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The most important mining development in east Kootenay, if not indeed in the whole province during the year, has been the opening up of the magnificent coal deposits of the Crow's Nest Pass.
Coal...was the energy raw material of the Industrial Revolution, generating steam for motive power, and coke for the production of pig iron.
Coal was reported in the Crowsnest region as early as 1858 and in 1873 and 1874 Michael Phillips, a trapper, prospected in the area. However, little interest was shown in the coal until 1887 when William Fernie prospected the area and persuaded Col. James Baker and Arthur Fenwick to back the enterprise and they began to explore the area thoroughly. They worked in the area for nearly a decade and secured a charter for a railway through the Crowsnest Pass.
Explorations by George Mercer Dawson and Dr. A.R.C. Selwyn of the Geological Survey of Canada strengthened the conviction that major deposits were available for mining in the Crowsnest Pass.
The railway authorized by the charter granted to Fernie and Baker was built by the Canadian Pacific and the lands granted to their enterprise (about 200,000 acres or 80 900 ha) formed the basis of the large scale mining developments in British Columbia by the Crow's Nest Pass Coal Company, formed in 1897. By this time, construction of the Canadian Pacific's Crowsnest Pass route was well advanced and coal production had started. Twenty miners from Cape Breton were brought to Coal Creek to begin production. In that first year 10,000 tons of coal and 361 tons of coke were produced in the field. Production grew rapidly as the mines were expanded and more miners came to the Crowsnest as markets were developed for the coal and coke.