by Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D.
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While the capital had to be found to establish the mines, once this was done, labour was required to develop and bring the product to market. It can be assumed that the profile of the workforce in southern Alberta mines was similar to that in other mining areas such as the Crow's Nest Pass. A royal commission study of the coal industry in 1919 noted the following makeup of the labour force:
- 90 percent of the workers in the Pass 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
This section of the Celebrating Alberta's Italian Community website draws on information in the excellent community history titled
The Hills of Home: The Drumheller Valley. As well, it draws on oral histories with seniors from Edmonton's Italian community done in the early 1970s and 1980s (see, Edmonton's Italian Community regional profile).
According to Myrtle Toshach and Bill Murphy, writing in The Hills of Home, important leases of land that initiated the coal mining boom were as follows:
- In 1911, J. Gouge leased 1,000 acres south of the river in the Newcastle district and he and his partner G. N. Coyle opened the first coal mine
- In 1912, the Drumheller Land Company took a lease south of the railway station.
It was the Newcastle Coal Co. shipped its first coal to Calgary on the Canadian Northern Railways and it went on to Vegreville to transfer to the CPR.
The second mine appears to have been opened by Col. S. L. McMullen on the north side of the river, Midland No. 1, also in 1912. This mine made use of ponies to pull the coal cars and they remained below ground until spring when the mine closed. Toshach and Murphy note that eight mines opened in 1912 including:
Rosedale (Moodie) Mine, located four miles downriver from Drumheller
- W.H. Hutchinson
- Callie Coal Co.
- John Neisner (wagon mine)
- Rosedeer in Wayne
- Col. Sam Drumheller mine.
They further note that, between 1912 and 1960, 124 mines were producing in the region. The smaller ones closed leaving the largest (34) to carry on. These included mines clustered around what became East Coulee:
- "Farmers" mine" opened by J.N. Murray at East Coulee in 1924 (this served local farmers and ranchers); this was later sold to W. McVeigh who made it into a big producer
L. Patrick bought the lease west of the Murray Mine and developed the Atlas Mine; this was owned and operated by Omer Patrick and was the last mine operating in the Valley as well as being the largest underground domestic coal mine in Canada
- A Mr.Bullock bought the lease further west of the Atlas Mine and developed the Empire Mine
- The lease west of the Murray Mine was purchased by T. McGarry and became the Aetna Mine.