Coal Miners

photograph of men holding picks stand beside and on a conveyor belt with coal pieces

Men removing impurities on the picking belt, Lethbridge, ca 1940
Galt Museum & Archives 19760210105

The coal mines attracted a number of workers from mainland Japan and the island of Okinawa.

Jiro Irei was the first Japanese who worked for the Galt coal mines in Hardieville, north of Lethbridge. At first, most were single men who came to make quick money. By the 1920s, families began settling into mining towns, including Coalhurst, Diamond City, Staffordville and Lethbridge.

The Japanese seldom went into the mines because underground workers were paid better wages and those jobs were reserved for others. Instead they worked in the boiler rooms, or cleaned around the surface buildings and structures. Many Japanese mine employees worked only during the winter, and farmed during the summer.