New Zealand’s biggest coal producer in the 1880s, Brunner Mine is sadly most remembered for its 1896 accident that instantly killed 65 men in one coal gas explosion. Still the country’s worst workplace disaster, it shattered families, shook the nation and sparked West Coast unionism and better safety legislation.
Stand at the eerie mine entrance and at the top of the 65-step memorial. Let the lives buried in the mass grave and lost at other mining tragedies such as Pike River 2010, fuel us all to never settle on workplace safety.
Today, marvel at what remains. A lush green stop off the main road, this compact site straddles both sides of the Grey River, joined by a classic suspension bridge and boasting a large, diverse range of mining remnants.
A big producer of coal and coal by-products such as coke and firebricks, the dangers faced at Brunner Mine were many, from lung dust and rock falls to poisonous and explosive gas. Walk through the industrial ruins, see some of the last remaining beehive coke ovens, and picture the 300 families in 1901 that lived and breathed Brunner Mine.