Nanaimo coal mine interior
As mentioned previously, coal mining was the main business in Nanaimo from the 1850's to the Second World War. In the early days, surface coal was dug by native labourers and taken by scow to ships waiting in the harbour. When the H.B.C. coal operations were purchased by the V.C.M. & L. Co. in 1862, coal production expanded tremendously. The company developed underground operations at the Douglas Mine on Protection Island and the Fitzwilliam Mine on Newcastle Island. The largest coal seam was the Newcastle Seam. It was two miles wide and one and one-half miles long. Miles of tunnels such as the one pictured here crisscrossed the land beneath Nanaimo, Nanaimo Harbour, and Protection and Newcastle Islands.