Probing Nova Scotia’s 1992 Westray coal mine disaster

On May 8, 1992, twenty-six men went underground to work the night shift at the Westray coal mine in Pictou County, Nova Scotia. They never came back. The massive explosion that claimed their lives the next morning sent shock waves across North America and around the world.

Calculated Risk is the only comprehensive account of the worst mine disaster in modern Canadian history. It recounts the stories of the miners who died and the families they left behind, as well as the corporate and political machinations behind the development of the ill-fated mine. The product of two years of research and featuring exclusive interviews with key figures in the tragedy, the book exposes the safety lapses, political intrigues, and business decisions that culminated in disaster.

Calculated Risk

Calculated Risk: Greed, Politics and the Westray Tragedy
(Nimbus Publishing, 1994)

By Dean Jobb

In September 2011 J-Source (the Canadian Journalism Project) selected Calculated Risk as one of the Top 27 books every journalism student should read — a list that includes classics such as Capote’s In Cold Blood and Woodward and Bernstein’s All the President’s Men.

Winner of the City of Dartmouth Book Award, runner up for the National Business Book Award and shortlisted for the Evelyn Richardson Memorial Literary Award for Non-Fiction.

Copies available at AbeBooks or from the author at

Praise for Calculated Risk

“A damning account of the Westray tragedy … a stunning book that proves that Jobb can dig as well as any Pictou County miner …. Calculated Risk stands out as a powerful indictment of expediency taken to a senselessly tragic conclusion.”
— Report on Business Magazine

“An excellent book …. This is investigative journalism as it should be: meticulously researched, judiciously reported, and enthrallingly written.”
— Canadian Book Review Annual

“I couldn’t put the book down, mainly because of Jobb’s ability to portray the people in the tragedy, from the miners themselves to blame-denying managers, bureaucrats and politicians.”
— James Fleming, Financial Times of Canada

“Jobb … has meticulously documented the story of greed, politics and dependency that led to the Westray tragedy … you can feel – even taste – the gritty life of miners in an unsafe pit …. In effect, Jobb has done the inquiry’s task.”
— Books in Canada

“A thorough, coherent and compelling case history of the Westray disaster, befitting (Jobb’s) reputation as one of the country’s best crime writers.”
— Atlantic Books Today

“Jobb spins a tale of horrors … a triumph of reporting … a Herculean amount of research and interviewing … Jobb has ransacked so many files so thoroughly, and asked so many men and women so many penetrating questions that whatever the public inquiry eventually reveals may well seem like an anti-climax.”
— Harry Bruce, Halifax Chronicle Herald

“An important book …. A lot of hard, dogged work has gone into putting together this anatomy of a disaster.”
— Leo McKay Jr., author of the novel Twenty-Six, in the Sunday Daily News

“Saddens and outrages … a solid, readable primer on the coal-mining disaster that has dominated Nova Scotia public life.”
— Canadian Forum

“With painstaking diligence, Jobb pieced together a complex story that begins long before an explosion ripped through the mine …. It’s a tale of lax safety, wrenching heartbreak and a project driven to disaster by politics and greed.”
— The Canadian Press

“Written in a no-nonsense, here-are-the-facts style … focuses on the human elements of the tragedy which were trapped in a complex story of business and political deal-making … helps readers put the whole sad mess in perspective.”
— Sunday Daily News, Halifax