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Alberta Online Encyclopedia
When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Alberta Coal Studies
There have been several studies of considerable interest to Alberta's coal industry. These tended to fall into five groups, as follows:
  1. Studies of Alberta's coal industry as a whole: Four Royal Commissions were set up at one time or another to study all important aspects of mining, distribution, marketing, labor relations, and use of Alberta's coal resources. These included the Arthur L. Sifton Commission (1907), the John T. Stirling Commission (1919), the H. M. E. Evans Commission (1926), and the Right Honorable Sir Montague Barlow Commission (1936). Reports of these studies provide a detailed look at Alberta's coal industry in the various years mentioned. Stirling, Evans and Barlow identified a major problem as "too many mines and too few markets."
  2. Inquiries into disasters: Authorities were satisfied with the verdict of a coroner's jury, brought down on 14 January 191 I, in connection with the Bellevue mine explosion, which killed 31 men. Commissions of inquiry were held in connection with the Hillcrest mine disaster, which killed 189 men (Carpenter, 1914), and the Coalhurst mine explosion, which killed 16 men (Lunney, 1936).
  3. Studies and analyses of coal to set standards acceptable to both producers and consumers: These included analyses and investigations by Edgar Stansfield, Robert T. Hollies and William P. Campbell on behalf of the Scientific Research Council of Alberta (1925); the Dinning Commission of R.J. Dinning, chairman, R. G. Drinnan, W. F. McNeill, and E. Stansfield, with J. A. Ellis, the Fuel Controller for Ontario (1928); and analyses of Alberta coal by Messrs. Nichols and Mowers for the Dominion Department of Mines (1935). The emphasis throughout was on the Ontario market and on the keeping qualities of Alberta coal. None succeeded in establishing acceptable standards for either producers or consumers. An earlier study in 1921 saw Howard Stutchbury, Alberta Trade Commissioner, survey the possibilities of extending the market for Alberta coal into Manitoba, where there was a strong prejudice against the quality of western coal. Stutchbury suggested a carefully planned and vigorous campaign of advertising.
  4. Canadian studies of interest to Alberta coal producers: A few examples are the deliberations of the Francis William Carroll Commission on the coal industry of Canada (1947), two commissions of inquiry into the Nova Scotia coal industry by Sir Andrew Duncan (1926, 1932), a Royal Commission presided over by Hon. Mr. Justice W. F. A. Turgeon on the coal mining industry of Saskatchewan (1935), and a Royal Commission presided over by Hon. Mr. Justice M. A. Macdonald on the coal mining industry of British Columbia (1938).
  5. Peripheral studies of interest to Alberta coal producers: These include the report of the hydroelectric power commission of Ontario (1924); the investigation into the Spray River, Alberta, power project (1925); and the investigation into the Edmonton, Alberta, power situation (1927). None of these studies, nor the knowledge they provided, could prevent the gradual collapse of the Lethbridge industry as markets shrunk and finally vanished, and coal was replaced by other fuels.Lethbridge Its Coal Industry

This article is drawn from Lethbridge: Its Coal Industry by Alex Johnston, Keith G. Gladwyn and L. Gregory Ellis (Lethbridge: City of Lethbridge, Lethbridge Historical Society, Occasional Paper No. 20, 1989). The Heritage Community Foundation and the Year of the Coal Miner Consortium would like to thank the authors and the City of Lethbridge, which is the Year of the Coal Miner lead, for permission to reprint this material.

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