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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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The Lethbridge Herald (Newspaper) - January 8, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta THE UETHBRIDQC HERALD Tiwwtay, January 8, 1974 This Mi MCI- mines a cheery bargain Henry Miller sits at the top of his weather-worn coal tipple beside his cheery coal fire and recalls the days when his strip mine would have been considered peanuts in the Taber area. Mr. Miller only scoops out about to tons a year from the Ajax mine. It was several times that amount in 1967. "In their heyday, there might have been 20 mines operating around he says during an interview in his office, reached by a rickety set of stairs. But Mr. Miller's remaining 300 or so customers consider his coal an almost un- believable bargain, at least in comparison to propane. Tom Ruggles, a farmer at Lomond, says he heated his home last year for and that bis average winter heating bill is On the other hand, says Ed Theriau, in to pick up a load of fuel for the Enchant church, his propane bill last month was and his annual heating bill is close to He has so far been unsuccessful in his search for a self-stoking coal furnace but says they are being shipped south from Edmonton, "by the carload." "It's just so cheap a ton) and there's not much to says Mr. Ruggles. "I think it's cleaner than propane if you have a good sealed coal bin. "Coal heat's different he adds. From the warm glow of the office stove, it's easy to believe But for every person picking up a self- stoking furnace, "there might be 20 join- ing the gas says Mr. Miller. The one-time general superintendent for Coleman Collieries leads a tenuous ex- istence at his wind-swept pit west of Taber, caught between the co-ops and propane distributors. "I have made a living by doing it myself but it hasn't let me put aside money for Lethbridge area still operating. The equip- ment in which he originally invested about is old-fashioned. Into his 40th year as a miner, Mr. Miller will be 65 on Jan. 14. His father was a coal miner at Taber. "I gradually came Mr Miller says. When the future of the industry looked bleak in the early 1950's, he went to Can- ton, 111. But he returned to mine in Canada first at Medicine Hat and then at a site just east of his present location in 1967. He surveys the 30 to 40-foot deep pit from a face seamed with coal dust. He scrapes his power scoop-shovel over a seam of coal only three-feet thick but which extends for many acres under the surface. According to farmers Ruggles and Theriau, more people would use coal if they could find it. "I don't know whether coal is coming back or says Mr. Miller doubtfully, "what with the government putting up grants to further gas co-ops. They think coal is old-fashioned or dirty, I suppose." He says coal-fired furnaces can be controlled at least as easily as natural gas ones and that turkey raisers use coal. The breeders tell him they must have finely tuned control of temperatures within a two-degree range. To the west into Crpwsnest Pass country, Coleman Collieries delivers to about 50 customers Most of them are company pensioners who pay a ton while others pay The deliveries amount to less than 500 tons annually. To the north, rural customers can find coal at Drumheller, Sheerness or "off the boxcar" at Vulcan. "But that's a long way says Mr. Ruggles A Calgary firm sells coal as far south as Lethbridge. Its total annual sales are about tons and that side of the business is considered a minor one. Lethbridge Collieries delivered its last load about eight years ago while the Jake Siemens trucking firm in Coaldale says it delivered a load to a south Lethbridge con- sumer last year, and that the coal delivery business is waning. Merry miner Henry Miller jokes in his office atop his coal The 65-year-old miner is the last purveyor of coal in the Lethbridge region and returned to mine in the area where his father worked as a miner before him ;