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Home > History of Development > Early Industry: Case Studies > Edmonton Coal Mining > Humberstone Mines

Early Industry Case Studies

The Humberstone Mines

William Humberstone delivering first load of Humberstone coal in 1880, Edmonton, Alberta. One of the earliest, largest and most significant town mines was opened by William Humberstone in about 1880. Humberstone was born near Toronto in 1836, moved to the Edmonton district from Winnipeg in 1880, and opened one of the first coal mines and the first Alberta brickyard, during 1880–1881. His first drift was excavated at the bottom of Grierson Hill, and he built his own road up the hill to make deliveries to the Edmonton settlement. The Edmonton Bulletin called his coal "the best from any of the drifts near town."

During the winter, Humberstone mined, and in the summer his crew and horses were used to manufacture bricks. His coal fueled the kilns, located nearby. In September 1896, he opened a second drift, sometimes employing ten men to work the three-foot seam. This operation averaged 700 tonnes per year. In 1898 the Territorial Deputy Commissioner of Mines warned Humberstone to improve the working conditions; the following year the mine was provided with an adequate ventilation shaft and a second safe exit. This mine (No. 6) went out of operation in 1903.

In 1896, the Humberstone ferry commenced operation. J. Milner's coal sold at $1.70 per tonne; Humberstone's superior coal sold for $1.80 per tonne. He and John Walter were supplying Edmonton with lumber by 1899, and in 1900 his coal sold for $2.25 per tonne. By this time, he was the major supplier to the town, selling nearly 16 tonnes in December 1901. In August 1904, he sold seven tonnes, at $2.40 per tonne. Soon after he sold the town four acres of land, and struck a deal to sell it at $1.50 per tonne, and slack at $0.25 per tonne.

Kenneth Tingley. Coal Mining in Alberta: An Introduction to Changes in Coal-Mining Technology in the Plains and Parkland Areas, 1872-1955. n.p.: Reynolds-Alberta Museum. With permission from the Reynolds-Alberta Museum.

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