B.C.’s Historic Silvery Slocan Mining District

 

This information came from the Hughes Exploration Group website: http://www.hughes-exploration.com/s/Home.asp

SILVER PRIZE FOR GOLD-SEEKERS

The first discovery of placer gold in the Fraser River in 1858 attracted thousands of prospectors and fortune-seekers to the wilderness of Western Canada, triggering the subsequent Cariboo gold rush of the 1860s and the Klondike gold rush of the 1890s. But as the easy pickings of gold nuggets were exhausted from the network of rivers and streams, resilient prospectors turned their attention to outcropping veins where precious metals could be extracted by hand on a limited scale.

In the summer of 1891, Eli Carpenter and Jack Seaton arrived on foot in what is now the Slocan Mining District of British Columbia, lured by tales of silver-rich deposits used by local native guides and hunters. In early September, they discovered an outcropping of sparkling silver-rich galena and collected samples for assaying.

As legend goes, the alliance between Carpenter, a French-Canadian former tight-rope walker, and Seaton, a wily Irishman from Tennessee, fell apart soon afterward amid allegations of double-dealing, with each taking on new partners to stake claims on Payne Mountain, where the initial discovery was made. What is certain is that both men sold their claims early to mining speculators for a pittance and moved on from the region.

The original discovery by Carpenter and Seaton lured thousands of fortune seekers to the Slocan District. Among them was J.W. Cockle, a novice prospector who made an accidental discovery while trying to cut a pole from atop a large boulder. He slipped and dropped his axe, shearing off part of the rock and exposing sparkling silver-rich galena ore. Cockle and his partner cleared away the debris and soon realized they were standing on top of a huge mineralized boulder.

They staked the ground encompassing the boulder, which was subsequently found to weigh 125 tons. But much like Carpenter and Seaton, Cockle and his partner sold out too early. They received $2,000 for a boulder later determined to have a value of $20,000 after smelting. No other discoveries were made on their claims. Experienced prospectors soon realized that the boulder had been transported from another source and began exploring the surrounding mountains for hard-rock silver-rich deposits. In the meantime, stories of the rich boulder triggered a stampede to the Slocan District.

FROM BOOM TOWN TO GHOST TOWN

The “Silvery Slocan” became a world-famous mining camp in the late 1890s as a series of silver-rich ore deposits were found in the Selkirk Mountain Range. An influx of experienced Welsh, Cornish and Scandinavian miners helped the hardy North American prospectors and miners develop their discoveries. This was typically done by following an outcropping vein from surface underground in hopes of finding an ore deposit at depth. The famous Slocan Star Mine, which widened to 70 feet of clean ore at depth, demonstrated the strength of the district’s mineralizing system.

During its heyday in the early 1900s, more than 300 mines operated within the Slocan Mining District. All were underground operations, except for one open-pit mine, and most were located in mountainous terrain above the 5,000-foot elevation. Tunnels were driven below the deposits so gravity could be used to stockpile ore that usually was transported to surface by underground rail-cars. Aerial tramlines were built at some mines in order to transport ore over steep terrain to mills and concentrators.

Two railroads competed to transport the silver-rich concentrates to smelters. The mines became increasingly mechanized over time with the help of steam engines and water turbines, and eventually hydro-electric power systems.

The original Payne Mine was for a time British Columbia’s highest dividend-paying employer, which along with other rich mines spurred the development of the town of Sandon. Known as the “Monte Carlo of the West,” Sandon became British Columbia’s largest city in the early 1900s, with a school, hospital, several churches and a few sawmills and factories.

Amenities included a bowling alley, dozens of hotels and saloons, several theaters, an opera house and an infamous red-light district. The mining camp also had one of the first unions, spurred by an influx of miners from the famous silver mines of the Coeur d’Alene District of northern Idaho. Persistent labor disputes took a toll on production from mines in the Silvery Slocan, but a larger factor was falling metal prices. By the 1920s, the Slocan Mining District was in a decline that continued during the Great Depression, ultimately turning Sandon into a mining ghost town.

The Slocan Mining District has contributed greatly to the economic development of British Columbia. Several junior companies returned to the “Silvery Slocan” in the mid-to-late 1900s and restored several mines to limited production. But unlike the Coeur d’Alene Silver Camp of northern Idaho, where larger companies controlled most of the major mines, exploration programs in the Slocan were usually sporadic and short-lived
because of metal price fluctuations, the challenges of raising venture capital for modern exploration programs and the fragmented ownership of claims within the district.

REVIVING THE SILVERY SLOCAN

Klondike Silver began consolidating ground in the overlooked and underestimated Slocan Mining District in 2000, during an industry downturn when properties could be acquired through staking or low-cost options. The Company is now the largest land-holder in Western Canada’s largest historic silver-mining district.

Along with a wholly owned, 100-tonne-per day, permitted flotation mill in historic Sandon, Klondike Silver owns more than two dozen past-producing mines – including the Silvana, Wonderful, Hinckley, Hallmac, Payne, Van-Roi Hewitt, Jackson, Ruth-Hope and Silversmith among many others – and extensive, highly prospective exploration properties. Most have seen little modern-day exploration because of the fragmented ownership of the claims and the presence of extensive overburden.

The fully permitted 100-tonne-per-day Sandon Mill – the cornerstone of the Sandon Mining Complex – allows the Company to conduct test-mining and bulk-sampling programs for its nearby mines and other advanced stage projects. Cash flow generated from these activities is used to offset the costs of ongoing exploration and mine development programs.

Klondike Silver’s geological team is also gaining a better understanding of the geological setting of the district. A prime exploration goal is identifying the regional “Main Lode” structure hosting most of the district’s mines, such as the Silvana, Mammoth, Silversmith and Standard mines to name a few.

These mines typically exploited steeply dipping silver-lead-zinc veins and silver-lead-zinc replacement deposits hosted in limestone of the Slocan Group. In addition to underground drilling and development programs within the most prospective of the past-producing mines, ongoing exploration programs will use advanced geophysical, geochemical and other modern exploration techniques to explore for extensions of known near-surface veins and new vein-hosted targets obscured by overburden.

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