When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Coal Stocks

Western Plains

As soon as coal mining began in the Lethbridge district, it was realized that the coal had poor keeping qualities if stored in the open air. At first coal sheds (above) were constructed at Dunmore, on the main line of the CPR, because that was where coal was trans-shipped from the narrow gauge cars of coal from Lethbridge into standard gauge cars and then to customers. The construction of coal sheds was too expensive. A system quickly evolved whereby coal was mined when orders were received. At Lethbridge, where demand was subject to the whims of thousands of domestic coal users, it meant full-time work for miners for about five months, then two- or three-day work weeks or even lengthy lay-offs. In the early 1950s, experiments were conducted by Galt Mine No. 8 on methods of storing coal to try and level out the yearly demand curve. A system whereby lump coal was stored in windrows, then covered with slack, worked well and was used to a limited extent at Lethbridge, more successfully in the Drumheller coalfield.Coal is present in relatively horizontal seams in the prairies of central and southern Alberta and southern Saskatchewan. The seams, which may be several kilometres in both length and width, are usually uniform in thickness throughout. The readily accessible plains coal occurs near the surface, overlain by shallow layers of glacial till, soil or rock.

Foothills and mountain regions

The mountainous regions, which straddle the Alberta-British Columbia boundary, contain extensive coal reserves. The geological settings in the foothills and mountain regions are more diverse than those of the plains and seams up to 15 metres thick have been found. However, unlike the plains, the mountain and foothills seams are often more deeply buried, steeply inclined, and faulted.

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