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Crowsnest Pass

Almost 100 years ago the Canadian-American Coal and Coke Company opened the first Crowsnest Pass coal mine in Frank at the base of Turtle Mountain. A year later, in 1902, a mine was proposed at Hillcrest to the west, followed by sites at Lille, Breckenridge, Lund, Burmis, Coleman, Blairmore and Bellevue. The mines in the Crowsnest Pass, located in the most southerly of the major transportation passes that cross the Canadian Rockies between the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, enjoyed their most lucrative years before the start of the First World War. When the war came in 1914, many of the companies that relied on the sale of coke to Europe abruptly found themselves without a reachable market. After the war, sales continued to diminish as rail companies began to switch to diesel.

Slowly over the decades, one by one, each of the Crowsnest Pass coal mines closed. The last operating mine at Coleman closed in 1983. Since then, the remaining communities Frank (site of 1903 mountain landslide which killed at least 70 people), Bellevue, Coleman, Hillcrest and Blairmore have struggled on.

However, in recent years, outside developers, hoping to tap into a potentially lucrative ski/tourism industry, have moved in, avoiding past fears the once bustling coal-mining Pass would turn into a long line of ghost towns. Visitors, however, can still find scores of cola-mining reminders throughout the pass, from old mining site ruins to historic grave sites.