Late in 1943 a man by the name of Sparks, who claimed to be an engineer, became interested in the possibilities for coal mining and was able to enlist several Edmonton businessmen. The coal seam we opened was lying at an angle of 22 degrees from the vertical and was parallel to another seam. The width of the seam was about eight and a half feet. Outcroppings were located at elevations of over five hundred feet above our adit. The right leg of the broken seam lay about a quarter mile southwest, running downward at about 15 degrees.
Later in December of 1943 the Hasler Creek Coal Company was incorporated to develop the discovery seam. The directors included William McNabb — at that time managing Credit Foncier, Edmonton — Wm. Greer and the writer who was appointed Managing Director. During the winter of 1943-44 we started active work to extend a road from the Commotion Creek well site at the end of the existing Government road through to the Johnson farm. From there the road would lead to a fording crossing of the Pine River about one-and-a-half miles further west and on an additional nine miles to the coal site. Buildings were constructed for the miners’ accommodation and a small amount of coal was brought out. At this time there were real difficulties since there was no bridge over the Pine River. As stated earlier we had to ford the shallows west of Johnson’s farm. Hasler Creek itself presented real difficulties because it swung back and forth across a narrow valley in many cases flowing against sheer rock walls. It had to be crossed twelve times to get to the mine. Later we were able to divert it in a few places or make cuts into the banks to reduce the number of crossings.
In 1945 we were able to get the government to agree that if the coal company would supply the material, the Government would build a bridge over the Pine west of Johnson’s. Some of the eighty-foot beams were hauled from the Pine River Lumber Company’s mill on the Kiskatinaw River. It was while this bridge was under construction that I attempted to drive one of our heavy trucks across river ice that proved to be too thin and in the process got a very cold bath. The truck remained right side up. We were able to get the truck out the same day with the help of the bridge crew who also loaned me some dry clothes.
We had to recognize that because of the type of coal we could not hope to secure any wide domestic market. It is semi-anthracite with a very high percentage of fixed carbon (about 74%), low ash and moisture, making it on a par with the best steam and coking coals in Canada. Some tests ran to 1500 BTU at the University of Alberta.
Since the only market that seemed available was the Northern Alberta Railway, we offered to supply quite a tonnage to them gratis for testing purposes. When these tests proved the coal to be from thirty-five to fifty percent more efficient than the coal they had been using, they agreed to use it on the Division between Dawson Creek and McLennan. Faced with the long haul from the mine to Dawson Creek our costs were high. While the price agreed upon of $11.15 per ton F.O.B. Dawson Creek might over a long period have worked out profitably, we were not to have this opportunity. After taking out about forty-five hundred tons, the railway decided to convert their locomotives to oil burners. In 1946 our contract was terminated.
Samples of the coal had been taken to Pittsburgh and Montreal, where, in the latter case, the Research Department was trying to develop a motor that would use pulverized or powdered coal dust as fuel. These tests were not successful. As a result, without any market the mine had to be closed down. Its operation and the costs involved resulted in the loss of all the capital expenditures by the shareholders.
In 1950 and again later, with greater interest being manifested in the possibilities of finding foreign markets, an effort was made to get the coal lease or license No. 4 renewed. But the Government wanted to use the already proven large reserves of coal in the Pine Pass area as part of an inducement to get one of the other national railways to build into it. Regulations by Order-in-Council were passed that prevented any small companies from getting any more permits or leases. We had to abandon our efforts.
Today with foreign markets and even foreign investors anxious to secure coal it seems certain that in the near future coal from the Pine Pass area will become one of our important exports. It may well be, too, that ways will be found to produce power on or near the location of these great deposits at a cost comparable to that of hydro generation.
The seams now proposed to be developed by Brameda Mines are very likely an extension of the Hasler coal seams.