When George Mercer Dawson first reported on the rich Cascade
Coal Basin, prospectors and entrepreneurs clamored to the Bow
Valley. Success was first proclaimed by William McCardell and
Frank McCabe, who had discovered a coal seam in 1885.
Their discovery led to the No. 1 mine opening at
Anthracite opened its mine in an area once located
near present-day Banff. The small operation was
initially profitable and expanded to employ 200 workers by 1887. However, it wasnt
long before the English-owned Canadian Anthracite Coal Company
ran into unexpected financing problems. Difficulties began as
miners dug deeper into the vein and quickly discovered the seams
were too steep and narrow. In addition, the coal market was
experiencing a downturn and production levels needed to be
dropped. With losses mounting the mine shut
down by 1904.
While operations closed in Anthracite, the Canadian the
Pacific Railway (CPR) was just beginning its operation at
Bankhead. Initial reaction to Bankhead coal was positive
considering it made good locomotive steam and briquetting coal.
However like Anthracite, the Bankhead mine failed. On June 15,
1922, the mine closed, forcing its residents to find new homes
and jobs. The postwar depression, combined with a strike and
political pressure to stop industry in the national park, forced
the CPR to close the town.
Georgetown mine was also another failure. Soon after the
Georgetown operation opened in 1913, difficulties surfaced for
the English Investing Company that owned the mine. The
problem was that mine produced bituminous coal, which was not
being bought by the CPR along the main route. The lack of
market, along with a flood and rising production costs, forced
the mine to sell to Canmore Mines Ltd. in 1916, which closed the
mine and abandoned the village. Most of the 200 residents then
moved to Canmore.
Canmore could have easily become a ghost town as well.
Initially, the town sold almost all of its coal to the Canadian
Pacific Railway. The market proved unstable and the mines
endured a harsh boom and bust cycle. By the end of the 1930s,
Canmore had experienced the demise of nearby mines, the
increased demand brought on by the First World War, and the
Depression. However, by the 1960s, Canmore faced its biggest
threat when diesel replaced coal as the main fuel for trains. Enduring for several more years, Canmore Mines closed
on 13 July 1979.
Saving Canmore from ruin was a new economy powered by tourism
and land development. The
1988 Calgary Olympics proved to be the
biggest boon for the town, as various alpine events drew crowds
to the area. As a result, the community experienced explosive
growth and change in the 1990s.