Friday 18th October 2019

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B.C. government funds long-awaited preservation of historic Morden Mine

by Greg Klein | April 12, 2019

Although just half of a previously estimated requirement, a nevertheless significant funding commitment could go a long way towards saving an important monument to British Columbia’s mining history. On April 11, the provincial government pledged $1.4 million to the former Morden coal mine south of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. The money could come just in time to prevent a headframe and its distinctive tipple from toppling over.

B.C. government funds long-awaited preservation of historic Morden Mine

Morden’s 22.5-metre headframe and distinctive
tipple loom out of the forest south of Nanaimo.
(Photo: Greg Klein)

“The mine is very close to being destroyed,” emphasized Sandra Larocque, president of the volunteer group Friends of Morden Mine. “Most of the posts are not holding it up and we need to stabilize it immediately or it will fall down.”

The funding announcement brought her to tears, she said. “My father and grandfather were both coal miners and I really appreciate them when I look at the mine. We need to preserve this very important part of our history.”

Overshadowed by the later gold rushes, B.C.’s first successful mining operations began in Nanaimo in 1852. They continued for about a hundred years before the last of several underground coal mines played out. Most of the surface structures and all of the narrow gauge railways have since disappeared, leaving a Hudson’s Bay Company bastion (a type of structure normally associated with the fur trade, but here a remnant of HBC mining) and Morden as reminders of the region’s mining heritage.

Operated by the Pacific Coal Company between 1913 and 1921, Morden’s most prominent features consist of a 22.5-metre concrete reinforced headframe and a coal tipping structure that’s one of just two of its kind left in North America.

The $1.4 million follows a $25,000 provincial grant provided in 2017. In 2015, however, then-FOMM co-president Eric Ricker told ResourceClips.com that the group, along with the Regional District and the city of Nanaimo, had commissioned an engineering study that estimated $2.8 million was necessary to save the site.

As owner of the four-hectare Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park, BC Parks says it has spent the last three years working with the forestry ministry and FOMM to assess the mine shaft, remove unsecured timbers from the headframe and conduct an engineering analysis.

Crews will stabilize the structure over the next two months, then spend over a year on repairs. The park will close during that time.

The site’s neglect might have been a casualty of partisan politics. Although the BC Liberals held office from 2001 to 2017, Nanaimo has elected New Democratic Party MLAs since 2005.

Read more about the Morden Mine.

Read more about B.C. mining history.

 

B.C. government funds long-awaited preservation of historic Morden Mine

A mural depicts the former coal mine on Protection Island in Nanaimo harbour.
A 1918 cage accident killed 16 men here, one of many Nanaimo-region
mining disasters that included an 1887 explosion that killed 153 people.

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