An environmental study of the land where a new school on Edmonton’s east side is supposed to be built has uncovered a remarkable surprise.
An old coal mine, more than 110-years-old, lies about 30 metres under the site.
In checking the mine’s records, it was discovered that the site was owned and occupied by Bush Mine Coal of Edmonton starting in 1905. It closed in 1925. The main tunnel, which poses the most concern, was about three metres in height.
There were three coal mines in operation more than 100 years ago, near the town of Beverly which is now part of Edmonton. Mine workers lived in cottages in the Beverly area.
This type of mine was typical for the time. If coal was discovered along a river bank, such as Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan, a tunnel would be driven horizontally underground because it was easier and cheaper than digging down into the earth.
While the school board and Alberta Learning work with provincial infrastructure authorities, construction of the new K-Grade 9 Ivor Dent School is on hold pending possible remediation work to secure the location.
The site of the new school, which will house as many as 650 students from Lawton, R.J. Scott and Rundle schools nearby, is supposed to begin in April. The cost of the new Ivor Dent public school is almost $20 million. Construction was already delayed once by the Edmonton Public Schools as the board was reviewing the reach of the new building.
A spokesman for Alberta Infrastructure doesn’t think the discovery of this long abandoned mine will delay the work this spring. However, they will need to check the site for methane gas, a common by-product from mines of this type. Since methane gas could pose health risks any possible detection will have to be dealt with. Other Edmonton area schools scheduled for construction this year, such as Bishop David Motiuk K-Grade 9 School and Michael Phair Junior High School, have been delayed for that very issue. These schools are slated for Lewis Farms subdivision in Edmonton.
Because the height of the main tunnel isn’t completely clear, seismic tests will be undertaken by Alberta Infrastructure so that an accurate map with precise dimensions can be drawn up.
The surrounding community has been sitting over this site unaware for some time and there are already two schools on the field where Ivor Dent is supposed to be built. The probability of a catastrophic event, such as a mine collapse is unlikely. However, engineers will offer their best advice as to what type of fortifications may be required.
Alberta Infrastructure reports that in the past, construction of schools has been delayed because of artesian wells being found underground but this is the first time a coal mine has been discovered.
About Rundle Heights community
Rundle Heights is a community of 4,000 people on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River Valley. Neighbouring communities are Abbottsfield and Beverly which was annexed to Edmonton in 1961. Homes are moderately price, with a one third split between single family homes, townhomes and condos.
Rundle Park itself is a large public area which includes a golf course, built on a former landfill site. The park area is where Rundle Heights Elementary School is located on the site of the new Ivor Dent School.