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Atlas explores venturing deeper

    The Atlas Coal Mine is starting to explore a little further underground.
    The National Historic Site in East Coulee is coming off another successful tourism season and it is no wonder. It is a showcase for the valley’s rich history of mining. It is also the year the centennial of coal mining in Drumheller is being celebrated. It is home to the famous tipple and this was the third year of operation with the conveyor causeway open to foot traffic giving visitors an underground experience.
    This summer the mouth of the coal mine was opened. It has been sealed up since 1956. The next question for the Atlas Coal Mine is how far will they go? Or rather, how deep?
    During the last 12 months, the Atlas took the first step in opening the mine. Last  fall, they retimbered the first 35 feet of the mine entrance. The Drumheller and District Chamber of Commerce, the World’s Largest Dinosaur Legacy Fund, the Government of Canada Economic Action Plan, the Rural Alberta Development Fund, a Canadian Badlands partnership grant and the Allard Foundation supported this project.
    This spring, the Atlas finished making it visitor ready and this summer visitors were able to venture in.
    “They (visitors) really liked, it, they thought it was a cool, evocative space and they all said ‘when are you going deeper?'” said Linda Digby of the Atlas Coal Mine. “They want us to go deeper, and in fact, that was always the intent of the board - that we would go deeper.”
    “Exactly how we approach it depends on how deep the earth plug is."
    The mine atop the hill was closed in 1956. According to documents, Digby said they went into the mine about 300 feet and blasted down a piece of roof to seal off mine air.  Further toward the entrance they cribbed the mine with wood and then sealed the entrance with earth.
    The question is how thick is the soil plug. To find this out, they are looking at finding a way to probe through to get an idea. 
    “We don’t really know how thick the soil plug is. We have had engineers and geologist thinking about it and making estimates, but we don’t really know. If we could do a probe, that would give us a lot of information to make a good plan. So, when we sit down with our regulating agencies, we have some data to work with.” 
    She adds, that because of the cribbing, they are confident that when they are able to enter the mine further, the tunnel will be stable.
    The plan is to go in about 100 feet total. This, according to local accounts, could get them into a “pit cabin,” an underground office, and a bench carved out of the mine wall. This space will allow visitors to experience underground, but also allow them to see the seam of coal that was being exploited. The project won’t go as far as actual mine workings.
    “We would have to go about a kilometre to get to workings,” said Digby. It will be in the main haulage... I think what will make it neat will be the geology that is revealed and the timbered space and that feeling of going deeper into the earth, seeing that coal seam. That coal seam is the purpose for this whole site.”
    Right now, the Atlas Coal Mine has a call out to the community looking for proper equipment that could help complete a probe for the next step, deeper.


Community comes together in support of baby Opal

    Friends of a Drumheller family are banding together to help them in their time of need.
    A barbecue and silent auction fundraisers have been planned to support the Walsh family. Wendy and Chris Walsh’s lives were turned upside down when they learned their five month old daughter, Opal, was diagnosed with congenital nephrotic syndrome. She will eventually have to receive a kidney transplant.
    To support the family, there will be a barbecue at Freson Bros. IGA this Saturday, September 24 and a silent auction reception planned for Sunday, September 25 at the Ramada Inn. So far, the response from the community has been strong.
    Toward the end of August, Opal’s parents, concerned about their daughter’s puffy eyes, took her to the hospital. It appeared Opal had allergies and she was given antihistamines. The symptoms appeared to get better for a couple of days, however conditions worsened and Wendy took her to the Children’s Hospital on August 26.  They were admitted after testing showed high levels of protein in the baby’s urine, a sign of kidney trouble.
    The immediate concern for the child was to drain excess water from her body. Medical staff had a very difficult time putting in an IV, and eventually it took a number of surgical procedures before they were able to relieve the symptoms.
        The procedures and the drugs used took their toll on the baby. It was a harrowing experience for the family. Today, Opal is still in the Children’s Hospital and she has stabilized.
    Opal’s medical worries are not over. At just five months, she will now have to undergo dialysis until she is big enough to receive a kidney transplant. This may not be possible until she is two or three years of age. The family is hopeful they will be able to use peritoneal dialysis which can be done at home. They are also hopeful that either Chris or Wendy will be able to be donors when the time comes.
    “A living donor is the best case scenario, and parents are optimal,” said Wendy.
    The ordeal has taken a huge emotional toll on the family, but has also hurt them financially. The family operates Westside Windshields, and have had to suspend their business operations to be together and support Opal. They have been at the Children’s Hospital for more than two weeks and it is estimated it will be another three weeks before they return home.
    Wendy said she is overwhelmed by the support of the community which has stepped up to help the family.
    “It is amazing the support Drumheller has given us so far,” said Wendy. “That is the beauty of living in a small town, and we see that.”
 On  Friday, September 16, Western Chevrolet hosted a turkey lunch to support the family. They raised about $6,000. The company challenges others in the business community to look at inventive ways to support this family.
    Freson Bros. IGA's barbecue will take place in their parking lot on Saturday, September 24 from 11 am - 3 pm. The silent auction is slated for Sunday, September 25 at The Ramada Inn from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Food and beverages are being provided by the Ramada. To donate items, or for more information, contact Phil Thomas at 403-856-0065.

Riley Pollom selected for IMPACT

    According to GlobeScan, a research consultancy, more than 50 per cent of Canadians consistently identify depletion of natural resources, fresh water shortages, loss of animal and plant species and air pollution as “very serious” issues. Among those most committed to sustainability are Canadian youth who are demanding socially responsible campuses, workplaces and products.


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