Bellevue Mine - Crowsnest Pass - Hiking Alberta

Crowsnest Pass has a rich, coal mining, history in southern Alberta, Canada.

In the Crowsnest Pass, a string of small towns, created by the coal mining industry in the early 1900's, stretches west through the mountain pass at the southwest corner of Alberta and into British Columbia, Canada.

Bellevue Mine Old coal cars at Bellevue Mine with infamous Turtle Mountain in the background

 

What is now called the Crowsnest Pass was still part of the Northwest Territories until the Province of Alberta was established in 1905

The Bellevue Mine, in the shadow of infamous Turtle Mountain, began production in December, 1903, when West Canadian Collieries purchased a large tract of land in this coal-rich area.  Over the next 58 years more than 13 million tons of coal were extracted from the Bellevue Mine with the majority of the output allocated to the Canadian Pacific Railway's steam-powered locomotives.  

On December 9, 1910, 31 of 42 men lost their lives in a methane gas explosion triggered by sparks from falling rock.  If this tragedy had occurred only a few hours earlier, the loss of life could have been greater than the infamous explosion of the Hillcrest Mine on the other side of Crowsnest Pass.  Rescue efforts of heroic proportion prevented the entire shift from losing their lives.  Repairs and labour strife kept the mine closed until 1912.

Bellevue Mine An old coal mining car outside the entrance to the Bellevue Mine

 

Due to insufficient demand, this huge coal mining operation closed in January of 1961, after a long history of mine explosions and labour interruptions.  Most of the tunnel complex is flooded with water.  Millions of tons of coal remain buried deep underground. 

Towards the end of major mining activity in Crowsnest Pass, the Bellevue tipple continued processing coal from strip mining on Grassy Mountain until it was dismantled in 1962.

Bellevue Mine A large mine ventilation turbine exhibit outside the entrance to Bellevue Mine

 

In 1991, the Bellevue Underground Mine Tour was established, with artifacts displayed inside and outside the mine entrance, preserving decades of mining history.  Experienced and knowledgeable interpreters provide fascinating oratory on the tour into the first 400 metres (437 yards) of the mine that was 240 KM (150 miles) of complex, tiered tunnel at maximum development. 

Guests, outfitted with miners' helmets and genuine battery operated mining lamps, are taken into the cool temperatures of the mine to receive graphic description of how the angular coal seams were mined. 

Dave and I leave with a whole new respect for the miners who worked within the perpetual threat of methane and coal dust explosions, roof collapses, shifting rock (bumps), coal bursts and asphyxiation from oxygen depletion or carbon monoxide.  It was very risky business and between 1903 and 1961 the Bellevue Mine claimed the lives of 67 men.

Bellevue Mine Bellevue Mine exhibit outside the mine entrance

 

Bellevue Mine Approaching the entrance to the Bellevue Mine

 

Bellevue Mine The entrance to the Bellevue Mine

 

Bellevue Mine The entrance to the Bellevue Mine

 

Bellevue Mine Our knowledgeable tour guide inside Bellevue Mine

 

Bellevue Mine Coal car exhibit inside Bellevue Mine

 

Bellevue Mine Tools of the trade museum inside the Bellevue Mine

 

Bellevue Mine Dave and yours truly at the entrance of the Bellevue Mine

 

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Comments

The Bellevue Underground Mine Tour is definitely worth the time. They have assembled and restored a lot of period mining equipment. I found it to be a very humbling and educational experience and recommend it highly. Next time you're nearby, Laurel.

I'm embarrassed to admit I haven't done this tour either despite growing up so close to it, but it does look interesting and mining is an important part of the Crowsnest Pass' history.

It was a unique and frantic time in history. The railroads played a major role in the development of North America. There were many environmental health issues related to mining coal. It was dirty, dangerous work but the invaluable contribution to our country's future prospects stand proud.

Love the antiquated coal cars and all the relics of the bad old days of coal mining. It is sad to see industry die; however, I'll bet when the mine was shut down the miners didn't mind missing the opportunity to develop black lung disease.

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