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

Lake Minnewanka or Devil's Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta. [ca. 1880s]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. The area contains 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. The combination of geology, expansion of the railways, and settlement incentives spurred immigration into the area. Many 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, work in the mines and urban areas. Others worked in tourism-related enterprises including hotels, restaurants and other aspects of the hospitality industry.

Wayne Hubman looks back at the feeling of camaraderie between miners, the appreciation for sunshine, and the enjoyment he and previous generations of his family received from working in the mines, in this video produced by CFCN Television.

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