Logged in as user  [Login]  |
Return to Search Results Printable Version

Atlas Coal Mine

East Coulee, Near

Other Names:
Atlas Coal Mine Complex
Atlas Coal Mine: Tipple, Beltway and Blacksmith Shop
Atlas/Century Coal Mine
Century Coals Mine
East Coulee Mine

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Atlas Coal Mine is a cultural landscape situated on 4.472 hectares of land near East Coulee, approximately 25 kilometres southeast of Drumheller. The site comprises a variety of buildings, structures, and landscape elements spread across the side of a bluff on the south side of the Red Deer River and over the valley immediately below. Significant site elements include: the vestiges of the mine entrance, the foundations of a rotary dump, traces of rail lines, traces of a trestle, remains of a rotary dump, explosives sheds, a blacksmith shop, a tipple, screening house, and covered conveyor belt shafts, a machine shop, a storage building, a wash house, a loading ramp, three former managers' houses, and a storage shed.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Atlas Coal Mine lies in its excellent representation of a major mining operation in the Drumheller Valley - one of Canada's most significant coalfields between World War One and the 1950s. The site is remarkable for its integrity and its association with the pioneering mining practices of Dr. Omer Patrick, the president of the Atlas Coal Mine.

The Atlas Coal Mine in East Coulee was an integral part of the coal industry in the Drumheller region and the site of several trailblazing techniques in coal extraction and processing. Created in 1910, the townsite of Drumheller quickly became a hub of mining activity; in 1912 alone, eight new mines were initiated and by 1921, there were 27 mining operations in the region. Active in the region since the late 1910s, the Atlas Coal Mine Company established its third mine (Atlas No. 3 Coal Mine) near East Coulee along the south bank of the Red Deer River in 1936. The original mine structures erected that year were razed by a fire in April 1937, they were immediately reconstructed and the mine recommenced operations later that year.. Unlike the large, well-financed mining operations in the Rocky Mountains, the Drumheller Valley mining projects were typically smaller enterprises bankrolled by businessmen of less substantial means. Dr. Omer H. Patrick, a prominent entrepreneur and Calgary civic figure, was the driving force behind the Atlas Coal Mine Company. An energetic and ambitious modernizer, Patrick employed pioneering mining technologies in his operations. Among the significant innovations introduced at the Atlas No. 3 Coal Mine were the use of a self-propelled coal cutting machine on tracks and the Cardox method of retrieving coal. The Cardox method was particularly significant. Employed experimentally in the mines in 1937, the method was non-explosive, using compressed carbon dioxide to dislodge coal. This extraction technique produced fewer "shatter cracks" and resulted in a higher quality of coal, less prone to degradation during processing and transport and able to burn longer. The Atlas Coal Company eventually obtained exclusive rights to use the Cardox method over much of the Drumheller field. Dr. Patrick's entrepreneurial vision and commitment to cutting-edge technology established the Atlas Coal Mine as one of the most productive and efficient coal operations in the province between World War One and the 1950s. The mine closed in the mid 1950s, as new energy sources became readily available. It is currently an interpretive site.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1344)

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Atlas Coal Mine include such features as:

Tipple, conveyor belt, and screening house:
- concrete foundations;
- square-timber frame construction;
- diagonal wood siding;
- gable roof;
- conveyor belt system enclosed in a linear wooden structure;
- wooden struts on top of linear structure;
- screening house at the base of the hill;
- Ottumwa boxcar loaders;
- original equipment, including conveyors, oscillating screens, chutes, bins, oil sprayer, and magnetic separators.

Blacksmith shop:
- mass, form, scale, and materials;
- interior equipment, including a forge, power saw, grinding wheel, and drive shaft.

Explosives sheds:
- mass, form, scale, and materials;
- location and construction of sheds against hill.

Electrical/storage building:
- wood-frame construction and gable roof.

Fuel storage building:
- wood-frame construction and gable roof.

Former managers' houses:
- wood-frame construction and gable roofs;
- associated sheds and garages;
- hedges and trees in front of the houses;
- layouts and interiors of the houses.

- wood-frame construction, gable roof, and roof ventilators;
- interior layout;
- fittings, including sky hooks and metal tags, stove, water heater and tank;
- shower facilities, including original plumbing, showerheads, and metal sheets.

Mine entrance:
- collapsed square timbers marking its location.

Foundations near mine entrance:
- concrete foundations.

Rotary dump on the east side of the bluff:
- wooden and metal fragments of the dump and its supporting structure;
- evidence of the debris dumped over the side and still visible at the bottom of the hill.

- location of, and spatial relationships between, each structure, building, and landscape element;
- trace of rail lines;
- rail staging yard;
- loading ramp;
- secondary shaft entrance;
- boxcar loader;
- vestiges of original miners' path to the mine entrance;
- network of power poles, transformer yard, and overhead wires leading from the valley up the hill near the blacksmith shop.


Street Address:
Community: East Coulee, Near
Boundaries: Portion of SW 28-27-18-W4 and Blocks 1 and 4, Plan 8711220
Contributing Resources: Archaeological Site/Remainss: 1
Buildings: 11
Landscape(s) or Landscape Feature(s): 1
Structures: 4

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
3 (ptn.)
4 (ptn.)

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

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
51.330346 -112.482695 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1989/02/13

Historical Information

Built: 1937 to 1950
Significant Date(s) N/A
Theme(s) Developing Economies : Extraction and Production
Developing Economies : Technology and Engineering
Historic Function(s): Industry : Natural Resource Extraction Facility or Site
Industry : Natural Resource Extraction Facility or Site
Industry : Power Generation Facility
Current Function(s): Leisure : Museum

The Atlas/Century Coal Mine site has played an important role in the history of the Drumheller coalfield as well as the entire coal industry in Alberta. It was established in 1936 and then rebuilt in 1937 following a fire. The new plant incorporated the very latest developments in the industry, including a self-propelled coal cutting machine on tracks and the use of cardox to dislodge coal as early as 1937.

By 1938, the Atlas Coal Mine had obtained exclusive rights to cardox over much of the Drumheller field. The cardox method was non-explosive, releasing compressed carbon dioxide to dislodge the coal. The procedure resulted in a harder, firmer coal, generally free of "shatter cracks", subject to less degradation during handling and transport, and capable of burning longer. Introduction of the method was an important "first" for the mine and its operators. Mechanized equipment and the cardox process sustained the Atlas mine as a major producer in the Drumheller district thorough the mid-1950s when Century Coals Limited opened a new mine site.

Through his control of the Atlas Coal Company from its inception in the Drumheller area in 1917, Dr. Omer Patrick, one of the Alberta's major coal industry entrepreneurs, took a hand in the Atlas mine's development. Dr. Patrick's widespread interests included badland fossils and he was one of the leaders in the development of Dinosaur Park on St. George's Island in Calgary. He was a founding member and first president of both the Calgary Zoological Society and the Civic Government Association of Calgary. He also served as president of both the Calgary Board of Trade and the Calgary Kiwanis Club, and sat on the boards of both the Wood's Christian Home and Calgary School Board.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0495
Designation File: DES 1344
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 33696
Website Link:
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. 1344)
Return to Search Results Printable Version

Freedom to Create. Spirit to Achieve.

Home    Contact Us    Login   Library Search

© 1995 - 2023 Government of Alberta    Copyright and Disclaimer    Privacy    Accessibility