Bankside - A ghost mining town

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November 28th 2021
Published: December 6th 2021
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Bankhead is a ghost town which flanks Cascade Mountain and lies just south of Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park.

The Canadian Anthracite Company was the first to open a Cascade Mountain coal mine in Anthracite, Banff in 1886. The difficult slanted coal seams within Cascade Mountain led miners below the water table, causing water to flood into the mine. The Anthracite coal mine ceased operations in 1904.

The Canadian Pacific Railway had a voracious appetite for high-quality anthracite coal for its operations. The CPR thus formed the Pacific Coal Company, which began coal mining operations in Bankhead, Alberta in 1903.

While the supply of coal underneath Bankhead was plentiful, actually getting at it was another matter. Much of the stuff lay in difficult to access folding and faulted seams that forced miners to dig an inefficient 185-mile-plus network of tunnels and ventilation shafts underneath the town.

Bankhead was ultimately undone not by its coal but by poor relations between the miners and the railroad. In a decade known for its labor strikes, there were several walkouts in Bankhead that won the workers higher wages, but exacerbated the mine’s cashflow problems. An April
1922 strike broke the camel’s back, and CPR simply closed the coal mine. Since Bankhead was a company town all economic activity dried up with the mine, and the residents drifted away.

In 1930 the National Parks Act forbade future logging or mining in Banff, and Bankhead’s fate as a ghost town was locked in place.

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