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When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Anthracite Mine

Anthracite, Alberta. [ca. 1887-1889] The Canadian Anthracite Coal Company opened their Anthracite Mine in 1886 with hopes of supplying the Canadian Pacific Railway in the Banff area. Initially, the small operation was profitable, employing 200 workers by 1887. However, it wasn’t long before the English-owned company ran into unexpected financing problems. Difficulties began as miners dug deeper into the vein, quickly discovering the seams were too steep and narrow. In addition, the coal market was experiencing a downturn, and costs were beginning to outstrip revenues. After a year of losses, Canadian Anthracite knew it was in trouble and closed their operations in1890.

The mine would have closed for good if it were not for W. H. McNeill. McNeill saw an opportunity in the Banff area and worked a deal to save the troubled mine and company in 1891. After only a one year layoff, workers were only too happy to return to work.

The mine continued to operate for several years, but the old problems of high operating costs still remained. Also, two major floods in 1894 and again in 1897 further setback the Anthracite Mine. The second flood caused the most extensive damage, as the waters crested so high that the flood entered the mine. The initial two metre wave was so unexpected that the entire mule and horse population could not be saved. The floods convinced McNeill to consider moving operations, and by 1904 he closed the Anthracite Mine.

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