Leitch Collieries

Leitch Collieries

The high-flying technology companies of the 1990s did not invent wishful-thinking as a business model. The ruins of Leitch Collieries at the eastern extremity of Crowsnest Pass attest to similar irrational exhuberance among entrepreneurs and investors of the steam age.

The beautifully crafted stone structures were erected on fragile foundations of hope and debt. When they were started in 1907, it seemed a sure thing that Canada's industrial boom would create an insatiable demand for high-quality steam and metallurgical coal.

Despite a strike by miners in 1909 that suspended continuing income from coal sales, the owners decided to continue construction anyway, using borrowed money. An array of 101 coke ovens, a powerhouse, and a town for the miners were completed even as the eight-month strike cost the company the loyalty of its customers, including the essential Canadian Pacific Railway.

Personal hostility between the mine president Malcolm Leitch, the Canadian Pacific Railway and the mine's bankers darkened the company's prospects for recovery. The final blow was the outbreak of World War I in 1914, which cut off the mine from its European customers. The bank foreclosed on the mine in 1915 and operations never resumed.

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