speak to this House and to all Nova Scotians as minister responsible for government’s response to the Westray report.  At 5:20 on the morning of May 9, 1992, this province was rocked by one of the worst tragedies in its history — the Westray mine disaster.  That morning this province lost 26 coal miners. Twenty-six families were left without loved ones. And thousands of Nova Scotians shared in their pain and sadness.  Five years later, the memory and sadness of that day remain with us all, most especially with the families.

But today also marks one of the first steps toward understanding this senseless tragedy. Today, at 11 a.m. in Stellarton, Justice Peter Richard released his report into the Westray mine disaster.  The Commissioner’s report is extensive, with more than 700 pages and four volumes of information. While we are just beginning to work our way through it, the overwhelming impression is that the report is thoughtful and thorough.  I would like to thank Justice Richard and his staff for their hard work and dedication in the face of great challenge and complexity. This report will make a real difference in the lives of working men and women in this province. This government will see that it does.

I would also like to thank the families. They have been the ones fighting to be heard, fighting to keep the memory of Westray alive, fighting to make a difference. The families have been through hell and back. And while I can never fully understand their pain, I do understand their conviction. I have sat in the same room and seen it face to face.

Earlier today, the premier established a cabinet committee consisting of the ministers of Labour, Natural Resources, Justice and Housing and Municipal Affairs. Westray will be given high priority.  This is not a report we will put on the shelf. This is a report we will carry with us until all the issues are addressed. We owe it the families. We owe it to the memory of the 26 miners.  This government will respond with an initial plan of action prior to Christmas. We have a lot of ground to cover and many decisions to make, but we are committed to a timely response. The Westray families have waited long enough.  This government will do the right thing. We will make this province a safer place for people to earn a living and raise their families.  This morning, I took a few minutes to visit the Westray memorial in Stellarton, and I read the names of the 26 men once more.  We can never allow another Westray. People do not go to work to die.  Unfortunately, this government cannot change the past. I wish we could. But we can make a difference in the future.

In closing, I make this pledge to the families: Westray will not be some vague memory of a tragic accident. It will be a living active presence in workplaces across Nova Scotia. Your husbands, your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your friends will never be forgotten. Every time someone wants to cut corners or bend the rules, we will remind them. There can never be another Westray. This government will not allow it.  Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Contact: Jennifer MacIsaac, 902-424-3219, e-mail: [email protected]

Source: [ Government press release # 120107, 1 December 1997, 8:25 pm]

Note to Editors: The executive summary of the Westray inquiry report can be found on the Internet at

Prosecute Westray ‘cowards, tricksters,’
Hotline callers say

Daily News Hotline — by Stephen Bornais
The Halifax Daily News
Saturday, December 6, 1997
The Crown should pursue charges against those directly responsible for the Westray mine disaster, say respondents to The Daily News Hotline.  But that opinion won by the narrowest of margins, backed by only 11 of the 21 callers and e-mailers.  The Hotline asked if the criminal justice system should be pushed to continue with charges against mine managers, a process that could take years — and many millions of dollars.

Regular e-mailer Edward Watt said the process must continue, but he acknowledged the difficulties it will face.  “Even if criminal charges are brought against these liars, cowards and tricksters, it will unfortunately take years to even come to trial where this will be tantamount to winning a lottery 6/49 for lawyers,” he wrote.

“So what if it takes years?” said Lilly Snow from Beaver Bank, while Judith Mason in Bedford said someone must speak for those who can no longer.  “Don’t you think it’s time someone was accountable for this?” she said.

Old union man Donald Waye of Dartmouth said the people directly responsible for the mine are still at large. “The Crown should stand its ground and bring those people back for questioning,” he said.

To do otherwise, a woman said, would be a “a waste of those men’s lives and waste of the efforts of the inquiry.”

But to Lloyd Zwicker, of Windsor, the waste would be in the continuation of a lost cause.  “We’ve wasted enough taxpayers dollars, millions and millions of dollars wasted on something a 10-year-old kid could have told us,” he said.  The money would be better spent on keeping hospital beds open, he added.

Another caller said Westray was a tragic event, but it was time to put it to rest.  One woman doubted the strength of the case that could be prepared against the mine managers.  “If there was any concrete evidence those men were to blame they would have been charged a long time ago, believe me,” she said.

A Hotline regular said there plenty of blame for everyone involved with Westray.  “Unless you’re going to charge everyone responsible you can’t charge anyone, otherwise you’re just picking your defendants,” he said.

The miners themselves should have been aware of the risks they were running, a man said. “Any man that goes underground in Nova Scotia and anywhere in the world knows he’s taking his life in his hands.”

The Daily News Hotline allows readers to speak out on current issues.  It does not purport to be a scientific sample of public opinion.  Questions appear Wednesday and Sunday.  Results appear Saturday and Wednesday.

Public Inquiries Act

Public Inquiries Act

Order In Council, 15 May 1992
establishing the Westray Mine Public Inquiry Commission

Order In Council, 15 May 1992
establishing the Westray Mine Public Inquiry Commission

Index to the Westray Mine Public Inquiry Transcript

Steelworkers Welcome Westray Inquiry

NEW GLASGOW, N.S., Nov. 6, 1995 /CNW/ — The United Steelworkers and the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour said today they welcome the start of the public hearings into 1992’s Westray mine disaster. The surviving Westray miners are represented by the Steelworkers’ Local 9332.

Steelworkers’ National Director Lawrence McBrearty and Federation President Rick Clarke, say the inquiry comes at a time when “it has been far too long a wait for the families, the community, and miners everywhere.”

Local 9332 has standing at the inquiry and will be participating fully throughout.

“Our union intends to take part in good faith to assist the Commissioner to get at the truth and help prevent a future disaster,” McBrearty said.

McBrearty said the union believes the Westray mine was ill-conceived, poorly-planned, and incompetently operated.

“The miners were placed in dangerous working conditions and pushed to produce coal at the expense of the most basic safety precautions,” he said. “Both levels of government — the federal, which guaranteed loans, and the provincial, which was supposed to enforce regulations — completely failed in their responsibilities.

“When all is said and done, we have the deaths of 26 men due to deregulation, non-compliance and non-enforcement,” McBrearty said.

Clarke added: “What happened at Westray is a terrifying indictment of those in business and government who call for further deregulation of industry.”

McBrearty, who as a miner, took part in the 15-year struggle for unionization and health and safety at Gaspe Copper in Quebec, said he is “sickened that government and corporations talk today about going back to the deregulation and lax enforcement of the past.

“Those who believe that this was an isolated incident should remember that the other mining companies gave Westray’s owners, Curragh Resources, an award for safety just prior to the explosion.”

  • The union wants the Westray inquiry to:
  • Ensure that all facts about the establishing and operation of the Westray mine are exposed, and that all those responsible for the unsafe conditions at Westray are held publicly accountable;
  • Identify as precisely as possible the circumstances that led to the explosion;
  • Look closely at the actions of the politicians, who lobbied for the establishment of the Westray mine, and the public servants responsible for ensuring it was developed and operated safely;
  • Work with the Commissioner to develop recommendations for effective health and safety regulations that will provide protection for people who work in mining and in industry in general.

McBrearty said the union is also concerned that charges against the mine managers were stayed because the government failed to provide adequate disclosure to defense lawyers. Recent information suggests that representatives of the company and those same mine managers may not be compelled to participate in the inquiry because they do not reside in Nova Scotia.

“If truth and justice mean anything in this inquiry, the main management players must be compelled to attend and give evidence,” McBrearty said.

United Steelworkers Union news release, 6 November 1995

At Westray, Inexperience Didn’t Matter It didn’t matter that their chief engineer had never worked in a coal mine before, that their geologist had never been in a coal mine, or that their other engineers were right out of school.  The most experienced coal man in the office, the surveyor, left in disgust.  His replacement didn’t have enough experience to be certified under the Coal Mines Regulation Act.  When they needed help with roof problems, they hired a potash geologist who had never worked in coal.  As a training officer they hired someone who had never worked as a trainer, or in mining, but who knew politicians and who had been on television as a wrestling announcer…
—  Page 16803 of the Oral Submission of United Steelworkers of America, presented by Mr. David J. Roberts to the Westray Mine Public Inquiry Commission, 22 July 1996

Westray Motion Just a First Step:
Steelworkers Continue Fight to Change Criminal Code

TORONTO, March 23, 2000 /CNW/ — Lawrence McBrearty, national director of the United Steelworkers, said Thursday that the recently-passed Motion-79 (M-79) in the House of Commons is a step in the right direction, but that the fight to change the Criminal Code is far from over. M-79 calls on the government to implement Recommendation 73 of the Westray Mine Disaster Inquiry Report.

“If there was to be another Westray Mine disaster tomorrow, we still would not be able to hold corporate decision-makers responsible because we do not have legislation in place,” said McBrearty. “We need to immediately amend the Criminal Code to include corporate killing. Without legislative change, there is no way to enforce the sentiment of M-79.”

The Steelworkers and the New Democratic Party have been working closely together on the issue. NDP Leader Alexa McDonough introduced Private Member’s Bill C-259, which would amend the Criminal Code to impose criminal liability on directors or the responsible corporate agents for failing to ensure an appropriate standard of occupational health and safety in the workplace. Union members have written to their MPs and lobbied on Parliament Hill to get support for the Bill.

“We hope that those MPs who supported M-79 will go further and pass C-259,” said McBrearty. “Steelworkers will continue lobbying MPs until we see their actions matching the words of M-79. The next logical step is to pass C-259, which will mean actual change and safer workplaces.

“If you ask anyone who has lost a friend, a relative or a spouse to a workplace accident, they will tell you the changes we are talking about cannot come soon enough.”

United Steelworkers Union news release, 23 March 2000

Westray Criminal Trial
Pictou, Nova Scotia

44 days in session, from   6 February 1995   to   9 June 1995

Index to Transcript

List of Exhibits

Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 6 March 1995

Third World Level of Justice Letter to Editor

Courtroom Rules, Westray Criminal Trial

Nova Scotia Government press release, 30 January 1995

The Westray trial begins Monday, Feb. 6, 1995, in courtroom #1, Pictou Justice Complex in the Town of Pictou, Pictou County, Nova Scotia.

The seating capacity of the courtroom is limited, so the following arrangements have been made in an attempt to accommodate the needs of the media, families and the general public.

SEATING:   The two back rows on the right hand side of the courtroom have been reserved for the media. There are 12-15 seats available.

Media people must be in those seats at least five minutes before the start of court proceedings in the morning and afternoon. If any media seats are empty five minutes before court starts, those seats will be made available to the general public.

No standees will be permitted in the courtroom.

The first two rows on both sides of the courtroom have been reserved for the families of the victims and accused.

No member of the public, including the media, is permitted beyond the bar without the permission of the court.

AUDIO FEED:   To accommodate overflow, the audio of the proceedings is being fed into courtroom #2 and the jury room. These rooms are expected to be available to the public and the media most of the time, but there will be times when they will be in use and therefore unavailable.

CAMERAS:   No cameras are permitted in the courtroom. No camera shots are permitted through the door of the courtroom at any time without the permission of the judge. No courtroom shots are to be taken after hours without the permission of the judge.

RECORDING:   Audio recording of the proceedings may be made, but they may not be broadcast. They are to be used as a reference only.

EXHIBITS:   Access to exhibits is at the discretion of the judge.

INTERVIEWS:   Cameras and media interviews are permitted in the public areas of the courthouse, but they are not to impede the work of the sheriffs and court staff.

DECORUM:   The media and the public are expected to observe all standard courtroom decorum and rules as set out in the media guidelines. Copies of these guidelines are available from the sheriff or prothonotary.

QUESTIONS:   On-site questions should be directed to the sheriff, court clerk or prothonotary.

Nova Scotia Government press release, 30 January 1995

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Archived: 2004 February 28
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Phillips v. Nova Scotia
(Commission of Inquiry into the Westray Mine Tragedy)

Source: Supreme Court of Canada, [1995] 2 S.C.R.
31 May and 1 June 1994; 4 May 1995
Phillips v. Nova Scotia (Commission of Inquiry into the Westray Mine Tragedy)
• United Steelworkers of America, Local 9332, Appellant
• The Honourable Justice K. Peter Richard, Appellant

versus • Gerald Phillips, Roger Parry, Glyn Jones, Arnold Smith, Robert Parry, Brian Palmer and Kevin Atherton
• The Attorney General of Nova Scotia
• Westray Families’ Group
• Town of Stellarton
• The Attorney General for Ontario
• The Attorney General of Quebec
• The Attorney General of Manitoba
• The Attorney General of British Columbia
• The Attorney General for Saskatchewan

Brief Overview of the Westray Criminal Trial

The trial judge ordered a stay of the manslaughter charges against the accused, two members of the managerial staff at a coal mine at which an explosion caused the deaths of 26 miners.  He based his decision on the Crown’s non-disclosure or late disclosure of relevant material.  Earlier during the trial, the judge had called the acting director of the public prosecution service and expressed his displeasure with the manner in which the Crown attorney was conducting the case.  The trial judge recommended that he be removed from the case and said that if he were not he would take steps “to secure that end”.  The Crown, supported by one of the accused, brought a motion for recusal, which the trial judge denied.  The Crown sought unsuccessfully to appeal this interlocutory decision.  That having failed, the trial continued until the trial judge entered a stay of proceedings due to the Crown’s failure to disclose material information.  The Crown raised the issue again in its appeal of the trial judge’s order staying the proceedings.  The Court of Appeal disagreed with the trial judge’s conclusion that the material non-disclosure should result in a stay, found that there was a reasonable apprehension of bias and ordered a new trial…
Source: Supreme Court of Canada, [1997] 1 S.C.R.   20 March 1997
The Queen versus Curragh Incorporated
Gerald James Phillips and Roger James Parry

versus Her Majesty The Queen
Indexed as:   R. v. Curragh Inc.

Westray Charges Stayed

Westray Charges Stayed
by Brian Bergman, Maclean’s, 13 July 1998
…During the afternoon of June 30, 1998, the families of the 26 men who died in the May 1992 Westray mine explosion, had been contacted by the Nova Scotia public prosecutions service and informed that long-standing criminal charges – of manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death – against two former Westray managers, Gerald Phillips and Roger Parry, had just been stayed.  In a meeting at the Plymouth, Nova Scotia, fire hall, lead Crown attorney Marc Chisholm told them there was simply not enough evidence to proceed to trial.  Chisholm said the experts could not agree on several key issues, including the exact cause of the explosion; as a result, there was no reasonable chance of securing a conviction.  These developments marked the latest wrenching chapter in the Westray saga…

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Administration of Justice Brought into Disrepute

“…What occurred in this case was an abuse of process.  While the trial judge believed that the non-disclosed evidence was material to the ability of the accused to make full answer and defence, the entire conduct of the trial has brought the administration of justice into disrepute and in the process violated section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Throughout the proceedings the Crown bent and broke rules, and attempted to cover up when it was caught.  The Crown actively misled the court on a number of occasions, and ignored or failed to obey court orders.  The conduct of Crown counsel at the trial violates the fundamental principles that underlie the community’s sense of fair play and decency and constitutes an abuse of the court’s process.  The trial judge was correct in determining that the only remedy for the conduct of the Crown in this case was a stay of proceedings… The Crown had access to the Department of Labour file, yet they maintained that they did not.  The Crown had in its possession relevant “administrative” files, yet it chose not to read them, deemed them irrelevant, and advised the court accordingly.  When they were found to be relevant, Crown counsel attempted to downplay the significance of their non-disclosure, and blame a subordinate for a poor evaluation of relevance.  This remarkable attitude permeated the entire trial proceedings…” (boldface emphasis added)
Source: Supreme Court of Canada, [1997] 1 S.C.R   20 March 1997
The Queen versus Curragh Incorporated
Gerald James Phillips and Roger James Parry

versus Her Majesty The Queen
Indexed as:   R. v. Curragh Inc.

