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Town, pop 786, located approximately 14 km E of Estevan on Hwy 18. People began arriving in the area in the 1890s. The first viable Coal mine was established a few kilometres south of the Bienfait town site at Roche Percée in 1891. Although the PALLISER-HIND EXPEDITIONs noted coal along the Souris River in 1857, quantities had been thought too insubstantial to warrant development. It was decades before the extent of the coal beds was realized and the first lignite in the area was mined by individual entrepreneurs and small-time operators. In the early 1900s, the CPR started Bienfait Mines Ltd. and soon more mines were opened in the area. Many local farmers used coal Mining income to help them establish their farms. In 1922, the only murder ever associated with Saskatchewan's illicit liquor trade with the United States took place in Bienfait (see Prohibition and Temperance). The population grew rapidly in the early 1900s as people of many diverse nationalities flocked to the area: from 245 in 1916, to well over 500 in 1931. That same year, Bienfait coal miners joined the Mine Worker’s Union of Canada and went on strike to try to force mine owners to recognize their union and to restore wages that had been cut (see ESTEVAN COAL MINERS STRIKE). The Depression years hit the coal mining industry hard, but another development which was to affect miners significantly was the beginning of surface “strip” mining by electric shovels. Originally, all mining operations had been underground, but by 1956 a six-decade era of underground coal mining had come to an end. Today, some of the world's largest mining equipment is operated in the Bienfait area. The coal mining industry and its role in the development of Bienfait have been commemorated in a museum, formerly the CPR station built in 1907. A vintage steam locomotive used by the Manitoba and Saskatchewan Coal Company is also displayed at the north end of the town's main street.

David McLennan

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This web site was produced with financial assistance
provided by Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan.
University of Regina Government of Canada Government of Saskatchewan Canadian Plains Research Center
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Diversification de l'économie de l'Ouest Canada et le gouvernement de la Saskatchewan.