Friday 24th January 2020

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Posts tagged ‘coal’

Open and shut cases: West

December 20th, 2019

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

by Greg Klein

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

Western Potash began Saskatchewan’s first solution mining operation for this commodity in July.
(Photo: Western Potash)

 

This is Part 2 of a four-part series.

The Exxon Valdez of Canadian mining went into dry dock at the end of May, as Imperial Metals TSX:III put its Mount Polley copper-gold operation on care and maintenance. The company that traded above $16.50 prior to the August 2014 tailings dam failure spent most of 2019 well below $3. Now holding two suspended mines, the company’s operational portfolio has dwindled to a 30% stake in B.C.’s Red Chris copper-gold open pits. In August Imperial sold the other 70% to ASX-listed Newcrest Mining for US$775 million.

But if human error can dump eight million cubic metres of tailings muck into the waterways, human ingenuity can respond. As the five-year anniversary approached, Geoscience BC founding president/CEO and Imperial’s former chief scientific officer ’Lyn Anglin offered her perspective on the $70-million clean-up program, which continues during the mine’s suspension.

 

Maybe its status as Canada’s largest diversified miner leaves Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A/TSX:TECK.B open to greater diversity in downturns. The company blamed global economic uncertainties for “a significant negative effect on the prices for our products, particularly steelmaking coal.” But the company attributes its most recent coal mine closures not to market forces but to depletion. That was the verdict for the mid-year shutdown of B.C.’s Coal Mountain and for Alberta’s Cardinal River, scheduled to follow in mid-2020.

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

Some depleted mines notwithstanding, Teck Resources
has over four decades of B.C. coal reserves.
(Photo: Teck Resources)

Although Teck warned employees in September of layoffs, noting a price drop from about $210 to about $130 per tonne over the previous weeks, further mine closures weren’t specified. Depletion hardly concerns Teck’s four remaining Kootenay-region coal operations. The company says there’s enough steelmaking stuff to keep Line Creek, Greenhills, Elkview and Fording River busy for 18, 28, 38 and 43 years respectively.

While the company now focuses on its Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 copper development project in Chile and its JV at the port of Vancouver’s Neptune terminal, Teck’s $20-billion proposal for Alberta might serve as an affront to the great cause of our time. In July Teck managed to get a recommendation of approval from a joint federal/provincial environmental review panel for its Frontier oilsands project. Media reports, however, suggest Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and his cabinet might reject the panel’s recommendation.

 

Whether it brought relief or astonishment to local supporters, in July Western Potash finally began building its long-delayed Milestone potash project in southern Saskatchewan.

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

A determined-looking Western Potash group
celebrates a milestone in Saskatchewan mining.
(Photo: Western Potash)

Expectations had risen and fallen a few too many times since at least 2015, when the company announced it had secured funds sufficient for a scaled-down capex. But in October Western began solution mining, the first application of this method for potash in Saskatchewan. The innovative operation will also be “the first potash mine in the world that will leave no salt tailings on the surface, thereby significantly reducing water consumption.”

Now a subsidiary of Western Resources TSX:WRX, the company plans “hot mining” early in the new year to pump brine containing potassium chloride into a crystallization pond at surface, leaving unwanted sodium chloride underground. By Q3 2020 a newly built plant will process the potash for an off-take agreement covering all Phase I production. Phase II calls for expanded operations to support an average 146,000 tpa output over a 12-year life.

 

Yet the mine starts up amid cutbacks and shutdowns elsewhere. The province’s big three potash producers, Nutrien TSX:NTR, Mosaic NYSE:MOS and K+S Potash Canada, all reduced output in 2019. Between them, Nutrien and Mosaic suspended four operations, at least one indefinitely.

In August workers at Mosaic’s Colonsay operation learned of an indefinite layoff, reportedly to last anywhere from six months to a matter of years. Further discouragement came in November when the United Steelworkers confirmed that the company was moving equipment from Colonsay to its Esterhazy operation, itself subject to reduced output.

A look at the western provinces’ mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020

Saskatchewan’s tallest structure stands over a shaft reaching
more than a kilometre underground at Mosaic’s Esterhazy K3.
(Photo: Mosaic)

Esterhazy’s ambitious K3 expansion project, however, continues unfazed by current market conditions. With construction started in 2011, commissioning begun in December 2018 and full production not scheduled until 2024, the new underground operation will replace Esterhazy’s K1 and K2 mines, keeping the K1 and K2 mills busy at the world’s largest potash mining complex.

In September Nutrien announced it would “proactively” suspend its Allan, Lanigan and Vanscoy potash mines. Workers at the first two got December 29 recall notices, but Vanscoy’s resumption has yet to be revealed.

