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Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia
When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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When Coal Was King

Coal mine, Bankhead, Alberta. [n.d.]Welcome to When Coal was King: Coal Mining in Western Canada—a multimedia resource that explores the history and contributions of this important industry. Coal’s story in Western Canada begins in the age of the dinosaurs 245 million years ago when Canada was a tropical paradise. Over eons, the plants died, were compressed, heated and left behind nuggets of "black gold" in the plains, hills and mountains of the Canadian West.

Fast-forward to the early 19th century and industrialization and you can see the importance of this resource to national building. The railway age came to Canada in the 1820s and 1830s with small spur lines being developed in Central Canada. At the time of Confederation in 1867, the Government of Canada knew that, to link the country from East to West, a national railway system was required. Coal was needed to fuel the railways and the communities that would develop around them. The building of the Canadian Pacific Railway opened up the West for settlement and industrial development.

Historic store frontages in Coleman, Alberta.This site is the first phase of a multi-phase project that will result in a national website that explores coal mining—past, present and future. Text, images, audio and video are used to tell a compelling story. The website is a part of the Year of the Coal Miner project, a major education and awareness campaign involving Alberta and British Columbia partners.

Search the site and find out about the:

Industry—This section profiles the natural history and science as well as providing regional and mine profiles.

People and Communities—This section explores the social landscape including immigration patterns, the people of the coal mines and their communities.

Issues and Challenges—This section examines the historical and contemporary issues surrounding the industry including health and safety, disasters, politics and labour unrest as well as environmental challenges.

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