Thursday 22nd August 2019

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘coal’

Site visits for sightseers IV

July 31st, 2019

Atlantic Canada’s mining heritage can captivate visitors

by Greg Klein

Atlantic Canada’s mining heritage captivates visitors

Among the Bell Island operations that produced about 81 million tonnes of
iron ore by 1966, this Newfoundland mine gives visitors a glimpse of the past.
(Photo: Bell Island #2 Mine and Community Museum)

 

Our survey of historic mining sites and museums wraps up with a trip through Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador. With places known for precious and base metals as well as mineralogical exotica like salt, fluorspar and asbestos, these Atlantic provinces once hosted a globally important coal and steel industry—important enough to merit military attacks during World War II. Even where mining’s a practice of the past, many people continue to recognize the industry’s influence on their communities.

As usual with these visits, check ahead for footwear and other clothing requirements, for additional info like kids’ age restrictions, and to confirm opening times.

Three previous installments looked at Yukon and British Columbia, the prairie provinces, and Ontario and Quebec.

 

Nova Scotia

 

In a region where the industry goes back nearly 300 years, the Cape Breton Miners Museum tells the stories of coal diggers, their work, lives and community. The scenic six-hectare coastal site also includes a few restored buildings from the company village and the Ocean Deeps Colliery, where retired miners lead underground/undersea tours to offer first-hand accounts of a miner’s life. The museum also presents occasional concerts by the Men of the Deeps, made up entirely of people who’ve worked in or around coal mines: “We’re the only choir where the second requirement is that you have to be able to sing.”

Located on Birkley Street north from Route #28, about 1.5 kilometres southeast of downtown Glace Bay. Open daily 10:00 to 6:00 until October 20, with daily tours. Phone 902-849-4522 for off-season hours and tours.

 

Atlantic Canada’s mining heritage captivates visitors

Coal production in the Sydney Mines area dates as far back as 1724.
(Photo: Sydney Mines Heritage Museum)

Farther west along the serrated coast, the Sydney Mines Heritage Museum looks at not only coal extraction but also the time when this town was a major steelmaking centre. Originally a 1905 railway station, the building also houses a transportation exhibit, the Cape Breton Fossil Discovery Centre and a sports museum.

Located at 159 Legatto Street, just north of Main Street (Route #305), Sydney Mines. Open Tuesday to Saturday 9:00 to 5:00 until September 7. Phone 902-544-0992 for Sydney Coalfield fossil field trips held on Thursdays and Saturdays to August 24, weather and tides permitting.

 

About 76 kilometres east of Amherst was Canada’s first industrial source of an edible mineral, now commemorated by the Malagash Salt Mine Museum. This small building features the mine’s off-and-on operations between 1918 and 1959, and the local miners, farmers, fishermen and lumberjacks who worked the deposit until it was replaced by another salt source at nearby Pugwash.

Located at 1926 North Shore Road, east of Route #6, Malagash. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 to 5:00, Sunday noon to 5:00 until September 15. Call 902-257-2407 for more info.

 

In the Annapolis Valley about 95 kilometres southeast of Moncton, the Springhill Miners’ Museum portrays the historically dangerous work that prevailed in these coal mines between the late 1800s and the 1950s. Guides lead underground tours of about an hour’s duration.

Located at 145 Black River Road, about 1.5 kilometres south of Springhill, just east of Route #2. Open daily 9:00 to 5:00, with tours available hourly from 9:00 to 4:00 until October 15. Call 902-597-3449 for more info.

 

Newfoundland and Labrador

Atlantic Canada’s mining heritage captivates visitors

Kids tour a mine that once employed boys as young as 10.
(Photo: Bell Island #2 Mine and Community Museum)

Complementing coal from Cape Breton was iron ore from Bell Island in Conception Bay, where six mines operated at various times between 1895 and 1966. The Bell Island #2 Mine and Community Museum hosts exhibits and offers one-hour tours through an underground operation that closed in 1949. Another feature relates the 1942 U-boat attacks at Belle Island that sunk four ore-carrying ships and killed over 60 men, leading to Allied fears that Germany would occupy St. John’s.

Located at 13 Compressor Hill, Bell Island. Open daily 10:00 to 6:00 until September 30. Call 709-488-2880 or toll-free 1-888-338-2880 for more info.

 

A number of mines produced fluorspar between 1933 and 1978 on the Rock’s southern-most peninsula, where Canada Fluorspar hopes to revive the industry. The St. Lawrence Miner’s Memorial Museum recounts workers’ lives, including the danger they faced before the presence of radon gas was recognized. Emphasizing the sacrifice, the neighbouring graveyard can be seen from museum windows. On a more pleasant note, new uses for the colourful mineral can be found in the gift shop’s fluorspar jewelry.

Located on Route #220, east of Memorial Drive, St. Lawrence. Open daily 8:30 to 4:30 until September 1. Call 709-873-3160 for more info.