Nevertheless, company bosses expressed optimistic 2020 foresight. It will be “a strong year for crop input demand for which we are well-positioned to benefit,” predicted Nutrien president/CEO Chuck Magro. His Mosaic counterpart Joc O’Rourke expects “a very strong application season in Brazil and North America, and a better supply and demand balance in 2020.” .

 

That year or the next just might be momentous for Saskatchewan potash. BHP Group NYSE:BHP’s board of directors has until February 2021 to decide whether to complete Jansen, a $17-billion project that would challenge the province’s potash protocol.

The threat of competition might take an unexpected turn, however. As reported in the Financial Post, at least two analysts say rival companies could attack pre-emptively by boosting production to lower prices and discourage new mine development.

 

Holding top positions globally are Saskatchewan as potash-producing jurisdiction and Saskatoon-headquartered Nutrien as potash miner. The province also boasts world stature for uranium but has no new U3O8 operations expected during this survey’s time frame. Even so, industry and investors watch with interest as Denison Mines TSX:DML, NexGen Energy TSX:NXE and Fission Uranium TSX:FCU each proceed with advanced large-scale projects.

This is Part 2 of a four-part series.

Geoscience BC seeks to put “hidden” copper-gold resources into the public domain

December 6th, 2019

by Greg Klein | December 6, 2019

Additional base and precious metals could be waiting for discovery in a region already hosting some of British Columbia’s largest mines. A new program by Geoscience BC plans a number of measures to search for potential deposits hidden beneath glacial till.

Under scrutiny will be a 50,700-kilometre swath of Quesnel terrane between Centerra Gold’s (TSX:CG) Mount Milligan gold-copper mine to the northwest and, to the southeast, Taseko Mines’ (TSX:TKO) 75%-held Gibraltar copper-molybdenum operation and Imperial Metals’ (TSX:III) Mount Polley project, now on care and maintenance. Backed by $2.9 million in funding, the Central Interior Copper-Gold Research project begins with two programs. One will analyze new and existing till samples with satellite imagery to trace samples and geochemical anomalies to their source. Another program will use existing geophysical data to identify, map and model potential copper-gold deposits.

Geoscience BC seeks to put “hidden” copper-gold resources into public domain

Receding glaciers may have helped hide valuable resources.
(Photo: Geoscience BC)

Results are scheduled for 2021, when drilling is anticipated and additional related projects may take place. Data will be made public for the benefit of communities, governments and academia, as well as the mining sector.

Consequently, support for the program came from communities as well as industry. At a December 5 open house North Central Local Government Association president Lara Beckett said, “The communities of the NCLGA benefit from the valuable public data on water, energy and minerals that these initiatives provide. NCLGA members have passed resolutions in support of the work of Geoscience BC and look forward to working together on future opportunities to strengthen communities throughout north-central British Columbia.”

Association for Mineral Exploration president/CEO Kendra Johnston called the work “important to AME members because the data and information that they provide inspire new mineral exploration and attract new investment to British Columbia. We look forward to seeing the results from the first two projects, and to learning more about future phases.”

Other recently announced Geoscience BC programs include Porphyry Vectoring Techniques in Advanced Argillic Altered Rocks, a study of three known porphyry copper-gold deposits in the province’s northwest and north-central regions.

Earlier last month Geoscience BC published a report on mineral deposit types in the Toodoggone area of B.C.’s north-central region. Among several other projects, the non-profit group is also studying methods of extracting rare earth elements from B.C. coal deposits.

Learn more about the Central Interior Copper-Gold Research project.

Paved with promises II

October 9th, 2019

The North’s infrastructure deficit impacts sovereignty, the economy and quality of life

by Greg Klein

The North’s infrastructure deficit impacts sovereignty, the economy and quality of life

The Chinese government’s majority-held Izok Corridor project
would benefit from Canadian infrastructure. (Photo: MMG Ltd)

 

This is the second of a two-part series. See Part 1.

Canada would gain a deep-water arctic port, Nunavut would get its first road out of the territory and mineral-rich regions would open up if two mega-proposals come to fruition. Recent funding announcements to study the Northwest Territories’ Slave Geological Province Corridor and Nunavut’s Grays Bay Road and Port projects could lead to a unified all-season route from a highway running northeast out of Yellowknife to stretch north through the Lac de Gras diamond fields, past the Slave and Izok base and precious metals regions, and on to Arctic Ocean shipping.

In mid-August, as federal and NWT elections neared, representatives from both levels of government announced a $40-million study into a possible 413-kilometre all-season route linking the NWT’s Highway #4 with a proposed Nunavut road. The project would also extend the NWT electrical grid to the Slave region, which straddles both sides of the NWT-Nunavut border.

