Underground coal mining was a skilled
trade that required, experience and intelligence as well as
physical stamina. Miners often began work as boys of 12 or 14
and spent a life time digging coal. As a man gained experience,
he could take stringent provincial examinations to gain his
Third Class, Second Class or First Class Miner's Certificate.
Courses were available for the advanced certificates through
correspondence schools such as the Bennett College of Sheffield,
England, the International Correspondence School of London,
England and Scranton, Pennsylvania, and the Calgary Institute of
Technology and Art
Miners who aspired to a Third Class
Certificate (or higher rating) also had to have a St. John's
Ambulance first aid certificate and a mine rescue certificate.
Most miners were satisfied with a
simple miners certificate which permitted them. to work at the
coal face in the mine. This
qualification was usually attained by passing an oral
examination from the District Mines Inspector.
A Third Class Certificate, granted if the
miner passed a day of written, provincial exams, enabled a
miner to be in charge of 10 men and to work
as a fire boss in smaller mines. A Second Class
Certificate permitted a miner to be a
foreman, overman or under-manager. He could be a shift boss
working under an under-manager who would have
at least equivalent qualifications.
A miner, with an advanced certificate,
could become a Fire Boss who supervised a shift of miners
working underground. He was also responsible for testing the air
for the presence of methane. For this, he carefully monitored
the flame in his safety lamp, a device designed to provide a
safe way of testing for gas underground.
A First Class Certificate, the most
difficult to attain and requiring three days of detailed
examinations, meant that the person could be the manager of any
coal mine in British Columbia. Curiously, the British Columbia
and Alberta ministries of mines did not recognize each other's
certificates and for a miner to work in senior positions in
another province he had to take that province's exams. For
miners working in the Crowsnest Pass where there were mines
within a few miles of each other but separated by the provincial
boundary, they could not easily work back and forth from one
province to the other.
Miner's Roles and Responsibilities.