Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - December 28, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
The Uthbridge Herald Second Section Pages 15-28 Lethbridge, Alberta, Saturday, December 28, 1974 MAYOR JOHN HOLYK IN COLEMAN'S NEW RESIDENTIAL DISTRICT 'Pass played waiting game for 20 years CoaPs king once more COLEMAN Coal is the Crowsnest Pass, As Coleman Collieries goes, so goes the 'Pass. Among these points of view ex- pressed by residents of the 'Pass, ar- dent environmentalists tread in terror. Asking the people of the 'Pass to hold back on development of the coal industry now is unthinkable. For 20 years they have watched and waited. Watched while an entire generation of young people ieft the 'Pass for more prosperous climes. Waited as the diesel train destroyed the proud coal industry of this town 90 miles west of Lethbridge and trimm- ed its population of to barely a tenth that figure. The few who hung on did so "only because their home was says 'Pass merchant, Joseph Kubik. "We lost a generation." says Coleman Mayor John Holyk. The waiting and watching is over. TJje mirage of prosperity has become a reality, and not just the boom and bust reality which ends as a bad dream two or three years down the line. Coal is back bigger than ever. It's selling at a ton into the boats at Vancouver. For Coleman it means an unheard of housing shortage with a new sub- division comprising 30 homes and a raft of mobile home lots trying to fill the gap; Thirty homes. Some trailers. So? "For about 15 years, if we had One house built a year in Coleman we felt wonderful." explains Mayor Holyk. lost a Mr. Holyk and Mr. Kubik are two figures who hung on. A third is Coleman Collieries. Gerry Blackmore, executive vice- president of the company for three years, puts aside feuds with previous managements when he talks about the collieries' record as a corporate citizen. Company shareholders went million in debt without a single divi- dend to show for it to carry the com- pany and several hundred employees through the lean years after 1953. "If not for the efforts of management, the Crowsnest Pass would be a much more deprived place than it is says the former South Wales coal boss. In 1967, the company pioneered a contract with the Japanese steel in- dustry for 1 million long tons of metallurgical coal a year for 15 years. It capped that with a second half-million ton order in 1970 for the remaining 12 years of the first contracts, to 1982. The long-term nature of the deals is the magic ingredient. "We've always had more bad luck than good." says Mr. Kubik, 57, in his Stedmans store at Blairmore. "This is the first sustained good for- tune we've had. We only hope it con- tinues." Mr. Kubik, born in the "Pass, saw many years when the only way people survived was on credit extend- ed by family stores like his own. Of the present boom, he says: "So far. there aren't any disadvantages that I can see." As for the critics of the deal Coleman Collieries struck with the Japanese. Mr. Blackmore has a special word. "The fact the price they agreed to is low in hindsight is he says. "But it is fortunate for the 'Pass. No employment today GERRY BLACKMORE "The company exercised a tremen- dous social responsibility. It was employing, or responsible for employ- ing 80 per cent of the people working in the 'Pass." The price has since been renegotiated upwards. In terms of the 7.500 people of the "Pass, the contracts mean an average wage and benefits package of a year. There is no unemployment. The collieries broadcasts it plea for laborers, miners and tradesmen from roadside billboards. "Even from 1967 through to 1973 MLA CHARLIE DRAIN, RIGHT, TALKS TO JOHN WERYSHKO IN OLD COLEMAN once there was a market for metallurgical coal (higher quality coal than thermal or general heating it was under terms that gave no Mr. Biackmore continues. This year, things looked rosier with a million cash flow during the first six months. "We need a number of years of fair treatment from several quarters to repay the shareholders who didn't see a cent since he says. "The potential for coal in the last 18 months has risen tremendously. It has given a company like this the op- portunity to start making inroads on the million debt load." Charlie Drain, MLA for the 'Pass, calls the potential a "cornucopia of wealth." "I'm not enamored with seeing thousands more people in the 'Pass but we have to accept that the world won't stand still." Mr. Drain says. Meanwhile, at the western end of the 'Pass, residents of the new town Sparwood, B.C. revel in the same spirit of prosperity as their eastern neighbors. "The people who are here are en- joying it. Our recreation is about the best you can get in Canada says Aid. Vic Gorda, a 39-year-old men's wear shop owner. Sparwood is bursting at the seams, just like Coleman. The town hopes to open up 61 housing lots next spring Meanwhile, Kaiser Resources, the only major employer, plans to open 107 trailer court lots by January to ease housing problems. MERCHANT JOSEPH KUBIK million invested to save environment Coleman Collieries has demonstrated its good faith in protecting the a million investment, says the com- pany's executive vice president. It has made that investment despite a staggering million debt load, says Gerry Blackmore. The company faces emission control orders from the provincial department of the environment to cut down on dust from its coal cleaning plant here. "The fact of life is you have a fac- tory in a wind tunnel." Mr. Blackmore says. Winds whistle Stories by AI Scarf h Walter Kerber photos through the 'Pass at speeds up to 70 miles per hour. In dealing with the dust problem, the company cut dust emissions from .8 pounds to .25 pounds per pounds of gaseous effluent. But the province requires the level be not more than .2 pounds. So the company must spend another on top of the it spent initially to meet the letter of the law. It is prepared to do that, says Mr. Blackmore. But it must be able to ex- pand operations so it can afford the environment safeguards. He insists that the alpine regions around present operations can be protected from permanent damage if the company is allowed to mine them. To back up that claim, he points out that the company has spent investigating hydraulic forms of mining. That form of mining uses a power- ful stream of water to wash out the coal without disturbing the surface. It is one method the province's Environ- ment Conservation Authority sees as having much merit. Mr. Blackmore also says he con- siders it reasonable, at least from his personal point of view, that Alberta raise its 10 cents per ton royalty on coal. Funds from higher royalties and a healthy expanding industry can com- bine to protect the environment, he says. "The question that adds MLA Charlie Drain (SC Pincher Creek "is whether the people of Alberta are prepared to accept the environmental price tag. "That price tag is interim damage during a 15 year cycle if proper supervision is imposed." Acceptance of that price would mean a coal industry which would "e- quate in value with the present posi- tion of the oil Mr. Drain says.