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Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia
When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Assorted mining equipment, Crowsnest Museum.The technological requirements of coal mining helped shape the industry. During most of the period, surface mining methods were not financially efficient, except when coal seams were located very close to the surface and easily reached through the overburden. For this reason, the industry relied primarily on underground techniques which had been developed in Europe and adapted earlier elsewhere in North America. These methods were very costly, entailing a reliance on skilled manual labour, supplemented only partially by mechanical improvements.

Mechanization was introduced to differing degrees in the mountains and plains branches of the coal industry. Underground, it was utilized more widely in the plains mines than in the mountains, where steeply-inclined seams made the introduction of machines difficult, and encouraged the development of specialized, primarily manual, techniques at the coal face. On the surface, however, coal preparation facilities tended to be more greatly mechanized at mountain mines, in order to deal with a product of unpredictable quality and to meet market requirements. To facilitate evaluation of coal mining sites, this section will look first at underground operations at a typical site, and then at the surface plant that supported them, and readied the product for market.

William N.T. Wylie, "Coal-Mining Landscapes: Commemorating Coal Mining in Alberta and Southeastern British Columbia," a report prepared for the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Parks Canada Agency, 2001.

See Also: The Coal Industry—Overview, Rapid Expansion, Domestic and Steam Coalfields, 1914-1947: The Struggling Industry, Collapse and Rebirth, Settlement of the West, Issues and Challenges—Overview, Entrepreneurship, Technology, Underground Techniques, Surface Technology, Surface Mining, Social Impacts, Unions, 1882-1913: Unionization and Early Gains, 1914-1920: Revolutionary Movement, 1921-1950s: Labour Unrest and Setbacks, Mining Companies, People of the Coal Mines, The Middle Class, Miners and Local Government, Politics and Economics , Environmental Impacts, Health and Safety—Overview, The State and Labour Relations, The State and Development after 1918

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