This court decision contains a detailed timeline of the legal proceedings associated with the Westray Criminal Trial.  The timeline begins following this: “To appreciate the complicated background and procedural activity that occurred throughout the course of this case it is helpful to follow a time line…”

Westray at the Supreme Court

Supreme Court of Canada — Phillips v. Nova Scotia (Commission of Inquiry into the Westray Mine Tragedy) 1995 Right to fair trial — Provincial commission of inquiry into mining disaster — Commissioner empowered to compel testimony — Mine managers charged with criminal offences relating to disaster — Whether mine managers charged with criminal offences compellable witnesses at the provincial Inquiry — Whether proceeding with the Inquiry’s hearings would breach principles of fundamental justice or right to fair trial of the Charter — If so, whether a temporary stay of the public hearings is a just and appropriate remedy

Heightened Expectations, 1982-2004

…The Westray mine disaster of 9 May 1992, which killed 26 miners, revealed a legal apparatus seemingly incapable of bringing to justice the corporate agents alleged to be responsible for the deaths.  The constitutionalization of criminal procedure in the wake of the Charter demanded a heightened level of expertise and professionalism from police and prosecutorial authorities, one they found difficult to attain while labouring under at times severe resource constraints.  Negotiating the co-existence of a public inquiry with the laying of criminal charges proved to be a legal nightmare, as other provinces were finding out at the same time.  The NSSC (Nova Scotia Supreme Court) itself was not the main problem in the Westray prosecutions, but a mistrial on the criminal charges occurred when it was revealed that the trial judge, Justice Robert Anderson, had secretly telephoned the head of the prosecution service in an attempt to get the lead Crown prosecutor on the case removed.  The problem this time was not, as in the past, excessive deference to corporate capital, but an excess of zeal on the part of a judge who believed the Crown prosecutor was not up to the job.  The Court of Appeal found that there were grounds for an appearance of bias against the Crown, and ordered a new trial, but one was never held…
Heightened Expectations, 1982-2004 Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society (NSBS)

(Note: For some unknown reason, the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, which used to have this valuable document publicly available in its website, decided (late in 2005) to remove it.  We are fortunate that the Wayback Machine in San Francisco has archived copies, and makes them available to us.)

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Heightened Expectations, 1982-2004
by Philip Girard, professor in the Faculty of Law, Department of History,
and Canadian Studies Programme at Dalhousie University, Halifax Archived: 2004 December 12
Archived: 2005 March 25
Archived: 2005 August 28
Archived: 2005 October 29
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Emerging from the Dark Ages

…Crown Attorneys (in Nova Scotia) have emerged from the dark ages before 1999 when, upon exiting from the court room, the tight-lipped “no comment” was a common response to a reporter’s question.  Today, Crown Attorneys are more apt to look for reporters and ask if they need clarification on what happened in the court room.  It’s not unusual these days to see a Crown Attorney walking comfortably into a media scrum and confidently answering questions about the case at hand.

Prior to 1999, that sight would have been a rare one.  The policy covering media interaction then wasn’t clear.  And many Crown Attorneys, sensitive to an internal climate that encouraged silence, chose not to risk getting themselves into hot water by saying something to the media that could raise the ire of their bosses.

So, what happened to change things?

During the 1990s a series of headline-grabbing events resulting in major prosecutions focused unprecedented public scrutiny on Nova Scotia Crown Attorneys and the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service.

National media and, in some cases, international media landed on the steps of our court houses.  And they wanted answers.  So did the public.  In fact, the public – primed by the glut of popular cops and lawyers shows on American television – had every expectation of hearing the prosecution’s side.

While the defence was quick to walk into a scrum and offer up their side, the Crown was hesitant.  They didn’t want to compromise their case and weren’t always sure about how to talk with the media without risking that.  And, they were mindful of being closely watched by a management that, at the time, seemed to express a general disdain for the media.

The public was dissatisfied with the prosecution’s performance before the television cameras and voiced that dissatisfaction loudly to the politicians.  (The difference between court room performance and performance before television cameras was lost to the public.)  That public outcry was partially responsible for the government’s initiation of an independent review of the Public Prosecution Service as well as an independent review of the Westray prosecution.

Retired Judge Fred Kaufman made a series of recommendations to help the Public Prosecution Service improve its operations.  Several recommendations focused specifically on communications.  Judge Kaufman said the PPS should “educate the citizens of Nova Scotia about the role played by the Public Prosecution Service in the administration of criminal justice.”

He said the PPS should be telling Nova Scotians just what it does on their behalf and work to keep them in the loop during prosecutions.

Coincidentally, just as Judge Kaufman was getting his review underway, the PPS experienced a change in leadership.  The new Director of Public Prosecutions was receptive to changing the way Crown Attorneys interact with media.

So, when Judge Kaufman issued his findings the PPS revised its media policy accordingly.  The current policy is clear.  It says in part:

“Crown Attorneys should view media inquiries as opportunities to speak to Nova Scotians.  Response to inquiries are to be made in such a manner that they educate the public about the role of the Public Prosecution Service and the Crown Attorneys in the justice system, as well as informing the public about the Crown’s position in the case in question.

“When responding to media inquiries, Crown Attorneys are to use common sense and refrain from any comments that could jeopardize the accused’s right to a fair trial, reveal undisclosed elements of the Crown’s case or strategy, violate any bans imposed by the court, or be interpreted as arguing the Crown’s case in the media.”

At around the same time, the Public Prosecution Service revised its media policy, it hired a Director of Communications to provide advice and guidance on communications with all its key audiences, including media.  Media training was one of the first priorities of the new director of communications…

Source: “Media Training 101” by Chris Hansen, Director of Communication, Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service
pages 16-17, The Society Record, v24 n4 August 2006
Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society

The Kaufman Report on Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service
Kaufman’s Final Report Released, Public Prosecution Review
Government media release, 9 June 1999

The Kaufman Report on Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service
Highlights of the Kaufman Report
Government media release, 9 June 1999

Progress Report on
Westray Inquiry Recommendations
Nova Scotia Department of Labour, 04 December 1998

The Nova Scotia government has followed through on its commitment last December to act on all 74 recommendations in the Westray Public Inquiry Commission report.  An updated report on the government’s response shows that there has been some progress on every one of the recommendations… Implementation of the recommendations is ongoing.

The Kaufman Report on Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service
Kaufman Recommendations To Be Implemented
Government media release, 4 November 1999

Kaufman Interim Report on Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service
…officials in the Department of the Attorney General are more concerned about the career of a politician than the reputation of an Indian; they are quick to write superficial and unprofessional opinions that support not investigating or charging a politician yet search for reasons to limit the compensation paid to an Indian for years of wrongful imprisonment; and they require substantially more likelihood of conviction before charging a politician than an Indian…

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Review of the Public Prosecution Service
Interim Report
by The Honourable Fred Kaufman, CM, QC
1997 Archived: 1999 April 29
Archived: 2000 October 16
Archived: 2001 July 27
Archived: 2004 May 31
Archived: 2006 August 30
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Comments by the Minister of Justice

…Judge Kaufman conducted an exhaustive review of the service and submitted his report on the general operation of the service last June.  He made 29 recommendations on a number of issues…

…the review was ordered after the PPS decided not to go ahead with the prosecution of the operators of the Westray Mine.  The mine exploded in May 1992, killing 26 miners.  The prosecution encountered a number of problems from the time it was initiated, and the PPS has been heavily criticized for the handling of the matter.  Resourcing issues, allegations of non-disclosure and undue delays were among the criticism.  I think it is important to review the matter because it clearly explains the Crown’s role in the criminal justice system generally, and, in particular, in the Westray prosecution.  Among the key specific findings in the review are, PPS’s efforts were initially affected by lack of adequate resources; there was no undue delay in coming to the decision to stop the prosecution; there was no evidence to support the criticism the Crown was playing to win or playing to an enraged public, the decision to stop the prosecution was based upon a consideration of appropriate factors.  Recommendations include a call for the formulation of a clear statement of principle and guidelines regarding the sufficiency of evidence; a rotation for interested Crown Attorneys through the special prosecution unit for training in major and complex cases; the development of protocols to address prompt assembly of counsel to provide timely pre-charge advice to police.  The review carefully looks at every decision, every move in the process.  I believe the PPS will benefit from the analysis and the recommendations found in the review.  Overall, I believe the review accurately explains the Crown’s role in the criminal justice system and in the Westray case specifically.  This review should assure Nova Scotians that the PPS has acted responsibly in making decisions based on facts and the appropriate law…

He recommended a significant public information campaign to educate the citizens of Nova Scotia about the role played by the Public Prosecution Service in the administration of criminal justice.  That recommendation is in process.

A long-term strategic communication plan is in the development phase, media relations programming has been made the first priority with respect to the following: the media policy has been revised to encourage Crown Attorneys to participate in media interviews; a system of logging media enquiries to ensure prompt and accurate response; all public announcements are coordinated through Communications Nova Scotia; a basic website has been established and remains under construction; a staff member has been trained as web master; internal communications have been improved by more consistent communication with staff on issues that affect them…

Source: Subcommittee on Supply 1 May 2000

All prosecution and administrative policies of the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service are now available on the service’s website…
Public Prosecution Policies Now Online
Government media release, 16 June 2004
“The policy manual can be viewed at https://www.gov.ns.ca/pps/.”

Policy on Media Inquiries and Public Statements
Public Prosecution Service Communications Strategy
…Because public confidence in the administration of criminal justice is enhanced by the availability of appropriate and timely information concerning cases before the courts, Crown Attorneys are strongly encouraged to respond to media inquiries about the cases in which they are involved.  For the purposes of this policy, “media” includes reporters and representatives from the print and electronic media sources, authors, and anyone else who may publish or broadcast the information or comments that are provided to them…

Corporate Liability: The Westray Mining Disaster

…The Westray mine was subject to a complete set of rules and regulations to promote the safety of the mine set by the Province of Nova Scotia and enforced by provincial officials.  However, as the Report states: The key to any successful regulatory regime is compliance, and the key to compliance is enforcement.  As has been so graphically illustrated in the Westray experience, regulations, no matter how effective on paper, are worthless when they are ignored or trivialized by management and when their enforcement is in the hands of an apathetic and insensitive inspectorate…
Corporate Liability: The Westray Mining Disaster Federal Government Response to the Fifteenth Report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights

Balancing Free Press and Fair Trial in Criminal Trials

The Canadian Criminal Jury: Searching for a Middle Ground

…The attempt to balance competing values of fair trial and free press has met some difficult challenges in the face of Royal commissions of inquiry and mass media saturation, and several of these cases merit further comment.  Canadian political culture often encourages the use of formal public inquiries in important matters that affect the public interest.  In 1995, the government of Nova Scotia ordered an inquiry into a fatal underground explosion in the Westray Coal Mine and granted its commissioner the power to compel testimony of witnesses, including persons who might face criminal charges.  The affected witnesses applied for a temporary stay of the public hearings on the ground that the publicity would jeopardize their right to a fair trial.  Although the appeal was argued on the ground that the accused would elect a trial by jury, they subsequently elected trial by judge alone, thereby rendering the issue moot.  Nevertheless, in Phillips v. Nova Scotia, the Supreme Court addressed the problem of pretrial publicity generated by public inquiries.  The court conceded that publicizing evidence might “irreparably” prejudice jurors, but it emphasized the importance of public interest in the inquiry and placed the burden of proof on the accused to demonstrate the link between publicity and harm…
—  Source: https://www.law.duke.edu/journals/lcp/articles/lcp62dSpring1999p141.htm

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The Dawn of Corporate Criminal Responsibility by Glenn McGillivray
Canadian Underwriter, March 2004

Ottawa introduced legislation on June 12, 2003 holding corporations criminally responsible if they fail to provide a safe work environment.  The bill requires employers to take “reasonable measures” to protect workers from “physical injury or harm,” said then-federal Justice Minister Martin Cauchon.  The legislation also provides tougher penalties for company officials who direct their employees to commit crimes to benefit the corporation, and for those who become aware of criminal activity in the workplace but do not take action to stop it.  It gives employees the “right to be informed about hazards in the workplace, the right to participate in correcting those hazards, and the right to refuse dangerous work.”  Corporations could face fines of up to $1 million if they are found responsible.  Bill C-45, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (criminal liability of organizations) received Royal Assent on November 7, 2003… When first introduced, Cauchon said the law was a “direct response to the Westray mine disaster”, an incident for which no one was ever held criminally responsible, even though a subsequent inquiry laid blame on Westray’s owner, management, and two Nova Scotia provincial government departments… In 1993 victims’ families, saddened by their losses and embittered by the lack of accountability for the disaster, commenced an action under the Fatal Injuries Act, R.S.N.S. 1989, c.163.  The Defendants were Curragh Inc., Clifford Frame, Gerald Phillips, Roger Parry, John B. Mitchell, James J. Hunt, Walter M. Bowen, Ralph G.M. Sultan, Joy Technologies Canada Inc., J.H. Fletcher and Company, the Attorney General of Canada and the Attorney General of Nova Scotia… After close to ten years of legal wrangling, no individual or entity was ever held responsible for the disaster, though two province of Nova Scotia mine inspectors lost their jobs.  From a monetary compensation standpoint, the province of Nova Scotia rejected several offers to settle the lawsuit out of court.  The only money paid out by the province was $15,000 lump-sum payments to widows of Westray miners, monthly payments for dependent children, and lifetime payments of up to $27,000 per year to replace lost wages, paid by the province’s workers’ compensation program… (boldface emphasis added)

Bill C-45: An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Criminal Liability of Organizations)
Prepared by: David Goetz, Law and Government Division, 3 July 2003
The corporate form of business organization is intended to protect shareholders from personal liability for the civil debts of the corporation.  Executives, directors and other officers and employees of the corporation enjoy no special immunity from either criminal or quasi-criminal liability.  Such persons are legally accountable for any misconduct of their own and for any misconduct by others to which they are a party, whether done on behalf of the corporation or otherwise.  Corporations themselves can also be criminally liable in their own right…
(Note: You can access this online article by using your browser’s Copy and Paste feature to paste this URL into your browser’s URL window, then press the return or enter key.)