 

The Baie Verte Miners’ Museum stands above one of six major mines locally, the former Terra Nova copper producer that dates back to the mid-1800s in a north-coastal region that also provided gold, silver and asbestos. On display are mining and mineralogy exhibits and a mining locomotive, along with aboriginal artifacts. Museum tours are available.

Located at 319 Route 410, Baie Verte. Open Monday 10:00 to 4:00, Tuesday to Sunday 9:00 to 6:00 until mid-September. Call 709-532-8090 for more info.

 

The Iron Ore Company of Canada no longer provides tours of its Labrador City facilities but the Gateway Labrador tourism centre offers an alternative—an 18-minute virtual reality experience of IOC’s operations, from mining to processing to delivery at Sept-Îles. Gateway’s museum hosts additional mining exhibits as well as presentations on other industries “to debunk the popular misconception that Labrador West’s history is comprised only of mining.”

Located at 1365 Route #500, Labrador City. Open Monday to Friday 9:00 to 8:00, and Saturday and Sunday 9:00 to 5:00 until mid- or late August. Off-season hours Monday to Friday 9:00 to 5:00. Call 709-944-5399 for more info.

 

See Part 1 about Yukon and British Columbia, Part 2 about the prairie provinces, and Part 3 about Ontario and Quebec.

Site visits for sightseers II

July 23rd, 2019

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

by Greg Klein

Our survey of mining museums and historic sites continues east through the prairie provinces. Although some oil and gas sites have made this list, generally not included for reasons of space are museums of mineralogy and museums not mostly dedicated to mining. Keep in mind, though, that local museums in mining regions often merit a mining buff’s attention.

Be sure to confirm opening hours and inquire about footwear or other clothing requirements for industrial sites.

See Part 1 about Yukon and British Columbia, Part 3 about Ontario and Quebec, and Part 4 about the Atlantic provinces.

Alberta

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

A family follows in the footsteps of coal miners at Bellevue.
(Photo: Bellevue Underground Mine)

Don a lamp-equipped miner’s helmet and descend into Bellevue, a Crowsnest-region mine that gave up over 13 million tons of coal between 1903 and 1961. Forty-five minutes of the one-hour tour consist of a guided walk (accessible for strollers and wheelchairs) along 300 metres of what was once a 240-kilometre network of tunnels. Dress for temperatures as low as zero, even when it’s summer on surface.

Located in the community of Bellevue in the municipality of Crowsnest Pass, off the Crowsnest (#3) Highway. Access road starts at 2501 213 Street, by the Old Dairy Ice Cream Shoppe parking lot. Tours begin every half hour from 10:00 to 5:00, daily to August 31. During September and October every half hour from 9:00 to 4:00; from November to April group tours by appointment; from May to June 9:00 to 4:00 daily. More info.

 

Maybe four kilometres southeast of Bellevue, Leitch Collieries offers “graceful ruins” of a processing plant for a “glorious failure” of a coal mine that lasted eight years up to 1915. Although the actual mine—beneath a former cattle rustlers’ haven 1.5 kilometres away—is off limits, visitors can learn about the operation from listening posts, storyboards and summer guides.

Located just off the Crowsnest (#3) Highway near the eastern limits of Crowsnest Pass municipality. Open all year but guides are available 10:00 to 5:00 daily until September 2. More info.

 

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

Coal mining, processing and shipping
infrastructure survives at Brazeau Collieries.
(Photo: Government of Alberta)

Once Alberta’s most productive mine, Brazeau Collieries operated in the Rocky Mountain foothills between 1914 and 1955. Now two different two-hour guided walks take visitors through parts of the 31-hectare site. Tour A checks out workshops, houses and external workings, and also enters the mine shaft. Tour B goes through the 1950s briquette plant.

Tours begin at the Nordegg Heritage Centre on Stuart Street in the town of Nordegg, off Highway #11, about 80 kilometres west of Rocky Mountain House and 60 klicks northeast of Banff National Park. Each tour runs a few times daily, except Wednesdays. More info.

 

The Rockies’ Bow Valley had hosted numerous coal mines since the early 1880s, with the last shutting down in 1979 at Canmore. Mining awareness continues at the Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre through a number of programs and a permanent exhibit called From Coal to Community.

Located in the Canmore Civic Centre, 902b Seventh Avenue. Open Monday to Friday noon to 4:30 and weekends 11:00 to 4:30 until September 2. Then open to October 14 Monday to Thursday noon to 4:30 and Friday to Sunday 10:00 to 4:30, then to June 1 Monday, Wednesday and Friday noon to 4:30, and weekends 11:00 to 4:30. More info.

 

Further into the Rockies, in fact right inside Banff National Park, the coal town of Bankhead once overshadowed the neighbouring tourist town. Little remains of Bankhead’s 20-year life but mining enthusiasts already visiting the park might take the interpretive trail featuring explanatory signage, exhibits in the transformer building and a mine train. The C-level Cirque Trail passes ventilation shafts and the skeleton of an old mine building, along with unmistakably Banff-style scenery.

More info here and here.

