Fifty-five years ago this week Lethbridge changed forever as on 12 February 1957, Galt Mine No. 8 was closed/abandoned. The mine, opened in 1935, had over its 22 years produced a total of 3 187 403 tonnes of coal and provided jobs for many local men.
Technically known as Mine No. 1464, there were plans as early as 1908 to start a coal mine up on the height of the coulee immediately west of Lethbridge. But plans would change when the June 1908 flood delayed the High Level Bridge by approximately a year and slowed down access to that location.
So the company instead went ahead with Galt No. 6 mine at Hardieville, opening that mine in 1908/1909. The Hardieville mine would run until 1935.
Many people have an odd notion that recycling is somehow a new concept. When the Hardieville mine closed in 1935, 50 men worked to take down the tipple (main frame) at Hardieville and move it by rail to the site on the west side of the river. The building was redesigned on the new location as additional equipment was added. This newly constructed tipple still towers over the old Galt 8 site.
Opening of Galt No. 8 mine was unfortunately sped up when a disaster/explosion rocked the Coalhurst mine on 9 December 1935 (killing 16 miners). The Coalhurst mine closed 1 April 1936 and many of the workers moved to the new mine. The Coalhurst water tower was moved to the No. 8 mine site.
Because of its location, some extra care had to be taken in the mine. A pillar of coal was deliberately left under the railway tracks and high level bridge. I have to admit I was very glad when I read that!
The mine also had the reputation over the years of being one of if not the wettest mine in Alberta.
These photographs show some of the work being done in the mine. In the early mines, few photographs were taken because of concerns related to flashes and fires/explosions. With these photographs a gas detector meter was used just prior to the photography to ensure that the flash would not cause any concerns.
When the mine closed in February 1957, 500 empty mine cars were lined up in storage on the prairie -- a silent testament to the work that had ended. The Shaughnessy Mine would continue for approximately another 8 years but the Galt 8 was the last mine to operate inside what is now the City of Lethbridge.
Symbolically, among the last of the men to surface from the Galt No. 8 in February 1957 were Alex Veres, Louis Slotta, George Latvat, Joseph Rapach, Tony Norgusta and Mike Zizich -- all members of the original 1935 crew.
To this day, 55 years after it closed, Galt No. 8 stands as one of the most familiar sites in Lethbridge to many of our residents.