by Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D.
The heyday of coal mining in Alberta came to an end when Leduc #1 came in in 1947 hailing a new economic era in Alberta built on oil and natural gas. Coal ceased to be the fuel of choice for both industrial and domestic users. The Midland once had four mines operating, Midland # 1 and #2, the Western Gem and the Brilliant. The Midland Mine #2 closed in the 1950s. The Rosedale and Star Mines operated from 1916 to 1944.
The last operating mine in the Drumheller Valley was Atlas # 4 Coal Mine, which operated for a number of years with ever-declining production. Only 60 men were employed in 1972 working only 84 days per year. It was finally closed in 1979. East Coulee, once boasting a population of 3,000, at the time of publication of
The Hills of Home (1973) had 150 residents. According to Chrissie Sinclair, who wrote the East Coulee profile in the book, remaining citizens commute to Drumheller for jobs or work in the local Penitentiary.
The Atlas Coal Mine site basically remained intact and it has been designated a National Historic Resource as a result of initiative on the part of local preservationists. Buildings, machinery, company records, photographs, miners' houses- all help to tell the story of coal mining in the Valley. The Patrick family, the Mine's owners, donated the entire site, which is now operated by a non-profit society and is seasonally open (mid-May to Labour Day).