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Leitch (Passburg) Collieries

Burmis, Near

Other Names:
Leitch Collieries
Mine #126/2
North Passburg Mine
Passburg Collieries
Passburg Mine
Police Flats

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
Leitch (Passburg) Collieries is a collection of structures and remains from a coal mining and processing operation from the pre-World War One era. It is located on 5.565 hectares in a rural setting at the east end of the Crowsnest Pass just north of Highway 3.

Heritage Value
Leitch (Passburg) Collieries represents the development of coal mining in the Crownest Pass, one of the major coal producing areas in Canada at the turn of the twentieth century. This was one of the largest and most ambitious mines in the Pass but its short-lived activity illustrates the volatile nature of the coal mining industry. It was also the only company in the Pass that was fully Canadian owned and operated.

Leitch (Passburg) Collieries were located on Police Flats, named after a North West Mounted Police (NWMP) detachment located there between 1883 and 1901 to control cattle rustlers. Coal was discovered here in 1906 and the Leitch Collieries opened in 1907, near the Canadian Pacific Railway line, which would need a steady supply of coal for its steam locomotives. To the west, the town of Passburg took shape to house the miners and their families.

However, the coal proved to be of poor quality for the purposes of producing coke for the smelting of ores, and only a small number of the 101 coking ovens were ever used. The company failed in 1916 under a burden of debt and a loss of markets, due in part to a 1911 general strike and the outbreak of the First World War. Most buildings in Passburg were moved to the nearby mining town of Bellevue but the remains of the tipple, powerhouse, coke ovens, and manager's house are in situ resources that exemplify a mining operation of this period.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 628)

Character-Defining Elements
The heritage value of the Leitch (Passburg) Collieries is contained in such character-defining elements as:

Power House
- form, scale and massing of the structural shell;
- sizes and locations of window and door openings (fenestration pattern);
- building materials consisting of undressed, bluish-gray sandstone quarried on the site and of board-formed, pre-cast concrete units;
- masonry construction of roughly coursed sandstone walls with cast concrete units for sills, lintels, arches and quoins;
- remnants of historic floor plan, including pits and raceways for machinery;
- AD 1920 inscription on south gable.

Manager's House
- location in a gully near but out of sight of the collieries;
- form, scale and massing of the structural shell (perimeter walls only);
- sizes and locations of window and door openings (fenestration pattern);
- masonry of local sandstone combined with pre-cast concrete blocks used for sills, lintels, quoins, and end gables;
- construction of rough-coursed sandstone upper walls with sandstone rubble basement separated by a concrete belt course;
- remnants of lath and plaster interior finishes, now exposed to the weather;
- vestiges of internal structure and roof assembly of dimensional lumber, which does not survive but is represented by joist pockets within the masonry;
- mass, form and arrangement of battered or tapers porch support piers of board-formed, cast-in-place concrete.

Weigh Scale
- location and size of the scale pits (weighbridge and scale proper);
- concrete footings surrounding each shallow pit.

- location, mass, and forms of board-formed concrete foundations and piers.

- location, mass, and forms of board-formed concrete foundations and piers.

Coking Ovens
- mass and form of the remains of the large, linear oven complex consisting of the coking ovens themselves flanked by a long raised platform or "wharf" for loading rail cars defined by a sandstone retaining wall and a broad ditch;
- surviving masonry elements of the coking ovens, including a small western portion of the sloped exterior structure of sandstone rubblework with the remnants of oven doorways and interiors elements of brick.

Site features
- remains of the roadbed for spur line along north boundary of site;
- sandstone quarry cut into hillside above the east end of the coking ovens;
- remnants of the road to Passburg at the northwest corner of the site;
- spatial relationships of built components within the industrial site reflecting colliery operations;
- site of the NWMP post immediately east of the power house;
- archaeological remains;
- exposed, steeply dipping rock outcrops and views of surrounding mountains hint at the geology of this coal-producing area.


Street Address: N/A
Community: Burmis, Near
Boundaries: SE 15-7-3-W5
Contributing Resources: Archaeological Site/Remainss: 2
Landscape(s) or Landscape Feature(s): 5
Structures: 6

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
2 (ptn.)
7 (ptn.)
8 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
6282 HX


Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
49.559427 -114.323445 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1976/08/25

Historical Information

Built: 1906 to 1906
Period of Significance: 1907 to 1915
Theme(s): Developing Economies : Extraction and Production
Historic Function(s): Industry : Petroleum and Coal Products Facility
Current Function(s): Leisure : Museum

This site is situated on part of what is known as Police Flats, so named from a two-man detachment of the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) stationed there from 1883 until about 1901. In 1906 J. Kerr Sr. and W.L. Hamilton discovered coal on this property. In 1907 Leitch Collieries opened a mine with Hamilton as manager. A washer and tipple were erected, and railway connections to the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) right of way were finished by 1908. By 1910, 101 coke ovens were installed. A manager's residence and a combined powerhouse/round house were built of stone from a nearby quarry. The town of Passburg grew up immediately west of Police Flats, with the Collieries erecting 25 miners' cottages. The coal, however, turned out to be of poor coking quality and only 5 of the 101 ovens were ever used. The company suffered from the economic depression in 1914 to 1915, and closed down operations in early 1916. Most of the buildings of Passburg were moved to Bellevue.

Site Data Form (June 17, 1975)

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0228
Designation File: DES 0628
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 14353
HS 16041
HS 37527
Website Link: N/A
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 628)
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