The North’s infrastructure deficit impacts sovereignty, the economy and quality of life

Isolated Grays Bay could become an arctic shipping hub,
helping fulfill a dream that dates back to John Diefenbaker
and, not exactly a contemporary, Martin Frobisher.
(Photo: Grays Bay Road and Port Project)

That same month the federal and Nunavut governments, along with the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, announced $21.5 million to study a possible 230-kilometre Nunavut section. That proposal includes building a deep-sea port at Grays Bay, about midway along the Northwest Passage. Supporters hope to reach the “shovel-ready” stage in two to three years.

A “champion and proponent” of the project, KIA president Stanley Anablak said, “We know that this is only the first step, but if it is constructed, this infrastructure project will be a game-changer with respect to improved community re-supply, marine safety, arctic sovereignty, regional economic development and international investment.”

KIA perseverance helped revive the proposal after Ottawa refused to provide majority funding for the $527-million estimate in April of last year, 18 months before the federal election.

Another supporter is MMG Ltd, with two advanced base metals deposits in the region: Izok holds 15 million tonnes averaging 13% zinc and 2.3% copper, while High Lake shows 14 million tonnes averaging 3.8% zinc and 2.5% copper.

The North’s infrastructure deficit impacts sovereignty, the economy and quality of life

The Nunavut portion of a grand trans-territorial proposal.
(Map: Grays Bay Road and Port Project)

The Kitikmeot region “hosts some of the world´s more attractive undeveloped zinc and copper resources,” MMG stated. “However, located near the Arctic Circle and with no supporting infrastructure, these resources have remained undeveloped since their discoveries roughly 50 years ago.”

But could a supposed nation-building project become a nation-buster, compromising sovereignty for the sake of another country’s new silk roads? The proposal’s main beneficiary “will be the Chinese government, more so than the government of Nunavut or the government of Canada,” Michael Byers told the National Post in August.

About 26% of MMG stock trades on the ASX. China’s state-owned China Minmetals Corp owns the rest.

Byers, a political science prof and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law, “does not see a problem with a Chinese-controlled company operating mines in Canada,” the NP stated, “but he wonders if the company will be allowed to bring in Chinese workers to build the road and if Canadian taxpayers should foot the bill.”

The prospect of a Chinese company importing Chinese workers for a Canadian resource project has already been demonstrated by HD Mining International. In 2012 the company planned to staff underground operations at a proposed British Columbia coal mine exclusively with Mandarin-speaking Chinese. The mine was later put on hold, but not before an 18-month bulk sampling program conducted entirely by Chinese workers.

A new Grays Bay port and 350-kilometre all-season road formed part of the 2012 pre-feasibility study for MMG’s proposed mine. The company has since backed away from the estimated $6.5-billion price tag, calling for collaboration with others to build regional infrastructure.

We know that this is only the first step, but if it is constructed, this infrastructure project will be a game-changer with respect to improved community re-supply, marine safety, arctic sovereignty, regional economic development and international investment.—Stanley Anablak,
president of the
Kitikmeot Inuit Association

Certainly other companies would benefit too, as would the communities represented by the KIA. And as for sovereignty, neglecting infrastructure would cause the greater setback. That’s the perspective of a Senate report issued in June that called for several measures to expand the northern economy and enhance its culture. “The impact of federal under-investment hits hardest on the Arctic’s greatest asset, Indigenous youth,” the committee emphasized. “Opportunities for nation-building can no longer be missed.”

Among the senators’ priorities were energy and communications, as well as transportation, for the benefit of communities and industry. The committee recognized that mining comprises “the largest private sector employer in the Arctic, contributing to 20% to 25% of the GDP of the northern territories and supporting about 9,000 jobs directly, or one in every six jobs.”

The report also noted “growing global interest in the Arctic and rising international rivalry outside of the Arctic. Several non-arctic states in Europe and Asia have developed arctic policies or strategies.” Canada’s sovereignty over the Northwest Passage and other arctic waters depends on the principle of use it or lose it, the committee suggested.

The Northwest Passage route to Asia had been an alternative considered by Baffinland Iron Mines, the Nunatsiaq News reported last month. With ambitious infrastructure proposals of its own, the Baffin Island company currently relies on  trans-Atlantic routes to Europe and has also used Russia’s Northern Sea Route to reach Asia.

As part of its Phase II plans to increase production, Baffinland has applied for permission to build the territories’ second railway, which would run north from the Mary River mine to the company’s Milne Inlet port, now reached by a 100-kilometre freight road. The new track would precede a 150-kilometre southern rail extension to a port the company would build at Steensby Inlet. The Steensby route and facilities received environmental approvals in 2014.

This is the second of a two-part series. See Part 1.

Related reading: Reaching arctic mines by sea.

Maria Holuszko and her Geoscience BC team look at coal as a possible source of REEs

September 5th, 2019

…Read more

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.