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

Coal miners lined up in the Crowsnest Pass area, Alberta. [ca. 1915]The Crowsnest Pass was one of the most difficult areas to mine. The mountainous terrain presented problems that miners from other areas in Alberta never encountered including the threat of gas explosions. Despite these dangers and limitations, thousands of immigrants came to work in the mines of the Pass. While the steady paying work would have been an incentive, the beauty of the mountains and the outdoor life style would have been enormously attractive as well.

Good information about the makeup of the mine work force is available in a royal commission study of the coal industry in 1919, which noted the following makeup of the labour force in the Crowsnest Pass::

  • 90 percent of the workers were immigrants

  • 34 percent were British

  • 23 percent were Slovak

  • 14.5 percent were Italian

  • 7 percent were French and Belgian

  • 2 percent were Russian

  • 8.5 percent were "other European"

  • 1 percent were American 1

This section introduces representatives of some of these ethnocultural groups their contributions to coal mining industry. The community histories are rich with family stories and photographs that document their lives and contributions. These include hunting and fishing trophies as well as mountain pastimes such as hiking and rock climbing.

Heritage Trails No. 343—Coal Mining: The Miners

Listen as historian Pat Myers talks about some of these brave and hardworking individuals who worked in the Crowsnest Pass region of the province during the early years.

Click here to listen!

Watch Ray Lazzarotto narrate through the illnesses and other dangers that miners suffered, as well as the things they loved about mining, in this video produced by CFCN Television.

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