Bill C-45: Criminal Code Amendments
Affecting the Liability of Corporations

…The Government of Canada has promulgated changes to the Criminal Code affecting the liability of corporations.  Bill C-45 is intended to address a perceived need for modernization of Canadian criminal law in order to deal with serious employee and public safety concerns, such as those that arose from the facts in Westray… Bill C-45 will be measured on its effectiveness in hindsight.  The test for prosecution is still very high, gross negligence or the wanton and reckless disregard for the lives and safety of others and the defense of due diligence is still applicable.  Bill C-45 has imposed a clear legal duty on every person who employs or directs another person to perform work to take reasonable care to avoid forseeable harm to the person or the public.  Fines for less serious offences are proposed to be up to $100,000, with no limit on fines for serious offences.  Probation orders can also be imposed…
Source: Bill C-45: Criminal Code Amendments Affecting the Liability of Corporations
Manitoba Heavy News Weekly, 10 June 2004

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Corporate Criminal Liability Proclaimed
Westray Bill C-45 Now Law

…The Westray amendments to the Criminal Code (Bill C-45) took effect on March 31, 2004.  The amendments expand the scope of criminal liability for negligence by companies, “organizations” and individuals, where workers or members of the public are injured or killed.  A new legal duty is imposed on every individual who supervises or directs workers, to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to workers or the public.  Everyone, from corporate directors to lead hands and foremen, can be personally charged with criminal negligence for an accident, explosion or spill that harms the health of any human… Many responsible companies will not need to change anything.  However, those who are sloppy or reckless are at risk…
Westray Bill C-45 Now Law Willms & Shier LLP

Westray now part of Canadian cultural history

Besides prompting a judicial inquiry and the Criminal Code amendments now before the House of Commons, the Westray mine disaster has spawned non-fiction books, in-depth magazine articles, academic studies, poems, songs, websites, a play and a National Film Board documentary…

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Life After Westray:
A Study of the Longterm Impact of the Explosion

Papers and Publications
What is this study about?

National Film Board Documentary: Westray

Westray National Film Board of Canada, 2001
…This is not an easy production to watch as the film follows the lives of three widows and three miners whose lives were nearly destroyed by the explosion. Those who lost loved ones and those who tried to warn the mine owners and government officials of the mine’s danger are featured through interviews and re-enactments of the key events… Westray was the recipient of a 2002 Genie in the category of Best Documentary…

Books About the Westray Coal Mine

The Westray Chronicles: A Case Study of an Occupational Disaster
edited by Chris McCormick, 250 pages, June 1998
ISBN 1895686326, Fernwood Publishing Co. Ltd., Halifax, Nova Scotia
Table of Contents


From fields as diverse as public relations, criminology, and journalism, select experts tackle the difficult issue of the underlying causes of the explosion at the Westray Mine in Nova Scotia and how it was subsequently handled by the government, the corporation, and the media.  The analysis is firmly based in criminology but the forays into media analysis, politics, law, and engineering will expand the reader’s awareness of how such a tragedy could happen.  Graphs, charts, news articles, transcripted interviews.
The Westray Chronicles: A Case Study of an Occupational Disaster
edited by Chris McCormick, 250 pages, June 1998
ISBN 1895686326, Fernwood Publishing Co. Ltd., Halifax, Nova Scotia

…Corporate crime is rooted in the nature of capitalism, and the costs of corporate crime are extensive, ranging from injuries received on the job, to workplace exposure to environmental pollutants.  Not only is a person exposed to risk at work, but the likelihood is far greater than being a victim of crime in the streets.  The overall costs of corporate crime are high, in both monetary terms, and in their cost to human safety and dignity.  Corporate crime is quite varied, and can involve damage to property and to injury or loss of human life.  Violations of safety standards in the workplace, pollution of the environment by companies unable or unwilling to properly treat waste, and industrial accidents due to negligence can all be classified as corporate violence…

The Westray Tragedy: A Miner’s Story
by Shaun Comish, 82 pages
ISBN 1895686261, Fernwood Publishing Co. Ltd., Halifax, Nova Scotia

“Shaun pulls no punches and gives no quarter to those responsible for what took place on May 9th, 1992. This is a book that Canadians will want to read. The company, as Shaun states in his book, tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. They were not fooled. Shaun’s book gives the screaming truth of the incompetency and lack of regard for human life by company officials and politicians.”
— Mike Piche, United Steelworkers

The Westray Chronicles: A Case Study in Corporate Crime
ISBN 1895686326, Fernwood Publishing Co. Ltd., Halifax, Nova Scotia

At 5:20 in the morning on May 9, 1992, a miner working in the Southwest section of the Westray mine was using a continuous miner to cut coal. As he cut into the coalface, the picks on the cutting head struck some pyrite embedded there, causing a shower of sparks. He had seen the sparks before, but this time they ignited some methane gas seeping from the coal seam. He jumped down off the miner, terrified at what he saw as he tried to put on his survival equipment. In moments he was dead…

Calculated Risk: Greed, Politics and the Westray Tragedy
by Dean Jobb, 1994, Nimbus, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Frame and Pelley refuse to testify

The issue of full faith and credit was argued in Ontario before Justice Sheard of the General Division in relation to the Westray Inquiry.  Two former executives of Curragh Resources were subpoenaed by the Commission of Inquiry.  It sought to have Clifford Frame and Marvin Pelley, residents of Ontario, called as witnesses in the Nova Scotia Inquiry.

Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: In November of 1995, the commission of inquiry began its hearings into the Westray Mine tragedy of May 9, 1992.  It involved an underground explosion killing 26 miners, 11 of whom are still entombed in the mine.  The commissioner of the inquiry, Mr. Justice Peter Richard, requested the appearance of two key witnesses in the matter, Mr. Clifford Frame, former president and chief executive officer of the now defunct mine owner, Curragh Resources Incorporated in Toronto; and Mr. Marvin Pelley, Executive Vice-President, corporate development and coal, and President of Westray Coal in Toronto.  Both refused to testify.

The commission of inquiry was appointed under the Nova Scotia Public Inquiries Act and the Coal Mines Regulation Act.  These statutes authorize the commissioner to summon witnesses in the Province of Nova Scotia, to require them to give evidence on oath, and to produce any documentation necessary for the investigation.  However, Mr. Frame and Mr. Pelley were both Ontario residents, not Nova Scotia residents.

Consequently, in April 1996, the Province of Nova Scotia passed legislation to permit the enforcement of subpoenas interprovincially.  This occurred while the inquiry was still ongoing.  The Province of Ontario already had this type of statute in place, namely, the Interprovincial Summonses Act.

The Nova Scotia act is described as an act respecting the interprovincial enforcement of subpoenas.  Under this statute, a person may apply to a court of a province in order to obtain a certificate signifying that a judge of that province is satisfied about three matters: first, that the attendance of a particular person who is resident in another province is necessary for the adjudication of the proceeding in which the subpoena is issued; second, that the attendance of the person is reasonable and essential; and third, that the subpoena is accompanied by witness fees and travelling expenses.

The certificate must then be sent to a court in the province in which the person whose attendance is sought is resident in order to obtain judicial authorization to have the subpoena enforced in that province.

In the case of Westray, a number of technicalities were put forward by Mr. Frame and Mr. Pelley that frustrated the inquiry’s mandate.  One of the arguments they raised was that the interprovincial subpoenas legislation in Ontario did not apply to commissions of inquiry but was limited to courts of law.  Mr. Frame and Mr. Pelley appealed the enforcement of the subpoena against them on this ground as well as on a number of other grounds.

Because of these delay tactics, the inquiry was unable to hear from them.  The commissioner of the inquiry had a deadline to meet, and had to decide whether to report without the testimony of these two key witnesses, or not to report at all and wait until all possible appeals were exhausted.  Mr. Justice Richard decided to meet his deadline and report without the testimony of Mr. Frame and Mr. Pelley.

Although this decision is certainly justifiable, and I do not take issue with the way in which the inquiry was handled, the end result is that two witnesses succeeded in avoiding the giving of evidence.  This occurred despite the fact that they were clearly an important part of the tragedy, and the people of Nova Scotia, in particular the families of the victims of the tragedy, had a right to hear from them, and to have the events of the tragedy completely aired and the truth told.  In my view, this is a grave injustice.  The Senate should support any action that would prevent such a situation from occurring in the future.

One of the technical problems of which Mr. Frame and Mr. Pelley took advantage in order to delay the progress of the inquiry was the ambiguity in the Ontario Interprovincial Subpoenas Act with respect to its application to commissions of inquiry.  The definition of the term “court” in the Ontario Interprovincial Summonses Act does not explicitly include commissions of inquiry; it refers only to any court in a province.  This is the case with many of the other provincial and territorial acts dealing with the interprovincial enforcement of subpoenas.  Therefore, while all of the provinces and territories have such statutes, many of these laws, like the Ontario statute, define the word “court” ambiguously, and leave doubt as to whether the term includes commissions of inquiry.  The provincial and territorial acts which require amendment would include Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, British Columbia and the Yukon.

In summary, the Senate should encourage these provinces and territories to amend their respective acts to broaden the definition of “court” to include other quasi-judicial bodies so that the problem that occurred in the Westray inquiry is less likely to occur again in the future.

In Nova Scotia, for example, the definition of “court” includes any court in the Province of Nova Scotia or another province of Canada, and includes a board, commission, tribunal or other body of that province or another province of Canada.

The matter is also something that should be discussed at the next Uniform Law Conference, if possible.  It is a subject that is of great importance, especially in light of the whole purpose of establishing commissions of inquiry.  They are created to shed light on events that have occurred, where problems and difficulties have arisen, and where there is some concern that things could have been done better.  Such commissions are an opportunity to learn from our mistakes by gathering the facts that will help us discover the truth respecting events and occurrences.  Such truth can be drawn from written and oral evidence and from key witnesses who have personal knowledge about the matter.

When a tragedy occurs that kills dozens of people, the Canadian public has a right to know what really happened.  This right should not be frustrated because of technical legal arguments that are put forward to deliberately avoid the matter being properly aired and the truth being told.

Source: Applicability of Subpoenas Issued in Relation to Commissions of Inquiry
Hansard: Debates of the Senate, 2 April 1998

Orders In Council 96-289, 96-290, and 96-291 re: Interprovincial Subpoena Act

Interprovincial Subpoena Act proclaimed in Nova Scotia 23 April 1996

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Uniform Interprovincial Subpoena Act


The Uniform Law Conference of Canada adopted its Uniform Interprovincial Subpoena Act in 1974. Since then, eleven jurisdictions have enacted interprovincial subpoena legislation, some with modifications to the Uniform Act.  Those jurisdictions are:

•  1975   Manitoba
•  1976   British Columbia
•  1976   Northwest Territories
•  1977   Saskatchewan
•  1979   New Brunswick
•  1979   Newfoundland
•  1979   Ontario
•  1981   Alberta
•  1981   Yukon Territory
•  1987   Prince Edward Island
•  1996   Nova Scotia

Government Incompetence Comment:  Please  note  the  very  long  time  that  the  various  governments
of Nova Scotia  dragged  their feet on this.  The inability of the Westray Inquiry
to get direct testimony from Frame, Philips and Pelley, was due entirely to the
incompetence of the government of Nova Scotia, over a period of more than
two decades, in getting its act together.  The Premiers of Nova Scotia,
from 1975 to 1996, were Gerald Regan, John Buchanan,
Roger Bacon, Donald Cameron and John Savage.

Uniform Interprovincial Subpoena Act

Uniform Law Conference of Canada
Uniform Interprovincial Subpoena Act

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Tragedy triggers memories in Springhill
Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 11 May 1992 Archived: 2000 April 22
Archived: 2001 July 13
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Rich coalfields exact heavy toll
Explosions, floods, asphxyiation have claimed hundreds
in Pictou county coal mines

Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 11 May 1992 Archived: 2000 May 06
Archived: 2001 July 13
Archived: 2003 March 22
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Archived: 2005 September 09
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Westray Facts
Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 11 May 1992 Archived: 2000 April 22
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Mining tragedy
11 bodies pulled from Westray pit; rescuers hunt for 15 men
Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 11 May 1992 Archived: 2000 April 22
Archived: 2001 January 05
Archived: 2002 January 22
Archived: 2003 January 20
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Archived: 2005 August 30
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Families’ dread turns to anguish
Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 11 May 1992 Archived: 2000 April 22
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Westray Chronology
Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 11 May 1992 Archived: 2000 May 06
Archived: 2003 January 20
Archived: 2003 December 27
Archived: 2004 August 16
Archived: 2005 April 07
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Doomsayers proved right
Critics predicted disaster for mine
Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 11 May 1992 Archived: 2000 May 07
Archived: 2001 July 13
Archived: 2002 January 28
Archived: 2003 March 22
Archived: 2004 June 04
Archived: 2005 September 10
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Halifax Chronicle-Herald’s archive of Westray articles

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Halifax Chronicle-Herald’s Westray archive
Westray Mine Disaster Archived: 1999 November 05   3 stories
Archived: 2000 October 28   3 stories
Archived: 2001 June 24   2 stories
Archived: 2002 December 24   33 stories
Archived: 2003 October 09   33 stories
Archived: 2004 August 13   33 stories
Archived: 2005 September 07   33 stories
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Halifax Chronicle-Herald’s archive number 1 (1992) of Westray articles

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The Explosion Archived: 2000 March 08
Archived: 2000 June 07
Archived: 2000 October 16
Archived: 2001 July 09
Archived: 2002 January 09
Archived: 2003 August 03
Archived: 2004 December 05
Archived: 2005 August 30
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Halifax Chronicle-Herald’s archive number 3 (1998) of Westray articles

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Halifax Chronicle-Herald’s Westray archive number 3 (1998)
The Aftermath Archived: 2001 July 09
Archived: 2002 January 09
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Archived: 2004 April 06
Archived: 2004 November 12
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Halifax Chronicle-Herald
1998 – 2002
Down, finally: Westay silos demolished
28 November 1998 Archived: 2003 January 07
Archived: 2003 April 30
Archived: 2004 February 29
Archived: 2004 August 16
Archived: 2005 January 23
Westray trial would have cost $10 million, report says
Province had already spent $3m on case
9 January 1999 Archived: 2003 January 07
Archived: 2003 October 21
Archived: 2004 February 29
Archived: 2004 November 25
Westray bosses off hook
Families drop negligence suit against Curragh, manufacturers
5 November 1999 Archived: 2003 January 07
Archived: 2003 December 07
Archived: 2004 April 28
Archived: 2004 August 16
Archived: 2005 January 24
Crown lacked staff, expertise in Westray case
Disorganized notes, ineffective leadership and
a lack of technical expertise plagued the
Westray prosecution from the start…

27 April 2000 Archived: 2003 January 07
Archived: 2003 September 08
Archived: 2004 February 29
Archived: 2004 August 16
Archived: 2005 January 24
Ottawa nixes hope of Westray bill action
9 June 2000 Archived: 2003 January 07
Archived: 2004 February 29
Archived: 2004 August 16
Archived: 2005 January 24
Archived: 2005 October 15
N.S. risks ‘another Westray’
Safety inspection system lagging, auditor general’s report warns
21 February 2002 Archived: 2003 January 07
Archived: 2003 July 28
Archived: 2004 February 29
Archived: 2004 August 16
Archived: 2005 January 24
Dead miner’s brother buys
remainder of Westray mine assets

20 April 2002 Archived: 2003 January 07
Archived: 2003 October 21
Archived: 2004 February 29
Archived: 2004 June 22
Archived: 2004 November 30
Westray mine explosion changed his life forever
Ex-miner in Ottawa to help launch
tougher Criminal Code campaign

2 May 2002 Archived: 2003 January 07
Archived: 2003 October 21
Archived: 2004 February 29
Archived: 2004 August 16
Archived: 2005 January 24
Charging firms would safeguard workers,
federal committee hears

3 May 2002 Archived: 2002 December 19
Archived: 2003 June 22
Archived: 2004 February 27
Archived: 2004 June 04
Archived: 2005 January 24
May 9, 1992 – The day 26 miners died
Today we launch a four-part series
on the Westray mine tragedy…

4 May 2002 Archived: 2003 January 07
Archived: 2003 October 21
Archived: 2004 April 28
Archived: 2004 November 25
Archived: 2005 January 24
These links were accessed and found to be valid on
3 January 2011, 7 May 2012.

