1999.326.5 | Jacobs Mine (?), Thetford Mines, QC, about 1930
Jacobs Mine (?), Thetford Mines, QC, about 1930
About 1930, 20th century
Silver salts on paper
19.2 x 24 cm
Gift of Mr. Alfred Penhale Estate
This artefact belongs to :© Musée minéralogique et minier de Thetford Mines
Keys to History
At the turn of the 20th century, as asbestos pits became deeper, hand winches were replaced by cable derricks. Cables mounted on pulleys and connected to towers (or derricks) on either side of the pit were used to haul wooden bins up to the surface.
Cableway derricks made mining much easier, but they were dangerous. Bins regularly passed over the workers' heads and rocks often fell out. Sometimes, too, the suspension cable broke. Many injuries also occurred as bins were being loaded at the bottom of the pit or unloaded at the top. For example, if the derricks were operated carelessly, the bins could go back down too fast and crush the workers below.
Bins are being sent down a pit using cable derricks. They would come back up full of rock to be unloaded into cars like those that can be made out on the left.
The cable derrick system was used in all asbestos mines from the end of the 19th century until the 1930s. These towers and bins look a lot like those used at the Jacobs mine in Thetford Mines.
If this photo was indeed taken at the Jacobs mine, it probably dates from 1911. That year, the inspector of mines reported that this pit, in operation since the summer of 1909, had "nine cable towers, each powered by an electric winch."
During the First World War (1914-18), cable derrick operators were increasingly young, even though the law stipulated a minimum age of twenty for operating this kind of machine. It was also boys of fourteen to sixteen who acted as the intermediaries between the operators and the men loading the bins at the bottom of the pit. In this job, the slightest distraction could cause a signalling error and result in catastrophe.