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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Galt No. 1 and No. 2 Mines

Mouth of coal pit at Galt mine, Lethbridge, Alberta. [ca. 1885]The Northwestern Coal and Navigation Company Limited started commercial drift mining in 1882. The Company's mines were more sophisticated, employing skilled miners, mostly from Nova Scotia, and using the most up-to-date machinery and techniques. Miners were eequiped with protective hats and identification tags. Although basic techniques were used, mechanized drilling equipment helped to improve efficiency. Coal was hauled from the mine in ore cars drawn by mules or horses. The seam was quarried as far as 1,000 feet into the valley wall, the maximum distance possible with early ventilation techniques.

The first miners lived in the valley near the mine entrances. Eventually, this settlement became known as Coalbanks. The company town of Coalbanks flourished and faded in three short years, from October 1882 to October 1885.

The Northwestern Coal and Navigation Company Limited quickly established all of the facilities needed for the mining operation. By the end of 1883, four drift mines had been opened and a dock had been built into the Oldman River for barges to ship coal to the CPR mainline. Other company facilities included an office, store and sawmill. The Galt Company moved the community to the flats in 1885 and renamed the community Lethbridge. In 1893, the Galt Company closed the riverbottom drift mines in favour of large scale operations on the flats.

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