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

An historic vehicle takes a trip through history.
(Photo: Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site)

 

The last of 139 operations in the Drumheller Valley Badlands from 1911 to 1979, the Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site features numerous buildings, rail lines, machines and other artifacts within a 31-hectare property. In a number of separate tours, visitors look at a mine tunnel and Canada’s last wooden tipple, or they travel around the site via antique locomotive.

Located on Highway #10, 20 minutes southeast of Drumheller. Tours run daily to early October. Click here for schedule updates.

 

Coal was once Alberta’s main extractive commodity but a 1914 natural gas discovery turned attention to another type of fuel and a new petrochemical industry at the Turner Valley Gas Plant. Guided tours, an exhibit hall and historic buildings present western Canada’s first commercial oilfield and processing plant.

Located on Sunset Boulevard SE in the town of Turner Valley. Open weekends and stats from 10:00 to 5:00 until September 2. More info.

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

A tribute to tenacity, Leduc #1 followed 133 dry wells.
(Photo: Canadian Energy Museum)

 

Alberta’s energy industry changed again in 1947 when a geyser of oil erupted at Leduc. The nearby Canadian Energy Museum “celebrates Canada’s relationship with energy past, present and future.” A summer exhibit portrays the lives of those who experienced Leduc’s sudden boom, while a fall exhibit will look at the model town of Devon, a boom-time creation.

Located at 50339 Highway #60, Leduc County. Open Monday to Saturday 9:00 to 5:00. Book ahead for individual or group tours.

 

The history, science and technology that unlocked another rich source of fuel comes alive in Fort McMurray’s Oil Sands Discovery Centre. Demonstrations, films and exhibits include an 850-tonne bucketwheel excavator and a 150-tonne truck.

Located at 515 MacKenzie Boulevard, Fort McMurray. Open daily 9:00 to 5:00 until September 2. Off-season hours are Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 to 4:00. More info.

 

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

Exhibits and mine simulations relate potash from
extraction to application. (Photo: Tourism Saskatchewan)

Saskatchewan

“Just like being in a potash mine without the dust and heat” was how one visitor described it. The Saskatchewan Potash Interpretive Centre showcases the geology, how the stuff gets mined and refined, and what it’s used for. The centre comprises one of a number of attractions in Esterhazy Historical Park.

Located at 701 Park Avenue (Highway #22), Esterhazy. Open daily 9:00 to 5:00 until August 31. For off-season visits, phone 306-745-5406 or 306-745-3942.

 

Manitoba

Heavy duty equipment befitting a hard rock heritage goes on display at the Snow Lake Mining Museum. Exhibits include jackleg drills, battery-powered trammers, rocker shovels, mock-ups of mining drifts and a mine rescue centre.

Located at 163 Poplar Avenue, Snow Lake. Generally open Mondays 10:00 to 5:00, Tuesdays to Saturdays 10:00 to 6:00, and occasional Sundays, until August 30. Phone 204-358-7867 to confirm hours.

Experience mining’s past and present in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba

Rugged gear reflects the rugged life of northern Saskatchewan’s Snow Lake region.
(Photo: Snow Lake Mining Museum)

See Part 1 about Yukon and British Columbia, Part 3 about Ontario and Quebec, and Part 4 about the Atlantic provinces.

Site visits for sightseers

July 19th, 2019

Mining history offers additional destinations for summer road trips

by Greg Klein

Mining history offers additional destinations for summer road trips

A fun but informative underground tour brings B.C.’s former
Britannia copper mine to life. (Photo: Britannia Mine Museum)

 

Follow this industry closely enough and you’ll likely want to visit one or more mines yourself. One way to do that would be to get a job as a miner, although that’s an occupation requiring competence, a capacity for hard work and at least rudimentary English or French. People lacking those qualifications, however, need not despair. They might still find employment writing up sponsored site visits for investor newsletters and mining publications. Still a third approach involves touring historic sites.

Of course they emphasize mining’s past, but that puts perspective on the present. These endeavours helped build our country economically and socially, while inspiring lots of romantic lore and providing stuff that we consider essential. But they also brought about dangerous, sometimes disastrous working conditions, bitter labour conflicts and some primitive environmental standards.

That said, family visits can be entertainingly informative without abjuring history’s serious side.

In this first installment, we provide a list of historic Yukon and British Columbia mines and mining museums open this summer. Also included are a few operating mines that offer public tours. Generally not included, however, are museums of mineralogy and museums not entirely dedicated to mining. The latter category, omitted for space reasons, includes some excellent exhibits and should be considered by mining enthusiasts when visiting any current or former mining region.

Use the links to confirm opening times and other info. Also check tour requirements for footwear and other clothing.

See Part 2 about the prairie provinces, Part 3 about Ontario and Quebec, and Part 4 about the Atlantic provinces.