Letter to Editor E. Z. Friedenberg, 30 July 1996

Explosion Traps 23 in a Nova Scotia MineNew York Times, 10 May 1992

Rescue Crews Find 11 Bodies in Nova Scotia MineNew York Times, 11 May 1992

Canada Town Grieves Again For Its MinersNew York Times, 14 May 1992

Search Suspended at Canadian MineNew York Times, 15 May 1992

Shocking Testimony — CBC Newsworld, 29 May 1996
(Stellarton, Nova Scotia) A former Nova Scotia Premier gives shocking testimony at the inquiry into the Westray mining disaster.  Donald Cameron was premier when the mine exploded in 1992, killing 26 miners.  He blamed federal bureaucrats and the miners themselves for the disaster.  His testimony infuriated the victims’ families, many of whom walked out of the hearings.
This item was found at https://newsworld.cbc.ca/newslink/may29.html but is no longer available there.

The Horror of Westray, by Martin O’Malley, CBC, 9 May 2002
…The tragedy of Westray goes far beyond a simple, ghastly accident.  It involved corporate greed, bureaucratic bungling and government incompetence of the highest order…

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of this document:
The Horror of Westray
Tenth Anniversary Review
by Martin O’Malley, CBC News Online, 9 May 2002 Archived: 2002 May 11
Archived: 2002 October 02
Archived: 2003 April 15
Archived: 2003 December 11
Archived: 2004 June 29
Archived: 2004 October 15
Archived: 2005 February 12
These links were accessed and found to be valid on 7 January 2008.
The Wayback Machine has archived copies of these Westray Flashbacks
by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)
The Westray Coal Mine Disaster
CBC Newsworld: Westray Flashback Archived: 2000 June 18
Archived: 2000 October 12
Archived: 2001 March 04
Archived: 2001 December 31
Archived: 2002 August 19
Archived: 2003 January 16
Archived: 2003 June 10
Archived: 2004 February 04
Archived: 2004 August 14
Explosion and rescue effort
CBC Newsworld: Westray Flashback Archived: 2000 June 18
Archived: 2000 October 12
Archived: 2001 March 05
Archived: 2001 November 13
Archived: 2002 March 23
Archived: 2003 March 21
Archived: 2003 October 14
Archived: 2004 February 17
Archived: 2004 August 15
The Inquiry
CBC Newsworld: Westray Flashback Archived: 2001 January 09
Archived: 2001 December 31
Archived: 2002 March 23
Archived: 2002 November 09
Archived: 2003 May 02
Archived: 2004 February 17
Archived: 2004 August 14
The final word
CBC Newsworld: Westray Flashback Archived: 2001 January 09
Archived: 2001 November 13
Archived: 2002 March 23
Archived: 2002 August 27
Archived: 2003 March 21
Archived: 2003 October 14
Archived: 2004 February 17
Archived: 2004 August 14
Bio & Factsheet
CBC Newsworld: Westray Flashback Archived: 2001 January 09
Archived: 2001 October 04
Archived: 2002 July 02
Archived: 2002 November 09
Archived: 2003 March 21
Archived: 2003 September 09
Archived: 2004 February 17
Archived: 2004 June 15
These links were accessed and found to be valid on 7 January 2008.

Assessing the Health of Canada’s Freedom of Information Laws April 1998

…There have been other instances in which public officials are alleged to have engaged in malicious non-compliance.  The federal Information Commissioner’s 1996 report describes an instance in which a senior official within the Department of Transport ordered the destruction of records that might otherwise have been released through an FOI request (Canada, Information Commissioner, 1996, 9 and 45-46).  Nova Scotia’s FOI (Freedom of Information) review officer recently protested about the alteration of a record that summarized a Cabinet decision on the development of Jim Campbells Barren (“Penalty needed,” 1997).  The inquiry into the Westray mine disaster discovered an instance in which a government official had removed references to “potentially embarrassing matters” from records that were accessible under the province’s FOI law (Richard, 1997, 491).  A case of document-tampering has also prompted reform of the Yukon Territory’s FOI law.

The new provision in the Yukon’s FOI law makes it an offence for officials to destroy or make records with the intention of misleading any person about official actions (Yukon Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, section 67(1)(a.1)).  The Yukon is now one of four jurisdictions — the others are Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec — that have established penalties for document-tampering.  The committee which reviewed Nova Scotia’s law also proposed a legislative amendment that would make it an offence to destroy or falsify records with the intention of evading an FOI request (Nova Scotia, Advisory Committee, 1997, 27).  Similarly, a private member’s bill in the current federal Parliament would make it an offense to tamper with documents with the intention of denying the right of access under the federal FOI law (Bill C-208, 36th Parl., 1st session)…

 —  Assessing the Health of Canada’s Freedom of Information Laws, April 1998, by Alasdair Roberts, School of Policy Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario

Alasdair Roberts’ Freedom of Information website

An Open Scotland: Freedom of Information, A Consultation ISBN 0108880044
Laid before the Scottish Parliament by the Scottish Ministers: November 1999

Summary of Responses to
An Open Scotland: Freedom of Information, A Consultation
The Scottish Executive, Freedom of Information Unit, May 2000

Westray Plans a New Mine
in Stellarton

Westray Coal Mining Plan
500,000 Tonne Pit
Submitted to
the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources
November 1992
(six months after the mine explosion
that killed 26 miners

Westray Coal’s proposal to “develop a surface coal mine in the McGregor Avenue – Foster Avenue area of Stellarton, Pictou County, Nova Scotia” dated November 1992.
—  Westray Coal Company Mining Plan November 1992

This document includes (pages 19-21) a copy of a letter dated December 13, 1991, addressed to Curragh Resources Inc., Westray Coal Division, New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, attention: Mr. G.J. Phillips, “Re: Authorization to Enter Crown Land at Stellarton, Pictou County, to Remove a Bulk Coal Sample”, signed by John Mullally, Department of Natural Resources, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

After Westray

Frame Breaks Silence by Dean Jobb
Halifax Chronicle-Herald, page A12, Saturday, October 11, 1997

Coal dust, a recognized mining hazard for decades, played no role in the deadly explosion more than five years ago at the Westray mine, Clifford Frame claims.  That’s among the assertions the Westray inquiry will hear if it manages to force the defiant Toronto mine promoter to testify.  In exclusive, wide-ranging interviews with this newspaper, the man who built and operated the Pictou County mine offered his views on key events and issues surrounding the 1992 explosion that killed 26 workers.  Among them is his fervent belief — despite the findings of mining experts and the sworn testimony of dozens of his former employees — that coal dust was not a problem at the mine or a factor in the explosion.  “That crap about them trying to call it a dust explosion,” Frame, former chairman of Westray’s parent company, Curragh Inc., said in disgust, “they are never going to prove that.” The allegation that dust fuelled the explosion goes to the heart of charges of manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death filed against now-bankrupt Curragh and former Westray officials Gerald Phillips and Roger Parry.  Coal dust is combustible and can fuel a powerful explosion if it becomes suspended in the mine air in the presence of open flame.  The most common source of flame is methane — a flammable gas that seeps from coal.  In a scenario that has been played out in many mine disasters, a methane fire or explosion stirs up coal dust, which fuels a powerful explosion capable of wrecking an entire mine… He did not follow the inquiry’s proceedings closely and displayed little detailed knowledge of evidence presented during 77 days of hearings in 1995 and 1996.  For instance, he claimed some victims suffocated when fire sucked oxygen out of the air — they were actually overcome by carbon monoxide produced by the methane fire — and suggests this proves the explosion did not cause their deaths.  “The 11 that were killed up in the area where the detector was tampered with, they suffocated.  But what do they care — I’m sorry to put it this way — but the coal dust or the gas explosion or whatever wouldn’t have anything to do with their deaths.” All of this leaves Frame with a clear conscience.  “Christ, I’m sitting up here in Toronto… How in the name of God would I know that anybody was adjusting a methane detector?  How the hell would I know that?  And if I didn’t know that, how could I have any feeling of guilt, other than the fact that I shouldn’t have developed the Goddamned mine in the first place.”  Frame was asked about other allegations — what he calls “all those extraneous things” — such as men threatened with suspension or firing if they complained about unsafe practices.  “That’s where Gerald and Roger will have to stick up for themselves,” he responded.  And he distanced himself from Phillips and Parry, who stood trial in 1995 and face a retrial…

Clifford Frame Hits the Coals: Westray Boss Heads Back to Coal Mining
by Charlie Angus, HighGrader Magazine, September/October 1997

Clifford Frame is a busy man.  Just last month his bid to escape testifying at the Westray inquiry was squashed by an Ontario court.  Mr. Frame brought the case to Ontario after being ordered to testify by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.  Not surprisingly, he has made it clear he will now take the matter to the Ontario Supreme Court.  For families of the Westray victims, the process has been frustrating.  It has been five years since the disaster and officials are still waiting to speak with the man who held the final authority at the Westray Coal Mine.

With the Westray Inquiry stalled out, Clifford Frame has set his sights on getting back into the coal mining business.  As the president of an aggressive little company, he is trying to wrest control of a coal project in West Virginia from its Australian owners.  Frame is mounting a hostile takeover bid of Australian listed Greenfields Coal Company.  Greenfields’ executives say they only recently became aware about Frame’s involvement at Westray.  Now the accusations are flying and the situation has gotten nasty enough to attract the attention of the Australian Securities Commission and regulators of the Toronto Stock Exchange.

When Curragh Resources’ mining boss Clifford Frame started talking about opening a mine in the economically depressed area of Stellarton, Nova Scotia, in the late 1980s, politicians flocked to him like seagulls at the beach.  The Foord coal Seam had been mined intermittently since the 1830s.  With its high levels of methane and poor ground conditions, the Foord Seam had already claimed 244 lives.

Curragh talked brightly of using new technology to make the operation safe and viable.  Politicians predicted the mine would bring steady development to the region for decades.  The only stumbling block was that in order to make the plan viable lots of government grants and concessions would have to be forthcoming.  Premier Donald Cameron tied his own political aspirations to the success of the mine and the regulatory green light was given at every step of the way.  The Feds and the Provincial government sank almost $100 million in getting Westray off the ground.

Publicly, the Westray operation was a model of safety and mining ingenuity, an example of what government and industry could do when they worked together.  Inside the mine, however, life was far from rosy…

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of this document:
Clifford Frame Hits the Coals: Westray Boss Heads Back to Coal Mining
by Charlie Angus, HighGrader Magazine, September/October 1997 Archived: 1999 September 01
Archived: 2000 August 17
Archived: 2001 June 11
Archived: 2002 November 14
Archived: 2004 August 30
Archived: 2005 April 04
These links were accessed and found to be valid on 1 January 2008.

Westray Boss Back in Business — Ottawa Citizen, Monday 8 September 1997:
Sixty-four months after an underground explosion killed 26 Nova Scotia miners and left his defunct company facing manslaughter and criminal negligence charges, Clifford Frame is trying to get back in the coal business.  The former Westray Mine developer is making a play for a West Virginia coal property.  Since January, Mr. Frame has been chief executive officer of TSE-listed Mineral Resources Corporation.  In July, MRC launched a takeover of Australian-owned Greenfields Coal Company, owner of the U.S. project.  But this time there won’t be $100 million in government subsidies paving the way, as there was at Westray.  Clifford Frame has a fight on his hands.  Both the directors of Greenfields Coal and a major U.S. union have vowed to prevent Mr. Frame from taking over…
Greenfields Coal Company website

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of this Ottawa Citizen item:
Westray Boss Back in Business
Mine Developer Denies Charges of Insider Trading
by Paul McKay
The Ottawa Citizen, Monday, September 8, 1997 Archived: 1999 February 24
Archived: 1999 October 3
Archived: 1999 November 16
Archived: 2000 August 17
Archived: 2001 January 24
Archived: 2001 February 10
Archived: 2001 June 11
Archived: 2001 August 3
These links were accessed and found to be valid on 1 January 2008.

To Westray and Beyond — Ottawa Citizen, Monday 8 September 1997:
Just after midnight last July 4, businessman Rhett Drew’s fax machine in Sydney, Australia, switched on.  Mr. Drew waited as three pages, relayed from Toronto, emerged.  The first, under the letterhead of Mineral Resources Corp., had a blunt, hand-scrawled ultimatum.  Mr. Drew had 2½ hours to hand over the company he chaired, Greenfields Coal: “If signed by you as a firm undertaking to execute Friday, July 4, and to release as requested to the press and returned to me by fax by 2:30am July 4th Australian time, then MRC will withhold as so stated.  Sorry to get you up, but on the other hand I was up all night.  Thx.” The next two pages outlined the takeover terms.  A director must be fired… Mr. Drew was stunned.  The message was explicit.  He could agree to a quick, quiet coup, or MRC would begin a hostile takeover bid that morning — an Australian holiday.  Just below the nine carefully crafted demands and Mr. Clifford Frame’s signature, was a blank space for Mr. Drew to sign, then fax back to Toronto.

