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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Ghost Towns

View of Wayne, Alberta. There are numerous factors that allowed for some coal mining towns to endure, while others suffered and perished, leaving behind skeletons where there once was life. In deciding what constitutes a ghost town, noted Alberta historian Harold Fryer expanded his definition to include any town that "once had a considerable population, but has since diminished in size and some or all businesses are closed." By this classification, a great deal of Alberta's former coal mining communities are ghost towns.

Upon visiting any ghost mining town today, one notices what little remains. Gone are the coal companies that built up the towns, the miners also long since left. When consumers replaced coal with diesel and the coal market dried up worldwide, many mining communities became ghost towns that left no impression at all.

Greenhill - Bob OwenThe progression from boom town to ghost town became familiar to most mining communities. While prices and demand for their product were high, coal companies moved quickly to develop new seams. It took as little as a few months to build a town, import a population, and get the mines started. To provide services for the populations, businesses, schools, and churches were established in the community.

If a coal company could build a town in short order, it could close it down just as a quick. Mines often endured fluctuating coal prices, and limited production when prices fell. However, when annual losses surged and costs rose, companies closed the mines for good. With no jobs, the majority of miners left town, looking elsewhere for further opportunities.

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