Originally published Jan. 15

To ensure the country's oldest tipple doesn't topple, an Alberta group is turning to crowdfunding.

The Atlas coal mine is just south of Drumheller.

It's where coal was sorted and stored and is one of the few artifacts left from a time in Drumheller's history when the area had more than 130 mines and a population nearly three times its current size.

"When you walked down the streets in Drumheller you went sideways because there was so many people," said Bob Moffatt, a former miner in the area.

"It was wonderful."

Dozens of tipples dotted the valley with each mine employing 150 to 260 men, according to Moffatt.

coal mine tipple Bob Moffatt inside

Bob Moffatt worked in three of the 139 coal mines of the Drumheller region. He now wants to save its heritage. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

"It makes me proud," said Moffatt. "We want people to know who actually built this part of the world."

But in 2012, the nearly 80-year-old tipple was deemed at risk of collapsing.

Now $750,000 is needed to preserve it.

The group has already raised more than half of that and is hoping crowdfunding will add another $20,000.

"It's an old building, it's been there since 1937," said Julia Fielding, executive director of the Atlas Coal Mine National historic site. 

coal mine tipple julia fielding

Atlas Coal Mine National Site executive director Julia Fielding hopes the group can reach its goal of raising $750,000 to save the tipple in the long term. They already found more than half the amount. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

"All of its supports are wood, which of course as water dripping on it, rots. So there's been a lot of damage to the base of the tipple and the roof."

When the mine closed, the owner handed it over to the historic society so the area's mining heritage could be preserved and it's been designated a national historic site by the federal government.

Other tipples have fallen apart, collapsed or been demolished.

Coal energy might be on the way out in the province but Fielding's group is working hard to preserve its heritage for future generations.

coal mine tipple drawing

There was 139 coal mines in the Drumheller valley at one point each employing 150 to 250 men. According to Bob Moffatt, it paid really well. (Atlas Coal Mine National Site)

With files from CBC's Evelyne Asselin