…(Mr. Drew did some checking, and found several surprises)…

Mr. Drew’s third surprise came when he checked the Greenfields accounts.  He discovered that at least $1.4 million in low-interest loans had gone to companies directed or co-owned by Mr. Byrne, Mr. Frame, Mr. Smyth or their associates.  None had been repaid.  He re-checked Greenfields trading patterns.  MRC’s share in Greenfields had plunged from more than 40 per cent to 18 per cent leading up to the takeover bid.  Mr. Drew’s fourth and biggest surprise came when he saw that the resume of Clifford Frame — the proposed new Greenfields leader — omitted any business activities after 1988.  When Mr. Drew did fill in the missing sections of Mr. Frame’s resume, he found that Mr. Frame’s defunct Canadian companies had left a debt trail exceeding $200 million.  And that a Nova Scotia coal mine he built and ran had left 26 miners dead…

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of this Ottawa Citizen item:
To Westray and Beyond
The Story of Clifford Frame,
Who Wants to Put Westray Behind Him and Get Back in Business
by Paul McKay
The Ottawa Citizen, Monday, September 8, 1997 Archived: 1999 September 22
Archived: 1999 October 02
Archived: 1999 November 06
Archived: 2000 February 08
Archived: 2000 August 17
Archived: 2001 February 10
Archived: 2001 June 11
Archived: 2001 August 03
These links were accessed and found to be valid on 1 January 2008.

Westray Boss Wants to be Left Alone, Halifax Chronicle-Herald Saturday, September 06, 1997: Mine promoter Clifford Frame says a Nova Scotia inquiry should leave him alone and concentrate on the cause of the disaster at his Westray coal mine.  “They just want to label me… They’re probably not even interested in what I have to say,” he told this newspaper in a rare interview Friday.  “I’m not the focus… There’s not really any attempt to focus on the cause of the accident.”  It’s one of the few times Mr. Frame has publicly discussed the May 1992 explosion that killed 26 men and led to criminal charges against his former company, Curragh Inc., and two former Westray officials.  And the criticism comes as his bid to avoid testifying about the disaster has thrown a wrench into the inquiry’s plan to file its final report this fall…

Fifty Westray Clippings

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of
Fifty Westray “Clippings”
01    The Larger Lessons of Westray
Before the report of the Westray inquiry drifts off to official report limbo, let’s draw a few yet-undrawn
conclusions as regards the nature of bureaucracy and public affairs as they exist in Nova Scotia.
Disappointingly, Judge Peter Richard didn’t do this himself… Unlike the Marshall inquiry report, the
Westray report fails to give us any broader directions… It is strong in particulars and weak at the level
of general principles.  Judge Richard, for whatever reason, seems to consciously avoid probing the
politics.  Indeed, his report falls badly short in describing the politics behind the tragedy…

Halifax Chronicle-Herald and Mail-Star, 12 December 1997
02    Westray Commissioner Takes Parting Shot At Frame
…None of the 71 witnesses who testified blamed Clifford Frame for the tragedy.  No one could say if he knew anything
about the myriad of hazardous conditions that were allowed to build up in the mine before the deadly blast…

Globe and Mail, 9 December 1997
03    Review: Westray Inquiry Commission Report
Management Failed, the Inspectorate Failed, and the Mine Blew Up
The smug visage of Clifford Frame hovers over the Westray disaster like a cloud of $100 cigar smoke…
More than anyone, he bears responsibility…

Halifax Sunday Daily News, 7 December 1997
04    Moral Leadership: Facing Canada’s Leadership Crisis
Leadership Gone Rotten
Tragedy, Duplicity, and Moral Failing in High Places

…critical to strong leadership is the acceptance of responsibility, an ingredient painfully lacking in Canada today.
From the Westray mine disaster to the Red Cross tainted blood scandal to the Somalia affair, Canadian news is
rife with highly publicized examples of leadership failure in politics, in religion, in business, and in the military.
How did we get here and how do we get out?…

Moral Leadership (book) by Robert C. Evans, McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd., 1 Nov 1997
ISBN-13: 978-0075529248
05    Government Response to Westray Inquiry Report
The province has accepted and will act on all 74 recommendations of the Westray Mine Public Inquiry report…
“The entire system of the day failed the miners, their families and all Nova Scotians on May 9, 1992,” said the
Minister of Transportation and Public Works.  “On behalf of the province, I apologize for any role government
may have played.  We are deeply sorry for the Westray disaster.  It never should have happened.
While we can’t change the past, we can change the future”…


Source: Response to Westray Inquiry Report (Government media release) 18 December 1997 06    High Officials Must Answer, Too, Say Critics
High Officials Must Answer but People Will Have to Remain Vigilant
…there was a “culture” in the departments that allowed the lackadaisical attitude to worker safety to take root,
and that the jobs were needed at “almost any cost”…

Halifax Daily News, 19 December 1997
07    Nova Scotia to Act on Westray Report
Albert McLean and Claude White Fired Without Severance Pay But May Keep Their Pensions
Vancouver Province, 19 December 1997
08    Officials Fired in Westray Disaster
Nova Scotia Government Accepts Inquiry’s Recommendations
Two Officials Fired, Three Suspended, in Westray Disaster
Ottawa Citizen, 19 December 1997
09    For Leaders, Not Lawyers
Weasel Talk and Slippery Dodge
…this government (which wasn’t in power when the mine blew up) hasn’t figured out
what the right thing is in terms of taking real rather than rhetorical responsibility…

…sidestepped the issue of compensating them out of court, saying this was an issue for lawyers.
It certainly is not.  It is an issue for leaders…

This editorial appeared in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 20 December 1997
10    Westray Severance Closer to Reality
The federal government has officially withdrawn its right to the abandoned mine site in Plymouth, Nova Scotia,
freeing up several millions of dollars worth of assets to cover the employees’ claim…

Calgary Herald, 20 December 1997
11    The Politics of Coal
…horse-trading and hornswoggling, subsidy, soot, grime, and danger…
…roiling seas of ambition, self-interest, and conflicted purpose…

The politics of coal is the politics of regional disparity.  It is the politics of subsidy subvention, soot, grime,
black dust and danger.  And somewhere, under all this, there is profit for some and a livelihood for many…

The Hill Times, Ottawa, 10 June 1996
12    Westray Father Glad Mine to Disappear
“He jumped over the fence and that’s the last I seen of him.”
Halifax Sunday Daily News, 21 December 1997
13    Coal, Politics, John Chisholm, and Don Cameron’s Pal
There was no bloody way Downe was going to give a strip mine contract
to any friend of Donald Cameron, much less one linked with Westray…

Halifax Chronicle-Herald and Mail-Star, 2 February 1996
14    Pay up, Westray Miners Say
Miners demand province pay up without waiting to sell assets
Halifax Daily News, 31 December 1997
15    Nova Scotia Urged to do Right by Westray Miners
$1.2 million in severance pay awarded…  With Curragh bankrupt, the award will have to be satisfied from sale of assets,
including unused mining machines estimated to be worth several million dollars…

Calgary Herald, 31 December 1997
16    Westray Miners Awarded Severance
The first time in Nova Scotia…
Former Westray miners won more then $1.2 million in severance pay yesterday after a Nova Scotia tribunal said
their now-defunct employer, Curragh Inc., could have prevented the explosion that killed 26 of their colleagues…

Miner insulted, reprimanded, demoted, and ultimately suspended.  He complained about unsafe working conditions at Westray…
This article appeared on the front page of the The Globe and Mail, 31 December 1997
17    Researchers Criticize Westray Mine Safety
Better Grasp of Organizational Culture Needed…  Network of financial and political forces…
Managers valued production results over safety rules…  Bank of Nova Scotia linked financing to production…
The criminal and regulatory proceedings… exclude evidence about financial, political and cultural antecedents of the fatal spark…
Rules of admissibility of evidence filter out information on patterns of pressure that affected the actors in the Westray case…

This research article appeared in The Gazette, the University of Calgary’s faculty and staff weekly newspaper, 1996
18    Westray Confronts Some Artful Dodgers
A Remarkable Grasp of Trivial Detail
John Buchanan has made avuncular blandness into an art form, and by and large he got away with it at the Westray inquiry…
Halifax Chronicle-Herald and Mail-Star, 31 May 1996
19    This week’s Newsmaker: Allen Martin
A Very Painful Week
Throughout the night and into the morning, teams of rescuers worked the tunnels, but all the miners were dead…
This item was aired on the CBC’s evening news program “The National – Almanac” 10 May 1996
20    CEPU Local Union Officer Wins Award for Bravery at Westray
Each of the 177 men to receive medals were called to the front of the church one at a time.
They are the largest group in the history of the Canadian Honours System to be awarded bravery decorations for a single incident

February 1995
21    Westray’s Grim Truth
Like Something Out of a Medieval Novel
Incompetence, mismanagement, bureaucratic bungling, and deceit…
Ruthlessness, cover-up, apathy, expediency, and cynical indifference…

This editorial appeared in the Toronto Star, 2 December 1997
22    Two Inquiries Reveal Two Approaches
In the past nine days, two commissions of inquiry have released reports on appalling tragedies.
One bristled with righteous anger.  The other was cautious and plodding.
This editorial appeared in the Toronto Star, 5 December 1997
23    Equal Treatment
Payments should be made forthwith to everyone who qualifies…
Common decency and downright fairness demand all ex-Westray employees be treated equally…
This editorial appeared in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald and Mail-Star, 6 January 1998
24    Severance Issue Before Cabinet
Will be Funded from the Sale of Westray Assets
Overlooked group (non-unionized employees) includes at least 13 men awarded the medal of bravery for rescue efforts after the explosion…
Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 8 January 1998
25    New Workplace Rules Aim to Protect Workers
Long Overdue Changes
Three basic rights — the right to know, the right to refuse unsafe work, and the right to participate in workplace health and safety issues
NovaNewsNet, School of Journalism, University of Kings College, Halifax, 15 January 1997
26    N.S. Government Won’t Advance Severance Pay to Westray Miners
Disgusting.  Really disgusting… The cabinet decision yesterday means that 117 workers who never received severance pay
when the mine exploded in 1992 must wait until the bankrupt mine’s assets are sold…
Globe and Mail, 9 January 1998
27    Putting Some Substance in Sorry
They Should Not Have to Wait Any Longer.  Government negligence in this tragedy was second only to the company’s…
The government has continued, shamefully, to dodge the ultimate responsibility…
This editorial appeared in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald and Mail-Star, 2 January 1998
28    Gaining Access to the Westray Inquiry Transcript
What Does it Mean for a Document to be “Public” if the Cost is So High That Nobody Can Afford It?
NovaNewsNet, School of Journalism, University of Kings College, Halifax, 29 October 1996
29    Never Again
Never Let the Risks Outweigh the Benefits… The Westray disaster had major ramifications for the Yukon…
This editorial appeared in the Whitehorse Yukon News, 5 December 1997
30    Human Error Blamed for Mine Disaster
Responsibility Lies With Mine Management and Government Bureaucrats
Westray management failed in their primary responsibility, Bureaucracy infested with apathy and complacence
Toronto Star, 2 December 1997
31    Still Failing the Westray Miners
The Cabinet Scurried into Hiding: Painstakingly Lawyered Absurdity
Nova Scotia’s disgraceful cabinet decided to nickel-and-dime former Westray miners
This editorial appeared in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald and Mail-Star, 13 January 1998
32    To Westray and Beyond
Clifford Frame wants to put Westray behind him and get back in business
Ottawa Citizen, 8 September 1997
33    Bay Street Wary of Frame
Is Clifford Frame the guy you’re prepared to lend money to?
Whitehorse Yukon News, 22 January 1997
34    Mine Collapse Revives Westray Memories
Westray was a lot, lot worse
Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 19 January 1998
35    Westray Silos to Come Down
Mine Entrance to be Sealed
Globe and Mail, 21 January 1998
36    No More Westrays
Five Years Later, Questions Still Unanswered, Families Still Grieving
27 August 1997
37    Westray Will be Repeated if Inquiry Lessons Are Not Acted On
The Inquiry Report will amount to nothing if its lessons are not learned
2 December 1997
38    Government Lawyer Admits Province Bears Some Blame
The first time in eight months of hearings that anyone employed by the province has accepted blame for the 1992 Westray disaster
Ottawa Citizen, 23 July 1996
39    Bureaucats, Bosses Blamed for Mine Deaths
Incompetence, Mismanagement, Bureaucratic Bungling, Deceit, Ruthlessness, Coverup, Apathy
Ottawa Citizen, 2 December 1997
40    Westray Exposed Government’s Shortcomings
Nova Scotia government bureaucrats ignored warnings, disregarded laws, altered official meeting minutes…
Halifax Sunday Daily News, 7 December 1997
41    After the Westray Explosion: A Chronology
Halifax Daily News, 2 December 1997, and other sources
42    Engineers’ Fate to be Known Soon
Remiss in Their Duty
Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 22 January 1998
43    Gold Mine Layoffs Blamed on Westray-Related Firings
No one left in the Department with the expertise to approve any kind of mining permit
Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 22 January 1998
44    Ex-Westray Employees Block Site
Contractor prevented from starting work on dismantling the Westray Mine surface structures
Halifax Daily News, 10 February 1998
45    Westray Investigation Was Botched: Former Prosecutor
The complex case was beyond the capability of the prosecution service
Ottawa Citizen, 17 December 1998
46    Killer Coal Lies in Wait
The Westray explosion surprised management, but not experienced miners
Calgary Sun, 4 December 1997
47    Other Provinces Urged to Learn from Mine Tragedy
Government inspectors deferred to the company’s wishes
Edmonton Journal, 3 December 1997
48    Westray Report Blasts All
Westray owner, and management, failed in their primary responsibility
Vancouver Province, 2 December 1997
49    Westray “Deceit”, Deadly Mine Blast Preventable: Probe
Deadly mix of corporate ruthlessness and regulatory incompetence made the Westray coal mine an accident waiting to happen
Montreal Gazette, 2 December 1997
50    Stupidity Blew Up Westray
Judge says explosion that killed 26 was sparked by failures of bosses and bureaucrats
Globe and Mail, 2 December 1997
51    Curragh Files for Court Protection
Intense media and political scrutiny
20 March 1993
52    Westray Boss Back in Business
Clifford Frame’s memo dismisses Westray as “irrelevant”
Ottawa Citizen, 8 September 1997
53    Westray Disaster Had Deep Roots
Westray Fiasco Reaches a New Low Ebb: Province refuses to tell the Public Inquiry what it knows
Halifax Sunday Daily News, 16 July 1995
54    Mine Safety Award Rescinded
Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum accepted Westray management’s statistics without checking
Montreal Gazette, 5 May 1998
55    Crown Stays Charges Against Westray Managers
Announcement Delayed Until Hours Before Major Holiday
Canadian Press, 30 June 1998
56    Ex-Westray Chief Fails in Comeback Attempt
Shareholder votes accompanied by jeers and heated epithets… “He didn’t win a single vote.  You should have heard the heckling…”
Ottawa Citizen, 12 September 1997
57    Westray Monument Powerful Reminder
Westray has become like a wound that never heals
Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 19 February 1998
58    Official Fired Over Westray
Fourth government employee to lose his job in the aftermath of the Westray disaster
Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 21 April 1998
59    More Workplace Inspectors Needed
Plummer Report raises concerns about inadequacies in inspection and enforcement
Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 17 April 1998
60    Story of Westray dangers should have been told
I owe the people of Pictou County, N.S., an apology.  In particular, I owe a long overdue apology to the families
of the 26 miners who perished in the Westray coal mine explosion that took place 20 years ago Wednesday…

