The coal mining industry had a significant social impact on
two short-lived communities in the Banff and
and Bankhead. The labour force was small prior to the 1880s, but with mines
opening in Anthracite in 1886 and Canmore in 1887, new opportunities arose for immigrants. When word spread of jobs
in western Canada, a diverse group of immigrants from Britain and Continental
Europe came to the Rocky Mountains and added to the growing
A high proportion of the new immigrants were men with dreams
of making enough money to move on from mining. Many intended to bring their families from Europe and start a
ranch in the Alberta plains. The first generation of miners was
a highly mobile group that went from mine to mine in search of
available jobs. If one mine closed, miners easily picked
up and moved on to better opportunities. When the
Anthracite Mine closed in 1904, many miners
moved on to the
Bankhead Mine, which opened that same year.
The 1920s saw attitude changes in the Canmore area. The
next generation of miners was more likely to establish roots in
the community and form a more unified mining culture. Although
ethic affiliations still existed, there was a greater
need for miners to group together to further common interests.
Unions were a representation of the new solidarity and their
strength drew from miners' wanting better working conditions. Battles
between management and workers were commonplace and often
intensified with each new fight. Some of those battles were so
intense that the mutual mistrust could not be overcome. In 1922, Bankhead miners were on a prolonged eight-month
strike that crippled the already weak mine. Company officials
were desperate to get miners working, and threatened the union
with mine closure. Mistrust was so ingrained in the miners that
they failed to take the threat seriously. Unfortunately, the
ultimatum was real and the mine closed.
Of all the mining communities in the area, only Canmore
remains today. Many mining families moved to the town when
mines shut down in Anthracite, Georgetown and Bankhead.
The Canmore mine survived until July 13, 1979. There was a real
threat that Canmore too would disappear without the coal
industry; however, the growing
importance of mountain tourism ensured its survival and it now
has many second homes for Calgary business people as well as
others from further abroad.
Wayne Hubman looks back at the feeling of comraderie between
miners, the appreciation for sunshine, and the enjoyment he and
previous generations of his family received from working in the
mines, in this video produced by CFCN Television.