 

Yukon

Mining history offers additional destinations for summer road trips

For some Dawson visitors, gold’s allure overpowers
that of the theme park. (Photo: Parks Canada)

Putting aside the fact that the lack of a gold rush would have meant far fewer tourists, tourism has far outshone the gold rush’s economic importance to Dawson City. The town and its environs abound in Klondike references, real and imagined, from the goldfields themselves to the Dawson City Museum, Dredge #4, a gaudy streetscape (arguably authentic in spirit if not accuracy) and the bard of the Yukon’s log home. (Overheard from an American in Dawson’s visitor info centre: “We’ve heard about your Robert Service. Is he any relation to Robert Frost?”)

A variety of sites and activities can be previewed here, here and even here. And if a can-can dancer hauls you onto the stage at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s, just consider it an act of revisionist history.

 

Only a few kilometres outside Whitehorse, the MacBride Copperbelt Mining Museum focuses on a base metal play overshadowed by Klondike mania. Attractions include an interpretive train ride along 2.5 kilometres of narrow-gauge track. Back in town, look for the MacBride Museum’s other location, right by Sam McGee’s cabin.

Mile 919.28 Alaska Highway. Open Friday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., until August 31. More info.

 

About 290 kilometres east of Dawson City, in a former boom town now down to maybe 20 people, the Keno City Mining Museum displays tools, equipment and memorabilia about local gold-silver mining from the early 1900s.

Located at the end of the Silver Trail, Main Street. Open daily 10:00 to 6:00 until mid-September and “by chance/appointment” during the off-season. More info.

 

British Columbia

Mining history offers additional destinations for summer road trips

Britannia’s multi-storey mill strikes an industrial presence
amid spectacular natural beauty. (Photo: Greg Klein)

Amid stunning scenery halfway between Vancouver and Whistler, the Britannia Mine Museum comprises B.C.’s top such attraction. In operation from 1904 to 1974, this was for a while the British Commonwealth’s biggest copper producer. Now a National Historic Site, its features include 45-minute tours with a short underground train ride, entertaining and knowledgeable guides, gold panning, interactive exhibits and, in a multi-storey mill along the mountainside, a light, sound and special effects show “unlike anything else in North America.” Just outside the museum, early- and mid-20th century buildings remain from what was once an isolated company town.

Located on the Sea-to-Sky (#99) Highway, 45 minutes north of Vancouver and the same distance south of Whistler. Open seven days 9:00 to 5:30. More info.

 

South of Nanaimo, the four-hectare Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park hosts the only substantial remnants of a coal industry that predominated on Vancouver Island starting in the 1850s. This mine operated between 1913 and 1921, and features 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. While in town, stop by the Nanaimo Museum for a small but excellent coal mining exhibit.

Directions: On Highway 1 about nine kilometres south of Nanaimo, turn east on Morden Road and follow it for one or two minutes. Long-overdue restoration work might cause temporary closures. Try BC Parks’ website for more info.

 

In the upper altitudes of southern B.C.’s east Kootenay district, an open-air train escapes downtown Kimberley’s “Bavarian” kitsch to take visitors through a scenic valley and into Sullivan, a 1909-to-2001 operation that once boasted itself the world’s largest lead-zinc mine. Guides from the Kimberley Heritage Museum and Kimberley Underground Mining Railway present demonstrations at the underground interpretive centre and the powerhouse. Other displays include a core shack.

Buy tickets at the train station 200 metres west of Kimberley’s pedestrian mall. Mining tours leave daily at 11:00, 1:00 and 3:00. Sightseeing train trips that bypass the mine leave at 10:00 on Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays. More info.

 

Mining history offers additional destinations for summer road trips

Barkerville crowds notwithstanding, there’s history
in them thar theme parks. (Photo: Barkerville Heritage Trust)

More social history than mining history and with a focus on family fun, Barkerville Historic Town and Park offers entertaining interpretations of the gold rush boom town founded in 1862. Costumed actors lead tours along streets lined with reconstructed period buildings and displays of 19th century mining infrastructure. Plays, concerts and variety shows at the Theatre Royal continue the theme park ambience, while the “immersive experience” offers activities ranging from gold panning to heritage cooking lessons and a blacksmithing workshop. Accommodation in and around the park includes a small hotel, B&Bs, cottages and campgrounds.

Located at the end of Highway 26, 204 kilometres northeast of Williams Lake and 86 kilometres east of Quesnel, all towns on B.C.’s Gold Rush Trail driving route. Open 8:00 to 8:00 until September 2. Museum exhibits close during the off season but the town’s main street remains open for parts of the year. Check the schedule for dates and times. More info.

 

Another historic theme park, although not directly related to mining despite being borne of a gold rush, Fort Steele Heritage Town got its name from Sam Steele, a Mountie whose exploits would have made him a frontier legend in the U.S. or Australia. The reconstructed town’s extensive attractions focus on town life and offer insights into a number of skills including gold panning. About six kilometres away and part of the provincial heritage site sit a few remains of Fisherville, where an 1864 discovery sparked the Wildhorse Creek rush. Self-guided brochures are available.

