COPPER MINE, BRITANNIA, BC

Driving between Vancouver and Whistler on the Sea-to-Sky highway I’ve passed the signs to the British Columbia Museum of Mining many times and always wondered what it was all about.

2014 06 14 Britannia Mine
Welcome

In June of 2014 we made a special day trip just to check out the museum and found many interesting mining related artifacts that made me wonder even more.  In todays post I’ll just provide some images from the tour route and then follow up with future posts about some of the things we learned about while wandering around the site.

Warning
Warning

There is a guided underground tour that takes visitors for a short ride down the entrance tunnel of the last remaining mill buildings at Britannia Beach.  There have been three mills here in total, #1 operated from 1905 to 1914, #2 operated from 1914 to 1921 and the one left standing operated from 1923 to 1974.  You’ll have to visit the museum to find out what happened to the first two.

Footings for Mill #2
Footings for Mill #2

Before going underground all visitors are required to wear safety hats – not quite as much equipment as the original miners. In this room the miners wet and dirty work clothes are placed in baskets and then hoisted to the rafters where they can dry out.

Clothes Dryer
Clothes Dryer

All aboard for the ride into the heart of the mountain. A copper filled mountain – or used to be anyway. Starting in 1904 and operating through to 1974 these mills combined to produce about 650,000 tons of copper and was once the largest copper mine in the world.  Right here in B.C.!

Into the Dark
Into the Dark
Main Tunnel
Main Tunnel

There are many tunnels but visitors only get to see a few at the surface.  The longest tunnel is 16 km and drop to somewhere close to 650 meters under the level of Howe Sound.  Total tunnels: 210.

How Dark Is It?
How Dark Is It?

When people tell you that it is dark underground – well, it’s really, really dark.  I put my hand up in front of my face and waved it around – not a glimmer.  The first miners had candles. Apparently a team of them got to share ONE candle!  Here’s what it looks like with one candle power underground. Nothing shows up in the background behind the miner – even though there is a mine shaft, rails, mining equipment and a number of other people standing close by.

Ore Carrier
Ore Carrier
The Light of Day
The Light of Day

The end of the tunnel tour brings the visitor out to a trail above the community of Britannia Beach where there is an abandoned ore carrier from a recent era and a view of the plant site.

Core Samples
Core Samples
Core Sample Trays
Core Sample Trays

The gravel trail leads downhill through the sample shed and on to the main doors of Mill #3. This building is over 20 stories high and is built on to the side of the mountain. Not sure how far up the tracks for the sled go – but we were told that people were never allowed to ride it. I think I see one single – thick – but only one cable attached to the sled. Hmm…where would it go if it came loose?

First Floor Mil #3
First Floor Mil #3
View From #3 Main Floor
View From #3 Main Floor

This is where that sled would go – right through this wall and across the lane into the adjacent workshop.

In a future post I plan to wonder about equipment that I photographed along the way.

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