I need to apologize because for two decades I have harboured a regret…
I was effectively told by a variety of sources that the mine was, in all likelihood, going to end in disaster.
I should and could have done more.  I should have written that damn warning in bold, capital type at the top of
my story proposal.  But I didn’t because I reasoned that it was hard to prove something disastrous might occur…

Ottawa Citizen, 09 May 2012
61    The Tragedy of Westray
At first my brother liked the work, but then he started to get scared.  He wanted out, and now it’s too late…
Throughout the Westray experience, dangerous working conditions were alleged…
Museum of Industry, Stellarton, May 2012
62    Reflections on the Westray Disaster
The miners working at the Westray coal mine were afraid the sagging roof would crush them.
They were afraid of deadly gas and explosive coal dust.  They were afraid to go to work, and
afraid to lose their jobs.  Fellow miners who didn’t work that night spoke of those fears,
but not until after the explosion…

There were days of funerals.  Shops closed, windows were draped in black curtains.  There was public
grieving.  The prime minister and the governor general and their wives attended a large memorial service…

For me, after two decades the Westray story is still very much alive.  That’s because many employers have
not learned the lessons of Westray.  I am still writing news reports about a lack of safety in the workplace…

CBC News, 09 May 2012
63    A personal reflection of the Westray Coal Mine disaster
…The Westray Coal Mine was brought into operation with many Political Hands opening doors from
the Legislature in Halifax all the way to the Prime Minister’s office on Parliament Hill.  Unfortunately,
clouded visions from Politicians resulted in pressure to award the Westray Mine Project to
an inexperienced company, Curragh Resources Inc., to operate the mine…

From the beginning of the coal mining operations, problems began to surface with consistently
bad roof conditions, high levels of methane gas and excessive coal dust throughout the mine…

Dangerous practices soon became common throughout the mine, including inappropriate use of mobile
equipment, use of cutting torches underground, working in high levels of methane, intense pressure on
crews to work against the regulations and working in open unsupported roof conditions…

By the fall of 1991 Westray was on a collision course.  Management and workers were constantly at odds
over Safety practices, coal production was not close to adequate to meet the Government contracts and
the coal dust at the Westray mine continued to build up…

During the course of 1991 and 92 up until the mine exploded, Government mine inspectors were
constantly in and out of the mine.  At no time did the inspectors see fit to halt production even though
complaints were many and the evidence of problems were plain to see…

Alberta Occupational Safety Auditors Association, The Auditor, v7 Summer 2009
(No longer publicly available) 64    Westray remembered:
the explosion that killed 26 N.S. coal miners in 1992
…Westray’s very existence was controversial from the beginning.  In July 1991, Liberal MLA Bernie Boudreau
sent a letter to Nova Scotia Labour Minister Leroy Legere warning that the new Westray coal mine scheduled
to open in two months near Stellarton “is potentially one of the most dangerous in the world”…

…Westray’s legacy can be measured in the application of the so-called Westray Act, a federal law enacted
in 2004 that provided new rules for attributing criminal liability to corporations and representatives when
workers are injured or killed on the job.  The law has been used in criminal prosecutions several times,
but the courts have registered just two convictions…

Huffington Post, 8 May 2012
65    The Westray Conundrum
OHS Canada 25th Anniversary Best Editorial
Westray won an award as Canada’s safest mine barely a month before it sent 26 men to their deaths.
Six years later, with the release of the report of the Westray Inquiry, a baffling and disturbing picture
emerges that should make every health and safety professional think long and hard
about how safety systems fail…

OHS Occupational Health & Safety Magazine, April/May 1998

These links were accessed and found to be valid on
9 February 2011, 17 May 2012, 25 March 2013.

The Halifax Chronicle-Herald of 6 September 1997, on page A3 carried an article titled Frame of Mind, Westray Boss Wants to be Left Alone by Dean Jobb, staff reporter.  It included this: “A mining industry publication, Highgrader Magazine, reported this week that Mr. Clifford Frame, who now heads Toronto-based Mineral Resources Corp., is invloved in a bitter fight to take over Greenfields Coal Company https://www.greencoal.com.au/.  Mineral Resources already owns about 20 per cent of Greenfields, an Australian firm that wants to clean up an old West Virginia mine site and sell the coal recovered… Greenfields officials say Mr. Frame’s involvement with Westray was not mentioned in a resume he provided, and was only discovered after searching for his name on the Internet.” (boldface emphasis added)

To get some idea what had been available to the Greenfields management when they did their Internet search, on 8 September 1997 a search was done on the whole Internet, for the name Clifford Frame.  The two top-rated Internet search engines of the day were used.

The number one search engine at that time was HotBot, operated by Wired Magazine of San Francisco.  The number two search engine was AltaVista, operated by Digital Equipment Corporation.

This was September 1997, well before Google became the dominant search engine.
The domain google.com was registered on 14 September 1997, and the
company was incorporated as Google Inc. on 7 September 1998. 
HotBot and AltaVista remained the top search services through 1999 and into 2000.

AltaVista returned two hits, and HotBot returned nine.  Three of HotBot’s hits, and both of AltaVista’s hits, were on https://www.alts.net/ns1625/ (an earlier version of the site you are now looking at).  Details follow:


“clifford frame”
2 documents match your query

1. Westray Mine Public Inquiry, 22 July 1996
Westray Mine Public Inquiry Commission Stellarton, Nova Scotia Day 77 22 July 1996. Oral Submissions of the United Steelworkers of America by Mr. David J…
– size 59K – 22-May-97 – English

2. Westray Mine Public Inquiry
Westray Mine Public Inquiry Commission. Written Submissions of the United Steelworkers of America August 1996. INtrODUCTION. The United Steelworkers of…
– size 108K – 24-May-97 – English

Reference: Archived copies of above items

Oral Submissions of the
United Steelworkers of America, 22 July 1996

Written Submissions of the
United Steelworkers of America, 8 August 1996


clifford frame
Returned 9 matches
Page Counts: clifford: 50848, frame: 510381

1. Whitehorse Star Daily News
Anvil Range deal concludes By ANNE PRITCHARD Star Reporter.  The Anvil Range Mining Corp. says its deal with with Cominco Ltd. of Vancouver is now a fait accompli. Three weeks ago, Anvil Range agreed to sell, in a “private placement”, 4.1 million.
3737 bytes, 06Feb97

2. Whitehorse Star Daily News
Frame in Korea to pursue Faro mine goal By ANNE PRITCHARD Star Reporter.  It seems that Clifford Frame isn’t giving up his attempts to take over the Anvil Range Mining Corp. He left Toronto last weekend for Korea, ostensibly to lobby Hundai Corp…
6160 bytes, 30Jan97

3. NovaNewsNet Digest for Feb. 17/97
NovaNews Digest Friday, February 21, 1997 SPCA fines brothers. Sea Spa sold. CBC journalists may go to trial. FINED FOR COW NEGLECT: Robert and Douglas Collier were each fined $1000 yesterday after…
5805 bytes, 21Feb97

4. NovaNewsNet Digest for Jan. 22, 1997
NovaNews Digest Wednesday, January 22, 1997 updated 10:30 am AST Search ends in tradgedy. Sysco for sale. New dump to open. SEARCH ENDS UNHAPPILY: Nova Scotia rescue workers found the body of missing…
9115 bytes, 23Jan97

5. NovaNewsNet Digest for Feb. 4/97
NovaNews Digest Tuesday, February 4, 1997 New company to bring jobs. Billard found not criminally responsible Possible subpoenas in Westray case. 1-800-MONEY: Canada’s largest call centre operator…
8855 bytes, 05Feb97

6. Quotations
Quotations about Nova Scotia, or by or about Nova Scotians So I reached down, lifted the oars from where they lay in the icy water on the boat’s bottom, and squeezed my fingers with all the remaining strength left in them, into a curved position…
53002 bytes, 04May97

7. Westray Mine Public Inquiry, 22 July 1996
Westray Mine Public Inquiry Commission Stellarton, Nova Scotia Day 77, 22 July 1996 Oral Submissions of the United Steelworkers of America by Mr. David J. Roberts As you noted at the start of these public hearings, this Inquiry was given a very…
60803 bytes, 27Apr97

8. (https://www.everton.com/norman/norman.don/minney)
Copyright 1995, Don Norman, 41991 Emerson Court, Elyria, OH 44035-2537 See the “intro” file for more details. THE DESCENDANTS OF DANIEL MINNEY — DON NORMAN 1.DANIEL MINNEY The first traceable ancestor of the Minney line appears in the tax records…
114957 bytes, 15Sep95

9. Westray Mine Public Inquiry
Westray Mine Public Inquiry Commission Written Submissions of the United Steelworkers of America August 1996 INTRODUCTION The United Steelworkers of America was the certified bargaining agent for the underground and surface employees of Westray…
110705 bytes, 05May97

“Greenfields Coal Company (GCC) maintain that they were not made aware
of Frame’s involvement at Westray until a web search brought up the
submission made by the United Steelworkers to the Westray Inquiry…”
        — Clifford Frame Hits the Coals: Westray Boss Heads Back to Coal Mining
              by Charlie Angus, HighGrader Magazine, September/October 1997
The “submission made by the United Steelworkers to the Westray Inquiry”
the web  source  that  first  made  Greenfields  Coal  Company  aware that
Clifford  Frame  was involved  in the  Westray  coal  mine,  almost  certainly
was  the  online  item  then  located  at  https://alts.net/ns1625/wrpi99a.html,
a copy of which is now located at https://newscotland1398.ca/westray/wrpi99a.html
that appears as the ninth hit reported by the HotBot search engine (next above).
This item was uploaded to the WWW on 25 August 1996, a full ten months
before GCC did their search in July 1997 – plenty of time
for the search engines of the day to find it and index it.

Ex-Westray Chief Fails in Bid for Comeback
Shareholders Reject Takeover Proposal

by Paul McKay
The Ottawa Citizen, Friday 12 September 1997

Former Westray Coal chief Clifford Frame’s comeback bid to gain control of an Australian-owned company ended in failure yesterday.  At a stormy 48th-floor shareholders’ meeting in Melbourne, Mr. Frame failed to win any resolutions in support of his hostile takeover of Greenfields Coal Company.  He had sought to have the current directors evicted, himself appointed CEO of Greenfields and have his associates become majority directors of the Australian-listed company.

Each vote went against Mr. Frame by almost 70 per cent. [The motion to appoint Clifford Frame as a Director was lost by a vote of 23,189,126 shares for and 48,996,359 against.  There were 74,624,185 valid votes and proxies available at the meeting.] The defeat effectively ends his bid, through TSE-listed Mineral Resources Corp., to take over Greenfields.  According to Greenfields directors, each vote was accompanied by jeers and heated epithets aimed at Mr. Frame and his Australian associate, John Byrne. They focused on Mr. Frame’s link to the 1992 Westray explosion, which killed 26 miners in Nova Scotia, and MRC president John Byrne’s record of failed business ventures.

The main attraction of Greenfields lay in lucrative tax credits worth, according to Mr. Frame, as much as $80 million U.S. on the Australian company’s chief asset, a coal property in West Virginia.  The takeover bid began July 4, when Mr. Frame sent a fax to Greenfields chairman Rhett Drew, giving him just 2 ½ hours to hand over his company to MRC.  “There’s no way ahead for Mr. Frame with us,” a jubilant Mr. Drew told the Citizen moments after the meeting ended. “He didn’t win a single vote. You should have heard the heckling.” Other Greenfields directors confirmed that Mr. Frame had no outside backing for the post of Greenfields CEO.  The only person who spoke in favour was Mr. Frame’s Canadian lawyer.

The shareholder turnout was unprecedented for an Australian junior mining company. Greenfields has 100 million shares outstanding, and about 70 million votes were accounted for at the meeting through 128 shareholders… Savouring their victory after the shareholders meeting, Mr. Drew and the Greenfields directors made no effort to disguise their personal delight at the defeat of Mr. Frame and Mr. Byrne.  “The whole thrust of today’s proceedings was to remove all the members of the current board, and to install Mr. Frame and Mr. Byrne,” Mr. Drew says.  “It was what they were trying to do in early July, except this time they did it to the shareholders. But they just gave them a bloody nose!”

The defectors from Mr. Frame’s camp included MRC’s Malaysian bankers, who control about 4 million Greenfields shares.

Source: The Ottawa Citizen, Friday, 12 September 1997

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of this Ottawa Citizen item:
Ex-Westray Chief Fails in Bid for Comeback
Shareholders Reject Takeover Proposal
by Paul McKay
The Ottawa Citizen, Friday, September 12, 1997
Archived: 1999 February 18
Archived: 1999 October 3
Archived: 2000 March 8
Archived: 2000 August 17
Archived: 2001 January 17
Archived: 2001 June 11
Archived: 2001 August 3
These links were accessed and found to be valid on 1 January 2008.

Canadian Newspaper Association
1997 National Newspaper Awards
Business Reporting: Runner-Up

The Ottawa Citizen’s Paul McKay followed up on whereabouts of Clifford Frame, the developer of the ill-fated Westray coal mine in Nova Scotia.  Through dogged research and investigative reporting, McKay discovered that Frame had not abandoned the mining business at all.  Instead, he was involved in a controversial and court-challenged take-over scheme of a West Virginia coal property at the same time he was fighting efforts to force him to testify at a public inquiry into the Westray explosion.
Source:   1997 National Newspaper Awards

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of this item:
1997 National Newspaper Awards Archived: 2003 April 29
Archived: 2003 August 03
Archived: 2003 October 20

These links were accessed and found to be valid on 1 January 2008.

Reference:   The National Newspaper Awards have been Canada’s premier journalism awards for more than 50 years.  In 1949, six awards were handed out.  Today, there are twenty…

Greenfields Shareholders vote to Retain Current Board

Greenfields Coal Company Limited
ACN 06 541 831
381 Tooronga Road, Hawthorn East
Victoria 3123 Australia

Shareholders in Greenfields Coal Company Limited voted strongly in favour of retaining its current board of directors in a general meeting held in Melbourne today [12 September 1997].

The resolutions in favour of retaining the current directors were passed by more than 60% in each case, with the highest being 53.7 million (74.4%) in favour of retaining the Chairman Mr Rhett Drew, compared with 19.5 million votes against his removal. 72% of the company’s shares were voted at the meeting in an unusually high participation level.

The shareholders also voted to appoint a new director, Mr Peter Edwards, who is Managing Director of the Victor Smorgon Group.  The Group recently made a $1.3 million loan to Greenfields.

