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Year of the Coal Miner September 2003 - 2004


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Ribbon of the Loggia Cesare Battisti at Nordegg belonging to Geno Poscente.  Photo courtesy of Guy Blasetti.Work in the mines was dangerous business and the Italian workers were maimed and killed along with their co-workers. A sampling of some accidents includes:

  • Fernie Fire of 1908. Photo courtesy of Glenbow Museum.Fernie, 50 miles from Bellevue-was the first settlement as a result of the arrival of the railway in the 1890s, and the site of many mine disasters including the Coal Creek explosion on May 22nd, 1902 which killed 128 of 800 men on shift and, again, on July 31st, 1908 when another explosion happened trapping 23 miners

  • Michel and Natal-1902, site of a fire in the mine that destroyed half of Michel; January 9th, 1904, another gas explosion in which seven men were killed; August 1st, 1908, the Fernie fire also threatened Michel but did no serious damage; finally, on July 5th, 1938, a thunderstorm appears to have caused an explosion in mine No. 3 with three fatalities

  • Coleman-founded in 1903 and designed as an ideal community, its mining tragedies included April 3, 1907 (three deaths), November 23, 1926 (10 deaths)

  • Photo of the coal-mining town of Frank, Alberta, taken on April 30, 1903, a day after the infamous rock slide.  Photo courtesy of Glenbow Archives.Frank-renowned for the Frank Slide, which happened at 4:10 am on April 29th, 1903; 90 million tons of rock broke away from the side of Turtle Mountain and crashed to the valley floor; destroyed the local coal company plant and houses; 76 people were killed

  • Hillcrest-halfway Hillcrest Mine.  Photo courtesy of Glenbow Archives.between Frank and Bellevue was the village of Hillcrest and its mine, which became infamous on Friday, June 19th, 1914 when 228 miners started the morning shift at 7 am; the mine had been opened in January, 1905 by a Montreal syndicate headed by Charles Plummer Hill; at 9:30 am a series of blasts occurred in No. 1 tunnel, 500 feet below the surface; besides the strength of the explosion and damage done to tunnels, poison gas (black damp) spread to adjoining tunnels and rooms; 188(189) men were killed of which 16 were Italian

  • Bellevue-east of the Frank Slide, was founded about 1900; on December 9th, 1910 a mine disaster killed 30 men; miners were unhappy in the way the insurance company, Trust and Guarantee Company, settled their claims

  • Coalhurst-mine explosion on December 9, 1935, which destroyed the mine and the business district of the town; 16 men died, among them were three Italians.

There is a terrible irony in the fact that many of the Italians mentioned in Toni Ross' community history book, Oh! The Coal Branch: A Chronicle of the Alberta Coal Branch are mentioned because they were involved in accidents and injured or killed.1 These include:

  • Victor Alleggretto-one of five miners killed when a torrent of water broke through panel pillars from an old mine working in Cadomin on August 5th, 1942

  • A. Bennedetti -one of three miners who escaped death on August 7th, 1942 when a torrent of water broke through panel pillars from an old mine working in Cadomin filling five miners

  • Enrico Carretti-was suffocated at the Cadomin mine on June 11th, 1931

  • Paul Ciputa-was killed in a cave in the Mountain Park Collieries with one other miner in 1940

  • Dan Spinazzi-and the two other miners killed in the methane gas explosion on the last working day in 1939.

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