Archive | Canadian Mining History

The story of nickel is industrial romance writ by man in metal – by Charles Vincent (MACLEAN’S MAGAZINE – December 15, 1936)

THE CONSTRUCTION gang foreman looked down the cut where his crew was tackling the tough rock with heavy picks, getting ready to blast. The track layers were right on his heels, pushing the new Canadian Pacific Railway westward to bridge the continent. The foreman’s eye fell on one man.

“Hey, you !” he roared, “what’re ye standin’ there gapin’ at? Get busy with that pick.”

“Well, take a look at this slab of rock, boss; it’s kind of queer.” And so in 1883 nickel was uncovered at Sudbury.

It was a product that nobody wanted. When the first smelting yielded a metal which was curiously pale instead of copper red, and when analysis showed that this fault was due to the presence of nickel, men cursed it as a plague which they neither knew how to get rid of nor how to use in such large quantities. It was the copper content of the Sudbury ore on which they had set their hopes. Continue Reading →

[Manitoba Mining History] Flin Flon – by Jack Paterson (MACLEAN’S – OCTOBER 1, 1938)

Ten years ago Flin Flon was a struggling mining camp in the wilderness; today it is Manitoba’s third city

OVER Flin Flon at 4,000. Visibility excellent. Landing now. Advise Winnipeg. Okay Lac Du Bonnet.”

A quick rattle of sign-off letters and the pilot carelessly tossed sponge-rubber earphones above the cowling. At Lac du Bonnet, 450 miles distant, a young operator of Wings, Limited, would relay the message from loudspeaker to private telephone line. In brief seconds head office would have it. Simple routine.

My mind flashed to an article I had done for Maclean’s short years back, wherein was prophesied general two-way radio for wilderness airplanes. At that time voice distance and sixty-five pounds unit weight had been the sticker. Now here was voice distance handled by a compact set of only thirty pounds, live and simple as a telephone.

Progress. Yes, but 4,000 feet below us, a jumble of wooden boxes, scattered over rocky hills plumed by smoke from a great smelter, was another herald of progress that commanded attention. Ten years! My spine tingled at thought of changes I would see. Continue Reading →

The Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company, Limited History (1927-1996) – by International Directory of Company Histories

Centennial of the Flin Flon Ore Discovery (May 2015) 

For a large selection of corporate histories click: International Directory of Company Histories

Company History:

The Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company, Limited, is a major Canadian producer of copper and zinc which operates mines and metal processing facilities in remote areas of the province of Manitoba. The company has been removing metals from the ground for most of the twentieth century, and its efforts to industrialize western Manitoba have helped to foster development in the region.

More than 23 mines have yielded ore to the Hudson Bay metal processing works over the last 60 years, as the company has engaged in aggressive geological exploration to support its metal refining activities.

Hudson Bay got its start in January 1915, when Tom Creighton, an early Canadian prospector, happened upon an outcropping of sulfide ore in an undeveloped area of Manitoba. In the previous decade, prospectors had discovered that an enormous greenstone belt stretched east from Manitoba into northern Saskatchewan. This geological structure contained numerous deposits of different metals mixed together, including zinc, copper, silver, and gold. Continue Reading →

[Flin Flon, Manitoba History] By Tractor Train – by Emmett E. Kelleher ((MACLEAN’S Magazine – March 1, 1930)

The story of a rail-less railroad which moved 23,000 tons of freight into the heart of a wilderness “on time”

IT WAS past midnight—the weather several degrees below zero. The snowmobile sped along a newly cut road in northern Saskatchewan. A night of inky blackness. Trees rushing by like black spectres of a lost army. With the hum of the motor and the whistle of the skis on the glazed snow, I was almost dozing to sleep when we rounded a curve and the swaying of the car roused me.

I blinked through the frosted windshield at a pair of strange lights that appeared suddenly up ahead. High, extremely bright, and set wide apart, they looked like the eyes of some ancient mammal that had returned to its northland home. The nearer the lights approached, the more deeply fascinated I became.

The orbs of dazzling white loomed right in front of us. Our driver swung his car off the trail. The machine ploughed easily through a three-foot snowdrift. A sterner and a mightier roar of machinery filled the northerh murk. Peering through the window I caught a glimpse of the largest tractor I had ever seen. Coupled behind were six loaded sleighs as large as circus wagons. At the rear end was a caboose, the warm yellow glow from its window contrasting vividly in my mind with the frigidity of the night. Continue Reading →

Searching BC Ghost Towns for Traces of Chinese Miners – by Sarah Berman ( – December 17, 2016)

British Columbia’s abandoned mining towns are full of untold stories. Sometimes you just have to dig through some racist bullshit to find them.

That’s what anthropologist, historian and ghost town expert Laura Cuthbert told me—though admittedly in much politer terms—after a recent trip to Coalmont, Blakeburn and Granite City in the province’s southern interior. Once mining outposts populated by thousands of people, fires, mining accidents and rail contract changes left the settlements virtually empty by 1930.