Today’s meeting was called in response to a request by Mineral Resources Corporation, a major shareholder which is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, to consider removing the current board of directors and replace it with three MRC nominated directors.

Greenfields also took the opportunity to put two further resolutions to the shareholders, which were passed.  They were:

  • Resolution 1 — to place 10,350,000 redeemable convertible cumulative preference shares of 20 cents each at issue price of 26 cents each to Vilo Resources, an independent company introduced by the Victor Smorgon Group.  This will raise $2.6 million.
  • Resolution 2 — to apply up to $3.14 million from the Greenfields share premium account.  Greenfields now plans a pro-rata rights issue on a 2 for 5 basis at 13 cents per share, with 7 cents per share being met from the share premium account. This will raise $5.2 million.

Greenfields Chairman, Mr Rhett Drew, said the vote result was a resounding endorsement by shareholders.  “Greenfields’ shareholders have recognised that retention of the current Board was the best way to maximise the value of the company and they have voted accordingly,” he said.

Greenfields Chief Executive Officer, Mr Stephen Barber, was also delighted with the result, “We can now put this matter behind us and return to our core business of adding value through the coal recovery process to maximise the returns to our shareholders,” he said.

Results of Voting

NO. MOTION RESULT FOR AGAINST 1 To issue 10,350,000 preference shares
to Vilo Resources Proprietary Ltd Passed
unanimously 2 Utilisation of share premium account Passed 3 Removal of Rhett Drew as a Director # Lost 18,478,805 53,687,055 4 Motion not put 5 Removal of Graham Menzies as a Director # Lost 26,621,944 45,558,541 6 Motion not put 7 Appointment of Stephen Barber as a Director * Passed 49,307,016 23,091,844 8 Appointment of Michael Blanche as a Director* * Passed 52,291,158 18,999,844 9 Appointment of Tony Gall as a Director* * Passed 49,147,016 22,971,844 10 Appointment of Peter Edwards as a Director* * Passed
unanimously 11 Appointment of Clifford Frame as a Director # Lost 23,189,126 48,996,359 12 Election of John Byrne as a Director # Lost 23,136,126 49,049,359 13 Election of Jeremy Lees as a Director # Lost 23,136,126 49,049,359

* Greenfields nomination
# Mineral Resources Corporation nomination
Valid votes and proxies available at meeting   74,624,185
Present at the meeting: 139 Members and 61 Visitors (200 total)
Source: Greenfields Coal Co. Media Release, 12 September 1997

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of this document:
Greenfields Shareholders vote to Retain Current Board
Media Release: 12 September 1997 Archived: 1997 October 09
Archived: 1998 January 29

These links were accessed and found to be valid on 1 January 2008.

So where is Greenfields Coal Company now?
On 6 May 2001 I tried to find out the current status of this company, but it seems to have disappeared.  There are occasional references to “Antaeus Energy Ltd., previously Greenfields Coal” and “Antaeus Energy, a U.S. subsidiary of Greenfields Energy Corp. of Sydney, Australia” but little else.  There was a passing mention of a new website at
but it contained no information.

Nova News Net
University of Kings College, Halifax

The Wayback Machine has an archived copy of this item:
Safety Often Ignored, Ex-Miner Testifies
Safety regulations were routinely ignored in the Westray mine
Nova News Net, 18 January 1996 Archived: 1998 February 23
This link was accessed and found to be valid on 1 January 2008.
The Wayback Machine has an archived copy of this item:
Priority Production, Not Life at Westray
Mine manager Gerald Philips showed no remorse
Nova News Net, 19 January 1996 Archived: 1998 February 23
This link was accessed and found to be valid on 1 January 2008.
The Wayback Machine has an archived copy of this item:
Do or Die
Miners said they felt compelled to stay at Westray rather than face poverty
Nova News Net, 26 January 1996 Archived: 1998 February 23
This link was accessed and found to be valid on 1 January 2008.
The Wayback Machine has an archived copy of this item:
Inspector at Westray “Wanted to Live”
Nova Scotia labor inspector refused to enter the Westray mine
a month before the fatal explosion

Nova News Net, 6 February 1996 Archived: 1998 February 23
This link was accessed and found to be valid on 1 January 2008.
The Wayback Machine has an archived copy of this item:
Westray Miner Says He Could Have Lost His Job
Underground manager threatened to fire anyone who complained
Nova News Net, 7 February 1996 Archived: 1998 February 23
This link was accessed and found to be valid on 1 January 2008.
The Wayback Machine has an archived copy of this item:
Promise Kept
Westray miner fired for complaining
Nova News Net, 9 February 1996 Archived: 1998 February 23
This link was accessed and found to be valid on 1 January 2008.
The Wayback Machine has an archived copy of this item:
Miners’ Concerns Fell on Deaf Ears
Albert McLean’s testimony that miners said they had
no concerns about the safety at Westray isn’t true

Nova News Net, 14 February 1996 Archived: 1998 February 23
This link was accessed and found to be valid on 1 January 2008.
The Wayback Machine has an archived copy of this item:
Westray Subpoenas
Court orders name Clifford Frame, the mine’s former chairman
and chief executive officer, and two others

Nova News Net, 15 March 1996 Archived: 1998 February 23
This link was accessed and found to be valid on 1 January 2008.
The Wayback Machine has an archived copy of this item:
Safety Last
Westray supervisor says he was never told of safety orders
Nova News Net, 21 March 1996 Archived: 1998 February 23
This link was accessed and found to be valid on 1 January 2008.
The Wayback Machine has an archived copy of this item:
Westray Committee Disbands
Confusion over who owns the title to the Westray mine property
Nova News Net, 9 April 1997 Archived: 1998 February 23
This link was accessed and found to be valid on 1 January 2008.

Westray Coal Mine in General

The Great North Wind Porcupine Awards 1992
David Stone of Halifax for “26 souls” (The Westray Mine in Nova Scotia is the setting: a spark sets off a time-bomb as coal dust and gas turn into a fire ball that takes the lives of 26 miners.  They knew it was unsafe from the start.  The government helped fund it, the company hoped nothing would go wrong…)
Source:     https://home.eol.ca/~gnwind/1992.htm

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of this document:
The Great North Wind Porcupine Awards 1992 Archived: 2001 March 3
Archived: 2001 August 3
These links were accessed and found to be valid on 17 August 2009.

Dangerous Gas in
Nova Scotia Coal Mines The year 1873 will be ever memorable in the history of our coal mining as the one wherein occurred the first serious disaster, occasioned by an explosion of gas, resulting in greater destruction of life and property than any similar occurrence that ever happened in any mine in America… (boldface emphasis added)

In the following statement the relative position which the mines of Nova Scotia bear to those of England and Pennsylvania is shown. Comparatively it is unsatisfactory… It shows the indubitable necessity for greater attention being paid to the subject… Tons of coal raised from mines per life lost:
England, 1872:   116,409
Pennsylvania, 1872:   80,762
Nova Scotia, 1873:   14,403

…in the Foord pit there is special danger “on account of the liability of cutting heavy feeders of gas”…

…In my last annual report I mentioned the reluctance shown by some agents to send to the Department reports on accidents.  This reluctance is still noticeable, and I have had on several occasions to remind agents that it has been customary hitherto to send forward such reports.  All my applications for information regarding particular cases met with a ready response on all except one occasion, when no notice was taken of my written request.  A subsequent conversation with the agent led to an explanation of his course, and it appeared that knowing he could not be made to suffer for his refusal, the new Mines Regulation Chapter not being then in force, he considered he was justified in ignoring my right to make the application, and in declining to acknowledge in writing that gas had been allowed to accumulate during working hours in his mine to the peril of the workmen engaged therein.  Or, in other words, to allow it to be supposed that the ventilation and discipline of his mine were not quite perfect.  There is a natural desire on the part of agents having a professional reputation to maintain, to keep secret all delinquencies or occurrences likely to reflect on their credit… (boldface emphasis added)

The above quotes are from a report by Henry S. Poole, Inspector of Mines, in the Nova Scotia Department of Mines Annual Report, 1873
Source: Accidents Nova Scotia Department of Mines Annual Report, 1873

Managers Walk Free In Canada Mine ExplosionThe Militant, 28 August 1995

Gov’t Sits On Facts Of Mining DisasterThe Militant, 2 October 1995

Curragh about to replace manager when mine exploded
STELLARTON, N.S. (CP) [The Canadian Press, Monday, July 8, 1996] — A senior official with Westray Coal’s parent company says the mine was poorly managed and at least one of its managers was about to be replaced when an underground explosion killed 26 men.  Colin Benner was promoted as Curragh Inc.’s president of operations, then placed in charge of the Westray mine just over a month before it blew up on May 9, 1992.  On Monday he told an inquiry into the disaster that it didn’t take him long to learn the mine in nearby Plymouth wasn’t being run properly.  After just two visits to the site he set the wheels in motion to replace Roger Parry, the mine’s underground manager.  “I didn’t feel he was the right person for the job,” testified Benner.  Parry has been described by former miners as abusive and insulting.  Benner said supervisors like Parry should be supportive of their workers and have their best interests at heart.

Miner Pawns His Medal of Bravery

Westray miner’s appeal pans out
The Globe and Mail, Monday, 15 December 2003 —
A former Westray miner and rescue worker forced to pawn his medal of bravery after losing his worker’s compensation, has been awarded a payment and pension after all…

The United Steelworkers union, which tried to organize the mine before it blew up, fought the case on the man’s behalf after a representative heard his story of hardship at gathering marking Westray’s 10-year anniversary, said Shaun Comish, a former miner and part of the rescue team.  He wrote a book about the event, The Westray Tragedy, published in 1993.

The man, who has not been able to hold down a regular job, will receive a lump payment of $101,000, plus a monthly pension of $675, beginning in January 2004, the union announced Monday.

“I remember him back at the reunion telling me about being cut off and having to hawk his medal of bravery,” Mr. Comish said Monday.  “He’d been cut off for some time. They [the Nova Scotia Compensation Board] had sent him to a psychologist who said he wasn’t crying so he couldn’t have been that affected.  So the union said they’d fight it for him. ” Steelworkers spokesman Lawrence MacBrearty said the miner has been unable to work, plagued with thoughts about what he had seen underground during the rescue attempt, but was cut off compensation.

The worker, who still lives in New Glasgow, N.S. and is 56 years of age, worked on the rescue team as a “bare face” – a crewmember that went into the mine after the air was clean and the bodies removed.  The man’s life fell into disrepair after the disaster, Mr. Comish said.  He developed a drinking problem and his marriage fell apart…

United Steelworkers Win Compensation for Westray Survivor

2003 December 15 — United Steelworkers National Director Lawrence McBrearty announced Monday that the union has won a compensation claim for a former Westray miner who was so disadvantaged that he was forced to pawn the medal he received for his part in the attempt to rescue the 26 miners killed in the 1992 Westray mine explosion.  “The worker, a lifelong miner, had been cut off compensation for post-traumatic stress and had been unable to work,” said McBrearty. “He was plagued with thoughts about what he saw underground in the rescue attempt.” McBrearty said the union took up his case before the Nova Scotia Compensation Board, which now will pay the worker a total of $101,000 and, beginning in January 2004, he will receive a monthly benefit of $675…

Curragh Inc. Suspends Operations
at Yukon Lead and Zinc Mines

1993 April 5
Curragh Inc. has announced it will suspend operations at its two zinc and lead mines in the Yukon because of weak markets (meaning low prices) for these metals.  The Faro mine will be closed for two months effective immediately; this replaces previously planned shutdowns at the mine that were to total one month next spring and summer.  Curragh, a Toronto company, also said it will immediately close its Sa Dena Hes mine for three months.  The shutdowns will reduce the company’s planned production of both lead and zinc this year by 31%.  As a result the company expects to produce 155,000 metric tonnes of zinc and about 63,000 metric tonnes of lead this year.

Ralph Sultan’s explosive past
by Jan-Christian Sorensen and Katharine Hamer
North Vancouver North Shore News, week of 14-20 May 2001
The Westray mine, located in the small town of Plymouth, in Pictou County, exploded on May 9, 1992, killing 26 miners who were below ground at the time… Westray was operated by Ontario-based Curragh Resources and Chief Executive Officer Clifford Frame, who secured over $100 million in public money to help set up the mine only one year before the explosion.  Notable political figures involved in the deal include then-MP for the riding and future prime minister Brian Mulroney and MLA and future Nova Scotia premier Donald Cameron.  Also involved was Ralph Sultan, who was then a director with Curragh Resources.  Sultan won the Liberal Party’s nomination to run for MLA to represent the West Vancouver-Capilano riding… Sultan’s biography lists nothing of his time served with Curragh.  When asked at a political rally in North Vancouver on Monday, Sultan admitted that he was a director of Curragh Resources at the time of the Westray disaster…
   —Source:  https://www.nsnews.com/issues01/w052101/news/top-stories/05160101.html

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of this document:
Ralph Sultan’s explosive past
North Shore News, North Vancouver, British Columbia
week of 14-20 May 2001
Archived: 2002 March 19
Archived: 2003 May 09
Archived: 2004 December 25
Archived: 2007 April 23
These links were accessed and found to be valid on 01 July 2012.

Ralph Sultan Legislative Assembly of British Columbia
…Ralph Sultan was Chair of Curragh Resources…

Ralph Sultan, MLA West Vancouver—Capilano

Yukon Legislature Hansard, 18 November 1987
Introduction of Visitors — Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am pleased to introduce to the Legislature today an executive of Curragh Resources from Toronto, Mr. Ralph Sultan, vice president of the company.

Yukon Legislature Hansard, 17 March 1993
…We have had a whole set of contradictory statements, confusing messages and incredibly inexplicable delays in dealing with this matter.  We had what the Minister of Economic Development yesterday referred to as things that were “negotiababble”.  I think that is what we have had; a lot of negotiababble.  We actually had the Minister of Economic Development say to us yesterday, in probably one of the most astonishing statements I have heard for years in this House, that Curragh Resources did not understand its financial position.  Curragh Resources, headed by Clifford Frame – no matter you may think of him – who has been running mines for a long time and has been involved in many multi-million dollar projects and some quite fascinating transactions in many parts of this country, does not understand the company he operates; that John Turner, a director of the corporation, a former Prime Minister of Canada, a big-time Bay Street corporate lawyer and former Finance Minister of Canada, does not understand Curragh Resources’ finances; that Ralph Sultan, another director, a former Professor at Harvard Business School, a former Senior Vice-President of the Royal Bank of Canada, does not understand Curragh Resources; but good old boy, John Devries, from Watson Lake, does.  Let us get serious here.  Let us get serious.  This is important for the territory.  It is important for our economy and for our social structure.  The consequences of the Faro mine going down forever and Sa Dena Hes shutting down forever are going to be devastating to the people of this territory…

Ralph’s My New MLA, Thank Goodness, by Paul Sullivan
The Globe and Mail, 22 May 2001
…Ralph Sultan has had a remarkable life.  He spent 15 years at Harvard, rising to associate professor before returning to Canada as the chief economist for the Royal Bank.  He went on to career No. 3 in various finance, mining, and energy firms.  He has been the president, executive vice-president or chairman in ten of them and a director of 27, one of which has come back to haunt him… he was a director of Curragh Resources, the company that owned the Westray mine in Nova Scotia that exploded in 1992, killing 26 miners…

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of this document:
Ralph’s My New MLA, Thank Goodness
By Paul Sullivan, “The West” Archived: 2002 October 08
Archived: 2003 September 28
Archived: 2004 October 24
Archived: 2005 September 04
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B.C. Mining Task Force The Ralph Sultan Report, July 2003
…Ralph Sultan studied engineering at the University of British Columbia and economics at Harvard University.  His mining background commenced in 1980 when he became Senior Vice President, Global Energy and Minerals Group of The Royal Bank of Canada, headquartered in Calgary.  With a lending portfolio in the $5 billion range, he was responsible for promoting the Bank’s oil and gas and mining banking interests with representatives placed in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Denver, Dallas, Houston, London England, and Singapore.

