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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Part of the rotary carbonizer assembly, used in making a semi-coke called Char What was the worst job at the mine? Most would say it was work at the coke ovens. Men who held this job were exposed to sweltering heat and poisonous gases.

It took as much as 48 hours to bake coal into coke. Each man assigned to this task emptied and filled three ovens in the course of a long day. Five to ten tons of coal went into each oven. The work was backbreaking and it didn't stop, regardless of the weather. Working the coke ovens was an important job at the Elk Valley, BC and Crowsnest Pass, AB mines. Coke was a valuable product and the bituminous coal at these mines was perfect for coking.

At the height of production, some mines used hundreds of coke ovens! When smelters in BC closed during the 1920s, the demand for coke was reduced. The loss of the BC market signaled the end of an era for many producers.

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