Though the official plaques say white miners “struck it rich” at Granite City in 1885, there’s evidence Chinese miners were already working there for 25 years before. “The Chinese history in BC isn’t properly known. It isn’t in the BC Archives,” she told VICE. “There were all these families we’ll never really know the names of.” Continue Reading →

Mining warfare in WWI – by Cecilia Keating (CIM Magazine – November 2016)

n the First World War trenches cleaved Europe from the North Sea to Switzerland. While the battlefield above ground was static, a secret subterranean war raged. The British Army began to form specialist army units of trained tunnellers in 1915, initially recruiting men from poor coal mining communities in Britain.

Their job was to create a labyrinth of underground tunnels that extended under enemy lines and could be packed with explosives, and to dig ‘camouflets’, smaller mines used to collapse enemy tunnels. They were also tasked with building extensive networks of tunnels behind Allied lines, allowing for undetected movement of men and supplies.

Faced with growing demand for skilled miners, the British government appealed to Canada to raise tunnelling ‘companies’ in September 1915. The first was mobilised in Pembroke, Ontario and recruited men from mining centres in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. The second was comprised of men from Alberta and British Columbia. The third was formed of Canadian miners who were already fighting in Europe. Continue Reading →

[B.C. Mining History] Interest Returns to northeastern coalfields – by Ed Kimura (Mineral Exploration – Spring 2011)

Rising Prices Fuel Regional Revitalization Hopes

A major milestone in the development of British Columbia’s northeast coal resources was achieved on Jan. 23, 1981 with the announcement of agreements whereby a consortium of 12 Japanese companies would purchase 94 million tons(short) of metallurgical coal and 16 million tons of thermal coal over a 15-year period commencing in October 1983.

The announcement triggered the co-ordination of the largest industrial development and construction project in B.C. history. The project would involve the construction of Denison Mines’ Quintette and Teck Corporation’s Bullmoose open-pit coal mines.

The federal and B.C. governments committed to fund the construction and development of various phases of the project, including construction of Tumbler Ridge townsite to accommodate the projected workforce, constructing a 127-km power line and highway system to the mines and Tumbler Ridge, constructing and upgrading the railway and related infrastructure to transport coal from the mine sites to tidewater, and developing the proposed Ridley Island coal-handling facilities at Prince Rupert. Continue Reading →

Barrick’s Munk Heads Top Ten Most Important Mining Men in Canadian History – by Stan Sudol

Melanie and Peter Munk

Melanie and Peter Munk

Four Americans Made the List!

A few months ago, my dear colleague Joe Martin, who is the Director of the Canadian Business & Financial History Initiative at Rotman and President Emeritus of Canada’s History Society, asked me a very simple question: who would be considered the most important individual in Canadian mining?

Considering Canada’s lengthy and exceptional expertise in the mineral sector, it was not an easy answer and I decided to research and create a top ten list of the most important mining men in Canadian history.

The lack of women on this list simply reflects the fact that for much of our history most women were not given the educational or social opportunities to excel in business, especially in a rough and male-dominated sector like mining. Times have changed, women are playing key roles in mining today and will definitely be included on this list in the future.

However, a few qualifiers need to be established. This is basically a list of mine builders not mine finders.  Building a company through takeovers and discoveries is one way but I am also focusing on individuals who have built corporate empires and/or who have developed isolated regions of the country with the necessary infrastructure for mines to flourish and create multi-generational jobs, shareholder wealth and great economic impact. Continue Reading →

Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. History (1975 – 1997) – by International Directory of Company Histories

For a large selection of corporate histories click: International Directory of Company Histories

Company Perspectives: In a world eager for plant nutrients, Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. (PCS) offers double strength: by capacity, it is the world’s largest potash company and third largest phosphate producer. Export-oriented, it is a global pace-setter.

Company History: Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. is the world’s largest producer of potash and the third largest producer of phosphate. Potash and phosphate are mined for their essential nutrients, potassium and phosphorus, which are used in making fertilizer. Potassium is used to increase crop yields, raise the food value of certain plants, and aids in resisting diseases leading to crop failure.

Phosphorus, which is instrumental in the process of plant photosynthesis, is necessary for the normal growth of either an animal or plant, and is an essential ingredient for its maintenance and repair. Through an aggressive acquisition policy, the company has been able to make its presence felt throughout the world. Continue Reading →

Teck Corporation Company History (1913-1997) – by International Directory of Company Histories

For a large selection of corporate histories click: International Directory of Company Histories

Company Perspectives:

Teck’s mission is to be the leader in new mine development and operations, by providing the best in engineering talent and systems, having a strong financing capacity and by dealing with our partners on a fair and open basis. Teck projects come in on time and on budget. We welcome new opportunities for successful mine development and the opportunity to establish relationships with new partners.