Located off Highway 93 (for some reason aka Highway 95), 16 kilometres northeast of Cranbrook. Open 10:00 to 5:00 until September 1, with some attractions open during the off season. More info.

 

Mining history offers additional destinations for summer road trips

Teck Resources digs deep while a tour group looks on.
(Photo: Kootenay Rockies Tourism)

Step back into the present with tours of actual working mines in B.C.’s east Kootenays operated by Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A/TECK.B. Three of the company’s open pit metallurgical coal operations welcome the public this summer. Saturday bus tours leave the town of Elkford during July for two-hour trips to Greenhills and during August for two-and-a-half-hour trips to Fording River. Bus tours from the town of Sparwood leave Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for two-hour trips to the Elkview mine.

Elkford and Sparwood are about 34 kilometres apart on opposite ends of Highway 43. For further info and reservations, call the Elkford Visitor Centre at 1-855-877-9453, and the Sparwood Chamber of Commerce at 1-877-485-8185. Last trips leave Elkford August 31 and Sparwood August 29. Sparwood’s CoC also hosts a Mining History Walking Tour that points out mining machinery and other memorabilia around town.

See Part 2 about the prairie provinces, Part 3 about Ontario and Quebec, and Part 4 about the Atlantic provinces.

Rare earths from coal: Geoscience BC studies British Columbia’s potential

July 18th, 2019

by Greg Klein | July 18, 2019

China’s overwhelming dominance of rare earths mining and processing isn’t the only supply problem facing REEs. “Traditional rare earth ore deposits are fast depleting,” points out Maria Holuszko. “They are projected to meet demand for only the next 15 to 20 years.” As lead researcher on a new Geoscience BC project, she and her team plan further study into the viability of sourcing the stuff from coal, specifically southeastern British Columbia’s metallurgical fuel. Plans call for sampling East Kootenay deposits and tailings to quantify and characterize REEs, and to test extraction processes at the laboratory scale.

Rare earths from coal Geoscience BC studies British Columbia’s potential

REEs have already been found in coal deposits in B.C., the United States, the Russian Far East and elsewhere. The U.S., which now has REEs at the forefront of its critical minerals strategy, has funded US$10 million to study extraction from coal and/or its byproducts. As assistant professor of mineral processing and co-founder of the Urban Mining Innovation Centre at UBC’s Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering, Holuszko will head a project following up on work by one of her PhD candidates, Vinoth Kumar Kuppusamy. Kumar has already conducted work on a 300-kilo run-of-mine sample taken from two Kootenay operations.

Phase I of the current project calls for analyzing field samples to compile a database of East Kootenay coalfield REE concentration. The next stage involves lab-scale assessment of REE enrichment and an extraction test.

Work should wrap up by March 31, 2021, after which peer-reviewed results will be made public. The not-for-profit’s funding comes from the province, although UBC may contribute facilities and staff time, Geoscience BC director of external relations Richard Truman says.

With a mandate to provide information that helps government, industry and communities make informed decisions, Geoscience BC has worked on over 200 projects since 2005. Watch this video to learn more.

 

Visit the East Kootenay coalfields

Three open pit metallurgical coal mines operated by Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A/TECK.B welcome the public this summer. Saturday bus tours leave Elkford during July for two-hour trips to Greenhills and during August for two-and-a-half hour trips to Fording River. Bus tours from Sparwood leave Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for two-hour trips to the Elkview mine.

For reservations and further info (including footwear and other clothing requirements), call the Elkford Visitor Centre at 1-855-877-9453, and the Sparwood Chamber of Commerce at 1-877-485-8185. Last trips leave Elkford August 31 and Sparwood August 29.

Friends of Morden Mine president Sandra Larocque welcomes plans to restore the historic B.C. site

May 15th, 2019

…Read more

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

April 12th, 2019

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.

Drill-ready money

November 19th, 2018

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

by Greg Klein

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

Osisko Mining’s (TSX:OSK) Windfall project offers one reason why
Quebec leads Canada and gold leads metals for exploration spending.
(Photo: Osisko Mining)

 

Blockchain might offer intrigue and cannabis promises a buzz, but mineral exploration still attracts growing interest. A healthy upswing this year will bring Canadian projects a nearly 8% spending increase to $2.36 billion, the industry’s highest amount since 2012. According to recently released data, that’s part of an international trend that puts Canada at the top of a worldwide resurgence.

The $2.36 billion allotted for Canadian exploration and deposit appraisal forms just a small part of the year’s total mineral resource development investments, which see $11.86 billion committed to this country, up from $10.61 billion in 2017.

Those numbers come from Natural Resources Canada, which surveyed companies between April and September on their spending intentions within the country for 2018. The $2.36-billion figure includes engineering, economic and feasibility studies, along with environmental work and general expenses.

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

Trial extraction for Pure Gold Mining’s (TSXV:PGM)
Madsen feasibility studies encourages interest in
Ontario’s Red Lake region. (Photo: Pure Gold Mining)

Of that number, Quebec edges out Ontario for first place with $623.1 million in spending this year, 26.4% of Canada’s total. Ontario’s share comes to $567.5 million or 24%. Last year’s totals came to $573.9 million for Quebec and $539.7 million for its western neighbour. Prior to that, however, Ontario held a comfortable lead year after year.

