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Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia
When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Coal Mining

Mohawk Tipple - Bob OwenBetween the 1880s and the early 1950s, "coal was king" and its mining determined the well being of communities—not just those associated with mine sites but also rail and industrial centres. The mining of coal was a part of a national agenda that involved the encouragement of immigration, the building of railways and industrialization of Western Canada. The finding of coal, its extraction, processing and adaptation for various industrial uses were part of an intricate process that involved government, management, workers and the entire community. Not just mine sites and camps but entire communities were dependent on the mine. Company towns ranged from shacks under the shadow of tipples to model communities with opera houses, libraries and other amenities.

Historic mine preservation, like this site, has become a major focus of the coal ConsortiumToday these early industrial sites are in decline and, in many locations, have even disappeared. For example, the Government of British Columbia to encourage tourism based on pristine mountain scenery erased the coalmining towns of Natal and Michel. In the Crowsnest Pass, there are a number of designated historic sites but these are decaying. The challenge of preserving and interpreting the industrial heritage is enormous but, if we neglect it, we lose that sense of struggle and overcoming of odds that is a part of our history. The fact that industries cease to be important for economic and technological reasons does not diminish their importance to community story and the evolution of technology. As well, the mines were important in the struggle for workers rights and miners in Western Canada were among the most militant.

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