Mining for coal in Alberta has a storied past – by Duane McCartney (The Western Producer – November 13, 2020)

In central Alberta, near the banks of the Battle River, sit the remains of the Diplomat coal mine. The site was originally the homestead of Austing Bish and his four sons, who arrived in the Forestburg area from Oregon in 1905. The family farmed their homesteads and began to exploit the coal deposits in the Battle River Valley.

In the early days of coal mining, underground mines, also called gopher holes, were dug into coulee banks into seams of coal. Coal was removed by hand.

As the demand for coal increased, tunnels were used to create drift mines using the room and pillar technique to mine the coal. “Rooms” were areas where the coal had been removed and could be as long as 60 metres. Pillars were layers of coal left to support the overhead roof of layers of clay and topsoil.

Coal miners using picks and shovels would load small mining cars on wood or steel tracks and push or use horses to move the coal out of the mine. A team of six miners could load 25 tons of coal a day.

Later, shaft mines became popular. A hole was dug into the ground and the shaft mines used the room and pillar method for extraction.

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