The Atlas Coal Mine in East Coulee received a federal boost on Thursday when Crowfoot MP Kevin Sorenson announced $110,000 was awarded for the completion of several projects.
With this money, the Atlas may go ahead with beginning work on the Blacksmith Shop, Rotary Dump, and opening the #3 mine entry.
“We are in the planning stages,” explains the Atlas’ Executive Director, Linda Digby. “The job is very hard logistically.”
With the rugged terrain that makes the site special, it also makes construction work difficult and hard to find contractors.
“As with everything we do, it has to be done historically. If we add little changes that aren’t accurate, gradually the site would lose authenticity.”
This money, from the National Historic Sites Cost-Sharing Program, was awarded to the mine because visitation to one site in the valley increases money earned by all businesses.
“If we can have people stay for two or three days, that is increased money spent elsewhere in town, not just the Atlas,” said Digby to a crowd of about 50 gathered at the foot of the mine tipple.
“It helps tourism throughout the valley,” said Member of Parliament Kevin Sorenson.
“The government understands the potential sites like these have. Our cost-sharing program is an interesting tool.”
The Atlas was approved the money last year, but due to an unexpected wind storm, the money was used for repairs.
Thursday’s funding makes up for that, and allows the Atlas to move forward with their goals.
Their aim is to start work by September, when tourist numbers are lowest and construction is still possible, and if the weather holds out.
“Our mission here at the Atlas is to not just remember this mine. As the last mine left, it is a vehicle to remember all 139 mines and all miners past who built our town,” says Digby.
“Parks and historic sites represent the best Canada has to offer. It gives us a sense of community, place, and pride,” said Sorenson.
Visitation to the mine has increased this year.
Pieces of the federal grant is being matched by the Alberta government and the Drumheller and District Chamber of Commerce.
The cost-sharing program enables a site owner to receive up to 50 per cent of eligible costs incurred in conserving and presenting a national historic site.
Site owners must apply for financial assistance under the program.