Silver-Lead-Zinc Mining & Cominco (3 of 5)

Kimberley MineIn 1909 the Kimberley mining company was reorganized as the Fort Steele Mining and Smelting Company controlled by the Federal Mining and Smelting Company. In December of that year the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company leased the operations and soon after acquired control of the holdings.

By 1914, the Sullivan Mine at Kimberley had become the most important producer of lead in Canada. At the same time, zinc had become a critical material during the First World War. The problems of dealing with the mixed lead-zinc ores were not easily solved. At first only ores rich in one or the other metal could be handled but by 1920 a successful process had been developed to fully utilize the ores. At that time ore prices were very low and the company was in serious financial trouble. However, prices recovered and the facilities at Trail were expanded to handle more ore with a resulting increase in traffic on the Crowsnest Pass Route.

The Sullivan Mine continued to be developed and expanded as the extent of the huge ore body was realized. An extensive underground railway system was built to move the ore and waste rock, and milling facilities were expanded to keep pace with production demands. By the late 1920s, the mill could handle 4,000 tons [3630 tonnes] a day.

A 1930 study of the lead-zinc industry in Canada published by the federal Department of Mines described the Sullivan Mine workings:

The lens [the ore body] is mined from two adits [tunnels driven into the side of an ore body in a more or less horizontal manner] , an upper known as the 4,600-foot level and a lower, called the 3,900-foot [1188-m] level, these figures approximately representing their respective elevations above sea-level. There are two connexions [sic] between the upper and lower workings. In both levels there are two ore-shoots, known respectively as the north ore-body and the south ore-body.

In the upper workings, stoping [a technique for mining pockets of ore] in the south ore-body is being carried on over a length of 2,000 feet [600 m]. The ore is lead and zinc in a gangue of pyrite. In the north ore-body stoping on the same level is being carried on over a length of 1,200 feet [365 m]. This zone contains more zinc than lead. Between these two zones is a barren zone of massive pyrite 700 feet [215 m] long. Work is being carried out on the 4,500-foot [1370-m] and 4,400-foot [1340 m] levels, but the ore from these is sent down to the 3,900-foot [1190-m] level to be hauled to the surface.

The lower, or 3,900-foot [1190-m] tunnel, had a length in 1926 of over 13,000 feet. At a distance of 7,100 feet [2165 m] from the portal, the ore lens is reached. The south ore-body of this level consists of sphalerite in a gangue of pyrrhotite.

Canadian Pacific's Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company became one of the railways best investments and continues to be a major source of traffic for the Crowsnest Pass railway. The CPR, through its acquisitions and developments, controlled, and as a result could coordinate, the production of ore, its transport and its refining. In response to many complaints about air pollution, particularly in Washington downwind of the Trail smelter, recovery systems were installed and the materials were used, beginning in 1931, to produce fertilizer at a plant near Trail at Warfield. This proved to be an unforeseen bonus for the company and a profitable byproduct that also contributed traffic to the railway.

Archival Photos

16880          Kimberley. Cominco Sullivan Mine, n.d.
B-05285      Kimberley. Cominco Sullivan Mine, 1926
B-05345      Kimberley. Cominco Sullivan Mine, 1926
B-05326      Kimberley. Cominco, Man Train at Tunnel Entrance, Sullivan Mine, 1930
B-05275      Kimberley. Cominco Sullivan Mine. Surface Buildings, 1930
I-28264       Bagging Fertilizer, Warfield, BC Government Photo, 1953

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