On August 6, 2006, the Third Annual Miners’ Memorial was held at the site of the Bellevue mine, themed to recognize the stories of family members left behind. The original emergence of this event took place in 2003 to commemorate the 31 souls lost in a mine explosion on December 9, 1910. It has since grown into an annual event dedicated to the remembrance and celebration of the legacy of underground coal miners and the mining way of life.
Featured in the program this year was writer and photographer Lawrence Christmas, along with guest speakers Ron Hruby and Pauline Grigel, who all shared moving tales of both gallantry and loss in the setting of underground coal mining. The stage was also graced by singer/songwriter Nancy Kinnear with songs of coal mining and the families that it touched.
A highlight of the day was a revisitation of the story told at the memorial in 2005, of fallen miner Joseph Louis Sikora, shared by his sister Agnes Fuchs. Sikora perished in the McGillivray mine on November 30, 1950 while attempting to rescue a fellow miner. During the ceremony, a special presentation was made by Chris Ryan, chairman of the CIM Crowsnest Branch, to inform Mrs. Fuchs that the decision had been made to posthumously award Joseph Louis Sikora the CIM Medal for Bravery. It is the intention of the family of Joseph Sikora that the medal be permanently displayed in the Crowsnest Pass - a symbol of, and dedication to, those who live and lived by the miner’s code of always trying to rescue a fellow miner.
John Kinnear, chairman of the Miner’s Memorial Committee, expressed his overwhelming satisfaction with the growing success of the event. Kinnear, a third-generation coal miner, is well acquainted with the history of mining in the area and the devasting impact it had on families of the time. More importantly though, Kinnear wished to “bring the remarkable legacy of the modern day mining safety record to light,” emphasizing that all too often we focus too little on the fact that “coal is now an industry leader in safety.”
The Crowsnest Branch has been striving to gain momentum since its reformation nearly one year past. Involvement in events such as the Miners’ Memorial is most valuable in reaching both the industry groups in the area as well as the communities. Worthy of note is the CIM Scholarship Fund awarded annually to a student entering a mineralsrelated field. Earlier this spring, the 2006 scholarship was awarded to Liam Landreville of Fernie, BC. Liam will be entering the geology program at the University of Alberta.
Each year, the branch hosts a golf tournament in conjunction with the local MSCCA (Mine Suppliers, Contractors and Consultants Association) as a fundraiser for the scholarship fund. The 2006 tournament was a huge success, surpassing the annual target of $1,000. Thanks go out on behalf of the Crowsnest Branch to all those in attendance and the many volunteers who gave their time and effort.