Coal ships in Nanaimo harbour
It is estimated that fifty million tons of coal were mined in the Nanaimo area. As new mines were opened, the tonnage increased dramatically. When the V.C.M. & L. Co. bought out the H.B.C. interests in 1862, only 55,000 tons of coal had been mined. In 1893, 900,000 tons were mined, and in the record year of 1923, over 1,000,000 tons of coal were shipped from the Nanaimo area. The demand for coal dropped after 1923, however. Competition from coal mines in Australia, Britain, and the interior of B.C.; the economic Depression of the 1930's; labour unrest; and the changeover from coal to oil as the major fuel for shipping all contributed to the decline of coal production. By the end of World War II, almost no coal ships docked in Nanaimo. Most of the large mines were closed and the remainder were operated by only two or three independent miners.