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Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia
When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Regional Profiles—Elk Valley

First ranchers in Elk Valley, British Columbia. [ca. 1905]The Rocky Mountains are North America's largest mountain system and comprise a significant portion of the border between Alberta and British Columbia in the southern half of the two provinces. At the time of Confederation in 1867, the mountains were a barrier to Canadian unity and needed to be traversed to unite all of Canada's regions and make the nation a reality. In fact, one of the conditions of B.C. joining confederation was a national railway needed to be built within ten years, or the province would succeed. There are two significant mountain passes and these comprise important railroad and highway routes: the Kicking Horse Pass, to the south, and the Yellowhead Pass to the north. Opening them to people and commerce is a significant episode of bringing the west into Confederation.

The Rocky Mountains and foothill region is rich in coal deposits as well as deposits of metals, such as tin, in the interior of British Columbia. Thus, geology, the expansion of the railways, the settlement of the West— allHistoric sign marking the coal mining communities of Natal and Michel in the Elk Valley, which were cleared by the Government of British Columbia. worked together to spur immigration from various countries at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Immigrants began to come to Canada at the end of the 19th century and the trickle became a stream at the beginning of the 20th century. They came to work in the building of the railroads and other construction, to work in forestry camps and, then, moved into work in the mines and urban areas. Read the exciting account of the heritage of the Elk Valley region of the Rockies, including Fernie, Michel and Natal and discover the personal stories of hard-working men and women in the following sections of the When Coal was King website.

Watch John Kinnear as he tells the story of coal mining in his family's history, including its evolution over three generations, in this video produced by CFCN Television.

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