He left The Royal Bank to become Executive Vice President of Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company, affiliated with Anglo American Corporation of South Africa, with interests in oil and gas operations in Alberta, copper mining in Arizona, industrial minerals in Saskatchewan, and diamonds, as well as the large Hudbay mining and refining complex at Flin Flon, Manitoba.

Subsequently he became a principal in Curragh Resources, a mining company which purchased the Faro Mine, a large lead-zinc open-pit operation in the Yukon, from Dome Petroleum in 1986.  Curragh shareholders included the Hunt Family from Texas, and Boliden Mining Company of Sweden, as well as Korean interests.  He played a significant role in the development of a road transportation link from Yukon to Skagway Alaska.  He successfully negotiated of economic agreements with the Ross River Band, Kaska Dene, and the Fort Ware Band of northern British Columbia…

I have personal knowledge of Westray in Nova Scotia.  About 14 years ago and less than eight months after I toured it underground, Westray blew up, killing 26 men.  One knowledgable observer, a journalist, concluded after interviewing many people that the disaster was marked by shoddy planning, unrealistic production targets, poor safety practices, outdated mining laws and ineffective Nova Scotia government monitoring…
Statement by Ralph Sultan, MLA West Vancouver-Capilano
Source: Hansard, British Columbia Legislature, 18 October 2004, page 11495

Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 5 March 2004 and 8 March 2004
(The identical item appeared in both issues)

Keep Clifford Frame away from Nova Scotian mines

New Waterford, April 4, 2002 – NDP labour critic Frank Corbett is calling on the Minister of Environment and Labour David Morse to tell Nova Scotians what action he is taking to make sure that Clifford Frame, the man who developed the Westray coal mine, is never able to operate another mine in Nova Scotia.  “Nova Scotians have not forgotten Clifford Frame’s name” says Corbett.”  Twenty-six men died because management failed to make the Westray mine safe.”

“Any company that has an association with Frame cannot be allowed to open another mine in this province. We owe the Westray miners that much.”

Through a company called Curaughdale Inc. Clifford Frame’s wife has made a $500,000 investment to be directed to Pasminco Canadian Resources’ Scotia mine project in Gays River.  If the project is successful the Frame family stands to realize a 50% share of the mine’s profits. Clifford Frame’s last mining project in Nova Scotia ended in disaster when 26 miners died at the Westray mine in Plymouth.  A public inquiry in 1997 held managers responsible for sending the miners to work in highly unsafe conditions.

” However elaborately the financial arrangement is veiled the truth is that Clifford Frame is intent on getting back into the mining business in Nova Scotia,” says Corbett.  “But he has to get past the Department first.  It is up to the Minister to make sure that this man doesn’t go near another Nova Scotian mine.”

In order to re-open the Scotia mine the promoters must first submit a mining plan to the Department of Environment and Labour for industrial approval.  Once this approval is given the plan is then forwarded to the Department of Natural Resources who issues the mining permit.

Never again, Nova Scotia politicians tell Clifford Frame

Politicians representing all parties in Nova Scotia have united to prevent the man with the blood of 26 Westray miners on his hands from ever opening another mine in the province… Frame, now involved with a company called OntZinc, has applied to reopen another closed mine near Elmsdale, evoking memories of the Westray mine.  However, MLAs in the provincial legislature unanimously passed a motion on April 15, opposing his company’s application, and specifying that Frame should never again be entrusted with responsibility for the safety of Nova Scotian miners.  John Hamm, the current Tory premier of the province, has asked two cabinet ministers to examine Frame’s role in the Westray explosion when they review his latest mine licence application…

N.S. Seeks to Block Ex-Westray Head’s Mine Plan

The Globe and Mail, Wednesday, 3 March 2004 — Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm has ordered government officials to look for ways to block controversial mining executive Clifford Frame from opening a zinc and lead mine in the province.

Mr. Frame was chairman of Curragh Inc., the owner of the Westray coal mine, where a coal dust and methane explosion in May, 1992, killed 26 miners.

Mr. Frame never accepted responsibility for the tragedy and repeatedly refused to testify at the inquiry into the deaths of the miners.  But the probe headed by Mr. Justice Peter Richard, who conducted an inquiry into the disaster, found that the Curragh chairman, who he characterized as an “uncompromising and abusive negotiator” in his relations with the provincial government, failed to provide a safe workplace while pushing for greater production from the ill-fated mine.

Mr. Frame is now chairman of junior mining company OntZinc Corp. of Toronto, which, through its subsidiary ScoZinc Ltd., is proposing a $1.1-million exploration and development plan for a zinc and lead mine that is to be located about 50 kilometres northwest of Halifax…

Nova Scotia Business Journal, April 2004

Scozinc Limited [RJSC ID#3064626], formerly Pasminco Resources Canada Company, has its registered office at 33 Alderney Drive, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Source: Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stock Companies [RJSC]
Related Company:
Pasminco Resources Canada Company [RJSC ID#3002877]

OntZinc Corporation

Press Release   September 24, 2003
ONTZINC completes purchase of BALMAT mine

Press Release   October 7, 2003
Corporate Appointments
6 Adelaide Street East, Suite 300
Toronto, Ontario M5C 1H6
TSX Venture Exchange   Symbol: OTZ
Toronto, Ontario
Shares Outstanding: 121,697,204 OntZinc Corporation directors

Scotia mine
The Scotia Mine is located approximately 48 kilometres northwest of Halifax and one kilometre east of the community of Gays River in the Halifax Regional Municipality in the Province of Nova Scotia…

OntZinc to Undertake a $1.1 Million Exploration and Pre-Development Program at Scotia Mine
Toronto, 21 January 2004 — OntZinc Corporation (TSX-V OTZ) announces plans for a $1.1 million exploration program at the Scotia Mine in Nova Scotia.  The objective of the program is to drill gaps in previous drilling to confirm the consistency of the zinc/lead reserves and to provide test drill cores of the gypsum hanging wall for grade and quality.  Pre-development work will include mining and business studies and attendant environmental definition.  The Scotia Mine is 100% owned by OntZinc through its subsidiary ScoZinc Limited, a registered Nova Scotia company. The deposit is located 50km northwest of Halifax and is accessible by paved roads approximately 15km (sic) from the Trans Canada highway.  Shipping facilities are available at Sheet Harbour, a distance of 80km from the mine…

Pasminco bid stays aliveThe Age, Sydney, Australia, 1 December 2003
Canadian company OntZinc Corp has vowed to press on with its bid to buy failed zinc miner Pasminco for $1.7 billion even though it was rejected by the company’s administrators on Friday.  Clifford Frame, the controversial Canadian mining promoter with a penchant for cigars and Australian mining companies, has promised to come up with a partner and more money to complete his ambitious plan.  Mr Frame’s OntZinc Corp, a Toronto-based junior with a market capitalisation of only $C40 million ($A42 million), has teamed up with Wall Street investment bank Lazard Freres & Co to bid for Pasminco, which collapsed in August 2001 with debt of almost $3 billion… It’s not the first time Mr Frame has tried his hand in Australia.  In 1997, his Mineral Resources Corporation, another Toronto junior, attempted to buy into Greenfields Coal, but the bid was shot down by an angry shareholders meeting…

Zinifex to list on ASX (Australian Stock Exchange)ABC News, 5 April 2004
New resources company Zinifex, which took over embattled mining giant Pasminco, lists on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) today with a share price of A$1.95…

Zinifex stumbles in debut International Herald-Tribune 6 April 2004
Shares of Zinifex fell more than 6 percent Monday (April 5) in their first day of trading after the world’s second-largest zinc miner raised less than hoped for in an initial share sale… Zinifex, formerly known as Pasminco, had planned to sell shares for between $2.10 and $2.70 apiece…

The Flink
(Q.) The flink, is it?
(A.) The flink.
—  A witness, testifying under oath, answering a question put by Commissioner Peter Richard on Day 21 of the Westray Mine Public Inquiry, Stellarton, Nova Scotia, 18 January 1996, as recorded in the official transcript at page 4096.  “Flink” was the vernacular used by construction workmen to identify the Confederation Bridge.  In the early stages of planning it was not known whether a bridge or a tunnel would be the best option for this transportation infrastructure linking Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, and the Federal Government called tenders under the generic term “Fixed Link” to keep the options open until detailed engineering and financial studies could be completed by the companies interested in bidding for the work.  This generic term stuck to the project long after it was decided that a bridge would be built, not a tunnel.  This point came up in the Westray Inquiry only because one of the Westray miners had previously worked on the flink construction job.

Dark day remembered
by Pat MacAdam
The Cape Breton Post, 5 May 2012

Cape Bretoner Pat MacAdam has looked extensively into the records of the Westray inquiry and interviewed several prominent people who had never before spoken publicly about their thoughts on what happened.  Here, he reveals some of what he found, and concludes that evidence not examined in the 1997 inquiry should be enough to mount a new investigation…

NOTE:  In this article, Mr. MacAdam writes
“A Nova Scotia light and power generating plant was six miles away
from the pithead and provided a built-in market for Westray coal.”

Not true.  There was a coal-fired electric generating plant at Trenton, Pictou County,
but it was not owned or operated by the Nova Scotia Light & Power Company (NSL&P).
In fact, NSL&P never owned or operated any electric utility plant or equipment of any kind
at any time anywhere in Pictou County.  NSL&P went out of business in 1972, many
years before the Wesray coal mine began operation.
      ICS, 11 April 2013

Westray article didn’t tell the whole story Letter to the Editor
The Cape Breton Post, 10 May 2012

Pat MacAdam’s article on the Westray mine disaster (Dark day remembered, May 5, 2012) is quite a feat.

MacAdam correctly pointed out that Westray was awarded the J.T. Ryan Award for Safety as “the safest mine in Canada” just days before the disaster.  He neglected to mention that it was based, in part, on the number of workers injured on the job who claimed workers’ compensation benefits, and Westray’s practice of reassigning numerous injured miners to so-called “light duty” on the surface.

MacAdam also forgot to mention that the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum rescinded the trophy in April 1998 because Westray officials fudged accident statistics.  It was the only time in more than 60 years that the award was rescinded.

MacAdam also mentioned Clifford Frame’s time with Denison Mining, but omitted Frame’s less-than-impressive handling of the Quintette coal project in British Columbia’s Peace River area in the 1980s.

Frame was in charge, and the project suffered numerous setbacks, partly because Denison had scrimped on exploratory drilling and dug the pit in the wrong place.  Denison wrote off its $240-million investment and bankers swallowed a $700-million loss.  Frame was fired as Denison’s president in March 1985.  “Blue chip credentials?”  Hardly.

MacAdam’s attempt to portray Frame as a victim – and his insistence that Frame have his “dignity” restored – reads like a twisted tale of woe.

Westray disaster a reminder
of patronage, political interference Letter to the Editor
The Cape Breton Post, 19 May 2012

I write in response to Pat MacAdam’s article about the Westray coal mine disaster (Dark day remembered, May 5, 2012)

MacAdam boasts that Clifford Frame and Donald Cameron were among the powerful men who “chose to break their silence,” giving MacAdam the inside story on what really happened in that fatally unregulated, patronage-built workplace.

Has MacAdam forgotten that mine owner Frame and his top Ontario managers went to court to avoid testifying at the inquiry in the first place?

Has MacAdam forgotten that Cameron, former premier of Nova Scotia, blamed the fatal systemic failure of his labour department on individual men, asking who “was pressing the reset button” on the safety devices?

Maclean’s magazine described the conclusion of the former premier’s testimony this way: “…Cameron, now Canada’s consul general in Boston, sprinted down a hallway, giddily taunting reporters with the words ‘what a bunch of fools,’ as he climbed into a waiting car.”

Justice Peter Richard, who conducted the Nova Scotia inquiry, was well aware of unsafe practices in the Westray mine; he traced those to a disdain for coal mine culture by Curragh Resources managers and to systemic complicity by the provincial government.

“The Westray Story: a predictable path to disaster,” the report of the public inquiry, expresses Richard’s scathing assessment of both management and regulators.  Along with political pressure on the labour department to ease up on the mine so that mine management could meet production demands, Richard’s report found: “Westray managers not only failed to promote and nurture any kind of a safe work ethic but actually discouraged any meaningful dialogue on safety issues.  Management did so through an aggressive and authoritarian attitude towards the employees…”

The powerful men who MacAdam boasts “chose to break their silence” made their crucial choices 20 years ago, when they chose either to evade or to mock Nova Scotians’ expectation that they account for the disastrous failure of regulation in the Westray coal mine.

MacAdam would do well to reread Shaun Comish’s book “The Westray Tragedy: A Miner’s Story” before he makes easy judgments about the crushing of coal mine safety culture on Cameron’s, Frame’s and Curragh Resources’ watch.

The deaths of 26 men in the Westray mine should stand as a reminder that patronage and political interference in regulatory bodies are not only deadly, but they threaten the very fibre of our democratic community.

Archived copies of this webpage

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Westray Coal Mine Disaster Westray Coal Mine Disaster
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More Nova Scotia history
These links were accessed and found to be valid
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Go To:   Westray in Hansard, 1987-1999

Go To:   Westray in Hansard, 2000-2010

Go To:   Fifty Westray Clippings

Go To:   Criminal Trial (Pictou):   Index to Transcript

Go To:   Public Inquiry (Stellarton):   Index to Transcript

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Westray Coal Mine Disaster: 15th anniversary, 9 May 2007
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Westray Coal Mine Disaster: September-October 2010
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2010 Oct 13-14   rescue 33 trapped miners, Copiapo, Chile

Westray Coal Mine Disaster: July-August 2007
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2007 Aug 06   six coal  miners  trapped,  Crandall Canyon Mine, Utah
2007 Aug 10   three miners killed, Gibson County Coal Mine, Indiana
2007 Aug 16   three coal miners killed,  Crandall Canyon Mine, Utah
2007 Aug 17   172 coal miners trapped, Shandong province, China

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