Editorial: Mining Week 2014

Mining Week 2014 is happening from May 11 to 17, and you bet we're honouring it in the Elk Valley.

The first B.C. Mining Week took place 25 years ago in Vancouver. Today, the small celebration that began in Vancouver has now spread province wide to many communities across B.C. that are happy to be a part of recognizing how important the mining sector is to our province.

Mining Week 2014 is happening from May 11 to 17, and you bet we’re honouring it in the Elk Valley.

Mining plays not just an important role in our community, but an essential one. The industry creates jobs, supports businesses, and fosters growth in Fernie, Sparwood, Elkford, and the South Country. This week is a reminder to not only pay tribute to mining throughout B.C., but to celebrate how much it has helped our valley grow.

With the help of 20 Cape Breton coal miners, William Fernie started the area’s first mine up Coal Creek in 1897. Subsequently, Coal Creek slowly turned into a small town, including all of the necessary mining structures, entries, a small grouping of houses and duplexes, and four churches. As the Crowsnest Pass Coal Company grew, new mines were started at Michel-Natal in 1901, and at Morrissey in 1902. With the addition of the Hosmer mine, by 1908, there were four active underground mines in the Elk Valley. Along with the mines, came men eager for work. And with people now flooding to the area, the Elk Valley continued to grow.

However, it didn’t take long for trouble to arise. The first half of the 19th century found the mines dealing with poor conditions and production, several disasters and fatalities, and worker strikes. The 1950’s brought the emergence of oil as a more effective fuel source. Many of the mines shut down, and although a few managed to reopen shortly after, the Elk Valley struggled.

In the late 1960’s, with more advanced technology, open pit mining offered a resurgence for the area. Fast forward to 2008, Teck stepped in to take over the five Elk Valley mines, and today, ships metallurgical coal from the Elk Valley all over the world.

So as we celebrate Mining Week, take the time to remember the rich heritage of mining in the Elk Valley, while appreciating the men and women who have contributed to it. Without mining, and the millions of dollars it contributes to our economy, our towns simply wouldn’t exist.