Third-place British Columbia gets $335.5 million or 14.2% of Canada’s total this year, an increase from $302.6 million in 2017.

On a per-capita basis, Yukon’s enjoying an exceptional year with an expected $249.4 million or 10.6% of Canada’s total. That’s the territory’s second substantial increase in a row, following $168.7 million the previous year.

Saskatchewan dips this year to $187.2 million (7.9%) from $191.2 million in 2017. But the Fraser Institute’s last survey of mining jurisdictions placed the province first in Canada and second worldwide.

Nunavut drops too, for the third consecutive time, to $143.9 million (6.1%), compared with $177 million in 2017. The Northwest Territories’ forecast declines to $86.2 million (3.7%) this year after $91.2 million last year.

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

Among companies leading Yukon’s exceptional performance
is White Gold TSXV:WGO, with substantial backing from
Agnico Eagle Mines TSX:AEM and Kinross Gold TSX:K.
(Photo: White Gold)

Especially troubling when contrasted with Yukon’s performance, data for the other territories prompted NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines president Gary Vivian to call on federal, territorial and native governments and boards to help the industry “by creating certainty around land access, by reducing unnecessary complexity and by addressing the higher costs they face working in the North. Sustaining and growing future mining benefits depend on it.”

The pursuit of precious metals accounts for $1.5 billion in spending, nearly 64% of Canadian exploration. Ontario gets almost 31% of the precious metals attention, with 27% going to Quebec.

Base metals, mostly in Quebec, B.C. and Ontario, get 15.5% of the year’s total. Uranium gets 5%, almost entirely in Saskatchewan. Diamonds get nearly 4%, most of it going to the NWT and Saskatchewan. But nearly 11% of this year’s total goes to a category vaguely attributed to other metals, along with coal and additional non-metals.

Getting back to this year’s exploration total ($2.36 billion, remember?), senior companies commit themselves to nearly 55%, compared with nearly 51% last year. But the juniors’ share remains proportionately much larger than the pre-2017 years.

Additional encouragement—and on an international level—comes from S&P Global Market Intelligence. Using different methodology to produce different results, the Metals and Mining Research team found worldwide budgets for nonferrous exploration jumping 19% this year to $10.1 billion.

Juniors have been reaping the biggest budget gains at 35%. Over 1,651 functional exploration companies represent an 8% improvement over last year and the first such increase since 2012. But that’s “still about 900 companies less than in 2012, representing a one-third culling of active explorers over the past five years.”

The most dramatic spending increase hit cobalt and lithium, this year undergoing an 82% leap in exploration spending. That’s part of a 500% climb since 2015, SPGMI says.

Canada’s hitting a six-year high in exploration spending

Nemaska Lithium’s Whabouchi project in Quebec
contributes to the enthusiasm for energy metals.
(Photo: Nemaska Lithium)

Even so, precious and base metals retained their prominence as gold continues “to benefit the most from the industry recovery.” The global strive for yellow metal will claim $4.86 billion this year, up from $4.05 billion in 2017. Base metals spending will grow by $600 million to $3.04 billion. “Copper remained by far the most attractive of the base metals, although zinc allocations have increased the most, rising 37% in 2018, the report states. “Budgets are up for all targets except uranium.”

SPGMI finds Canada keeping its global top spot for nonferrous exploration with a 31% year-on-year budget increase. Second-place Australia achieved a 23% rise. The U.S. total places third, although with a 34% increase over the country’s 2017 performance.

In each of the top three countries, over 55% of the budgets focused on gold.

“Improved metals prices and margins since 2016 have encouraged producers to expand their organic efforts the past two years,” commented SPGMI’s Mark Ferguson. “Over the same period, equity market support for the junior explorers has improved, leading to an uptick in the number and size of completed financings. This allowed the group to increase exploration budgets by 35% in 2018.”

Conuma Coal Resources president Mark Bartkoski discusses his company’s hire-local policy

October 23rd, 2018

…Read more

Community spirit

September 21st, 2018

How new approaches to coal mining revived a B.C. district

by Greg Klein

How new approaches to coal mining revived a B.C. district

Two years after taking over a bankrupt company’s Peace River region assets,
Conuma employs over 750 people, a number that’s expected to reach 900 by year-end.
(Photos: Conuma Coal Resources)

 

Expertise, acumen and timing had a lot to do with it, but September 21 marks the second anniversary of a success story that strongly demonstrates mining’s intangible benefits. Two years ago Conuma Coal Resources re-opened its newly acquired Brule mine in northeastern British Columbia, then re-started two more open pits in the same region. While the advantages of resource industries often extend well beyond jobs and the economy, this is a company that actively pursues a mission in addition to profits.

But profitable Conuma is. It’s also the Peace River coal field’s only miner, following a 2014 downturn that closed the last of the district’s metallurgical fuel operations run by Walter Energy, Anglo American and Teck Resources.

