Coal has for decades been the way of life for miners in towns like Elkford, Sparwood and Fernie
Mining coal for steelmaking has been the way of life — a good life — for coal miners in towns like Elkford, Sparwood and Fernie for more than a century. But there’s also tension there, as coal truck driver Katie Bulger, who originally moved to the area for the snowboarding, explains.
“It is kind of a huge push and pull between … loving the mountains, being outdoors, and then going to a mine where it is just destroying mountains,” she said. Dean McKerracher, mayor of Elkford, feels tension too, but on a different matter.
While the major mines are expected to be in operation for several more decades, he worries what their inevitable closure will mean for the future of his community. The plan is to try to transition into tourism.
“Tourism is difficult, because we’re at the beginning of the road, not the end,” he said. “We’ll have to develop more tourism, and better tourism.” They’re not the only ones contemplating life after coal in these towns on the clock.
The fate of Cassiar, a former company town in B.C.’s northwest, provides an example of what can happen when a resource town loses its resource: in the case of Cassiar, asbestos. The end of that town is documented in two 1992 CBC Radio reports.
Bobbi Hutchison, a writer of Harlequin romance novels, grew up near Michel, an Elk Valley town that was simply razed after a decade of decline for coal.
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