In 1900, coal was the fuel of home and industry and a key to industrialization. Coal production peaked at 1,528,934 tons in the years before the First World War and remained steady, with some significant fluctuations, including a low of just 455,963 tons in 1935, through the early 1950s when it began what appeared to be a steady decline. By the late 1950s... the British Columbia coal industry faced virtual extinction. Many factors contributed to coal loss of importance but the most important was the growing use of petroleum products for fuels. British Columbia did not have heavy industry such as steel making which required large quantities of coal. Railways converted many of their steam locomotives to burn oil and in the 1950s they disposed of all steam equipment in favour of new diesel locomotive. Oil also became popular in home heating and industry. At the same time hydro-electric power was growing in popularity and availability for both industrial and domestic uses.
An industry in decline attracts little new investment and the mine operations became outdated, facilities were not renewed and the mining towns of the Crowsnest suffered.
As markets disappeared in North America, the coal producers looked elsewhere for markets and eventually won contracts to supply metallurgical coal (coal for steel making) to Japan. After tests and short term agreements, long term contracts were signed that led to the resurgence of the Crowsnest Pass coal field in the late 1960s.