How mining—coal mining at that—revived a B.C. region

The new company has re-opened three mines
in a region deserted by majors.

After Walter entered bankruptcy proceedings the following year, something like 80 firms looked over the company’s Peace assets, with a proposal coming from a liquidator that would have dismantled the projects, says Conuma president Mark Bartkoski. He and a highly experienced group put together their privately-held company in summer 2016.

“Our team saw an opportunity to run Brule differently, to work with the community and First Nations a little more progressively and, from a technical standpoint, we felt there were a number of mining changes that would add value.

“One thing we tied to our offer was a commitment to hire 200 people in the first few months. That probably swung the deal, but we ended up hiring 400 in that first four-month period. We purchased the company on September 9 and had the first coal come out on the 21st.”

That was Brule, which Walter suspended in 2014. Less than three months after resuscitating that mine, Conuma re-started Wolverine, idled by Walter in 2014. Last June Conuma re-opened Willow Creek, shuttered by Walter in 2013. Conuma now employs over 750 people, a number that’s expected to reach 900 by year-end.

“We mined 3.5 million tonnes last year, we’ll mine approximately five million tonnes this year, next year we’re projected to do six million tonnes and, by the time we get to 2021, we should be at about 7.5 million tonnes.”

How new approaches to coal mining revived a B.C. district

Conuma expects production to reach five
million tonnes this year and six million in 2019.

Processing takes place at Willow Creek. From there, rail transports the steelmaking stuff about 965 kilometres to Ridley Terminals near Prince Rupert, North America’s closest deep water port to Asia.

Conuma got early backing from the AMCI Group, a large American coal brokerage that brought experience and connections, gaining a majority share of Conuma.

But workers’ input also plays a vital role, Bartkoski emphasizes. The region’s coal “had the problem of being high-cost, so every time the market got tough, this was the first coal field to get cut.” There was a problem with consistency too.

“The quality of the coal, as far as low-sulphur, low-phosphorous metallurgical coal, is very good,” he explains. “But there was always a very high variation in the ash, which is how much rock was in the coal. Steel producers have a real problem when that ash varies a lot. So we worked with the employees, we came up with a couple of pro-active systems to be creative. We used to have an ash variation of about 1.5% ash, and currently we’re running 0.18%, which is fantastic. We’ve had three of the world’s largest steel companies come to look at our quality control program and the question is, ‘How in the world did you guys go from one of the worst ash variations internationally to one of the best?’

“It’s not enough to do well only when the market’s good,” he points out. “You have to get costs down, keep debt low and maintain a high-quality reputation so when the market gets tough and tight—and it’s probably not going to stay like this forever—we’ll remain the preferred supplier.”

How new approaches to coal mining revived a B.C. district

Employee feedback should help the company
weather another downturn, Conuma believes.

Employee engagement doesn’t stop there. “We hold monthly meetings to talk to every crew about costs, about pro-active things we can do, whether it’s environmental ideas or whether it’s delays or accidents. When you involve people and truly listen to them, you get good results. We’ve been able to reduce our operating costs by 40% compared to the previous company—that’s awesome. Our injury rate right now is one-seventh of the North American average, which is phenomenal. We were the safest mining company in B.C. last year, and right now we’re on track to repeat that this year.”

Stressing both cost reduction and safety, employee feedback has contributed to an efficiency incentive program that currently averages workers over $1,000 a month each.

Longevity strengthens commitment to both the company and the community, he adds. Previously, Brule and Willow provided camp housing, where employee turnover averaged six and a half months, Bartkoski says. “We wanted to build a company that would support a healthy home life. Our goal was to train the local workforce to fulfill the needs. We have a training budget that’s about three times the size of most companies because we want to train people to be here for the long term. Right now over 80% of our people are local. They live in either Tumbler Ridge, Chetwynd or Mackenzie, and we’re really proud of that. That was a commitment I made to the mayors and the First Nations.

“As a matter of fact, a large amount of our truck drivers are single moms. That workforce hadn’t been encouraged in the past and in a lot of cases they’re people who want to remain part of the community. I hate to break the bubble of us macho guys but a lot of our best truck drivers are women.”

Although Bartkoski doesn’t make the comparison, Conuma’s training policy contrasts starkly with that of HD Mining International. The Chinese company planned to staff underground operations at Murray River, another proposed coal mine in the Peace, exclusively with Mandarin-speaking workers imported from China. An HD spokesperson later claimed the policy had been misunderstood, although the company made Mandarin a requirement for underground jobs.

I remember walking out of their office thinking ‘I’m not even going to say this to anyone’ because I didn’t think any of it would happen. But everything they told me did come to pass and in most cases sooner than they said they were going to do it. So it’s really been a shot in the arm for Tumbler Ridge.—Don McPherson, mayor of
the District of Tumbler Ridge

Looking ahead, Conuma projects 15-year lifespans for each of its three mines. A fourth, Willow South, should begin operations in about two years, Bartkoski says. Meanwhile the company and its staff participate in a number of extra-curricular projects, including their support for a children’s home in Vancouver and an orphanage in Bolivia.