Company History:

Teck Corporation is one of the world’s fastest growing diversified mine development and operating companies, producing gold, silver, copper, zinc, niobium and metallurgical coal. Teck is the largest shareholder in Cominco Ltd., a world leader in zinc and lead as well as a producer of copper. The company has working interests in 11 mines located across Canada and a copper mine in Chile. Teck projects usually involve partnerships or joint ventures with other companies, with Teck operating as the builder and project manager. Continue Reading →

[Cobalt Silver Boom] The hammer and the fox – by Charlie Angus and Brit Griffin (Northern Miner – January 27, 2003)

There’s a story about the discovery of silver in northern Ontario, and this is how it goes: When the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway (T&NO) line from North Bay to Haileybury and New Liskeard was being completed, it had to pass through a rugged section of the Canadian Shield around the area known as Long Lake. Fred LaRose was a blacksmith hired to work this section. One day in late August 1903, he was working at his forge and a fox suddenly appeared.

Startled, LaRose threw a hammer at the creature. The hammer missed and bounced off an outcropping rock. When LaRose went to retrieve the hammer, he realized that the rock was a vein of metal that turned out to be pure silver.

In all probability, LaRose didn’t throw a hammer and there wasn’t a fox, and although he did discover a massive vein of silver, at the time, he thought it was copper. Nor was LaRose the first to make this discovery. Two other railway workers, James McKinley and Ernest Darragh, had discovered silver just south of the same spot a month before. Continue Reading →

OBITUARY: Adam Zimmerman: Noranda executive was a fervent nationalist – by Fred Langan (Globe and Mail – November 16, 2016)

Adam Zimmerman, who died on Oct. 19 at the age of 89, ran Noranda, one of the largest natural resource companies in Canada. Under his management it shifted its focus from rocks to trees, especially after it bought MacMillan Bloedel in 1981. At the time it was Canada’s largest corporate takeover.

He was the ultimate establishment man, with 41 corporate directorships ranging from TD Bank to Algoma Steel to Canada Packers; he was a member of seven clubs. But he was an establishment man with a twist. As an undergraduate, instead of studying commerce, he did his degree in philosophy; he was a strong Canadian nationalist and unlike most people in the business community, he was against free trade and disapproved of the Bank of Canada pushing the dollar higher in the early 1990s.

He was strong supporter of then-Liberal leader John Turner and his opposition to the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, the main plank in his platform for the 1988 election, which Mr. Turner lost. “We would become an appendage of the American economy and the American economic system,” Mr. Zimmerman told the Toronto Star before the election. “It’s not popular for a businessman to say this.” Continue Reading →

Trump’s Family Fortune Originated in a Canadian Gold-Rush Brothel – by Natalie Obiko Pearson (Bloomberg News – October 26, 2016)

Donald Trump’s grandfather Friedrich Trump ran a restaurant, bar, and brothel in British Columbia.

Buried in a ghost town in Canada’s subarctic are the roots of the family fortune that paved Donald Trump’s path to prominence. Only shards of glass bottles remain on the lake shore in Bennett, British Columbia—remnants perhaps of the lively establishment operated by Trump’s grandfather that was known for good food, booze and ready women. A church sits further up the slope, its lonely spire peeking out from a thicket of pines.

Bennett was once a thriving transit point for prospectors in the Klondike gold rush at the turn of the 20th century, and Friedrich Trump made a killing running a restaurant and bar. The nest egg he generated in just two years grew into the fortune that has supported his grandson’s bid for the U.S. presidency.

“Who else can say that someone running for president of the United States of America owes his fortune to your hometown?,” says Scott Etches, 55, a shop owner hawking Trump t-shirts in Whitehorse, Yukon, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Bennett. “It doesn’t matter whether you support or oppose Trump. It’s actually a great history.” Continue Reading →

Donald Trump’s Grandpa Made Fortune Selling Sex, Booze In B.C.’s North – by Jesse Ferreras (Huffington Post Canada – October 26, 2016)

Donald Trump would have you believe he’s a savvy businessman who has made sacrifices and seen “tremendous success.” But it was his grandfather Friedrich Trump who set the family on a course for business success, which he enjoyed early on by selling booze and sex to gold miners in northern Canada.

Bloomberg reported Wednesday on the Arctic Restaurant and Hotel, an establishment that offered food, alcohol and sex workers to miners seeking riches amid the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 19th century.

But Trump, who left Germany at the age of 16 before making his way to New York and eventually B.C., didn’t go looking for gold in any mountain. He was more focused on “mining the miners,” biographer Gwenda Blair told the news agency. Trump and partner Ernest Levin initially established the Arctic Hotel in Bennett, B.C. in 1899, in a place that was once a thriving hub for prospectors. Continue Reading →

Gold Rush Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Nellie Cashman – by Thora Kerr Illing

To order a copy of “Gold Rush Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Nellie Cashman”, click here:

Thora Kerr Illing is a former journalist and librarian. She immigrated to Canada as a young woman and fell in love with the space, the fjords, and the forests of the west. Now retired, she lives in Sidney, BC, and loves travel, books, nature and animals.

A biography of the extraordinary Nellie Cashman, a well-loved miner, entrepreneur and philanthropist who lived and worked in the roughest boomtowns of the West in the late-nineteenth century.

At a time when well-bred women wore tight corsets and entertained each other at tea, Nellie Cashman (1845–1925) was trekking for hundreds of miles through blizzard conditions to deliver food and supplies to trapped miners in Northern BC. Continue Reading →