Tumbler Ridge Mayor Don McPherson recalls his first meeting with Conuma management in summer 2016. “I remember walking out of their office thinking ‘I’m not even going to say this to anyone’ because I didn’t think any of it would happen. But everything they told me did come to pass and in most cases sooner than they said they were going to do it. So it’s really been a shot in the arm for Tumbler Ridge.”

McPherson arrived in the region before the town even existed, working as a mechanic on construction vehicles used to build the district’s first coal mine, Quintette, which Denison Mines opened in 1982. Since then he’s experienced a number of mining cycles.

“Two years ago, before Conuma, you could walk downtown and probably never see children,” he recalls. “Now you’ve got all these young people who’ve come to work at the mine. They brought their families. Our schools are full right now.” He estimates the town’s population at about 2,200, up from about 1,800 at one point.

Although the oilpatch, a windfarm, forestry and tourism have diversified the economy, mining’s still vital to the town built for mining.

Meanwhile Bartkoski’s enthusiasm seems irrepressible. “We’re very excited not only that we have a very good future in front of us here, but we’ve also proven that northeast B.C. coal, mined in a very aggressive, creative and engaging way, with not only the employees but also the community, can be a win-win for everybody—and a long-term win.”

How new approaches to coal mining revived a B.C. district

The company enhances staff commitment to both the job
and the community through a policy of training local residents.

Infographic: How Canada’s mining sector impacts the economy

August 14th, 2018

by Nicholas LePan | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist

Canada is a mining nation.

From the Rockies to the Canadian Shield, and from the Prairies to the North, the variety of geology that exists in the country is immense—and this has created a large and unique opportunity for groundbreaking mineral discoveries.

As a result, Canada is one of the world’s largest exporters of minerals and metals, supplying approximately 60 different mineral commodities to over 100 countries.

An intro to Canadian mining

This infographic comes to us from Natural Resources Canada and it highlights an industry that has given Canada a competitive advantage in the global economy.

 

How Canada’s mining sector impacts the economy

 

The mineral sector brings jobs, investment and business to Canada.

This impact stems from the whole lifecycle of mining, including exploration, extraction, primary processing, design and manufacturing processes.

Economic impact

Last year, the minerals sector contributed $72 billion to Canada’s GDP.

Here are the major minerals produced in Canada in 2017, along with their dollar values:

Rank Mineral Value (2017) Production (2017)
#1 Gold $8,700,000,000 164,313 kg
#2 Coal $6,200,000,000 59,893,000 tonnes
#3 Copper $4,700,000,000 584,000 tonnes
#4 Potash $4,600,000,000 12,214,000 tonnes
#5 Iron ore $3,800,000,000 49,009,000 tonnes
#6 Nickel $2,700,000,000 201,000 tonnes
#7 Diamonds $2,600,000,000 22,724,000 carats

According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, more non-ferrous mineral exploration dollars come to Canada than to any other country. In 2017, roughly $1.1 billion—or about 14% of global exploration spending—was allocated to Canada, which edged out Australia for the top spot globally.

Mining and communities

From mining in remote communities to the legal and financial activities in urban centres such as Vancouver or Toronto, mining touches all Canadian communities.

According to a study commissioned by the Ontario Mining Association, the economic impact of one new gold mine in Ontario can create around 4,000 jobs during construction and production, and can contribute $38 million to $43 million to the economy once operating.

Further, more than 16,500 indigenous people were employed in the mineral sector in 2016, accounting for 11.6% of the mining industry labour force, making it the second-largest private sector employee.

Innovation drives Canadian mining

Canada has an established network of academic thinkers, business associations, financial capital and government programs that support and promote new technologies that can help set a standard for mining worldwide.

Here are a few examples of innovation at work:

CanmetMINING is currently researching the implementation of hydrogen power to replace the use of diesel fuel in underground mines. Once this technology is adopted, it could reduce the GHG emissions of underground mines by 25% and improve the health of workers in mines by reducing their exposure to diesel exhaust.

New technology is turning what was once mine waste into a potential source for minerals. In the past three decades, six billion tonnes of mine tailings have accumulated with a potential value of US$10 billion. Reprocessing this waste can produce significant recoveries of rare earth elements, gold, nickel, cobalt and other valuable minerals.

Artificial intelligence and new remote-control technology can be deployed to operate mining equipment and find new discoveries.

All these innovations are going to change the nature of working in mines, while creating high-paid jobs and demand for an educated labour force.

Opportunity for future generations

A large number of Canadian miners are expected to retire over the next decade. In fact, Canada’s Mining Industry Human Resources Council forecasts 87,830 workers at a minimum will have to be hired over the next 10 years.

With game-changing technologies on the horizon, there will be plenty of opportunities for a new generation of high-tech miners. The future bodes well for Canadian mining.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.