February 7, 2017
February 7, 2017
In 1885 Thomas Bain moved from Ontario to Revelstoke and founded Thomas Bain Mining Company. Together with his partner, John Boyd, they established the Lanark Mine at Laurie, 2.5 miles east of Illecillewaet, and the Dunvegan Mine at Flat Creek. Both mines were named after their hometowns in Ontario; Lanark southwest of Ottawa and north of the No. 7 highway to Peterborough was the hometown of Thomas Bain, and Denvegan southeast of Ottawa and about half way to Montreal was the hometown of John Boyd.
At Laurie, the ore body was found north of the Illecillewaet River and 2,600 feet above the rail line. In 1896 a 6,550-foot aerial tramway was constructed in two legs to reach the mine entrance. The first leg rose 3,400 feet almost perpendicularly from the concentrator building at trackside to a mid-point on a ridge where the second leg swung out over a deep, rocky gulch and on up to the mouth of the main shaft. Mine workers could then ride the tramway to reach the mine where a bunkhouse was constructed for their accommodation.
The 130 by 50 foot concentrator building was also constructed in 1896. Power was supplied by 4 water-driven turbines. Damning the Illecillewaet River up stream and constructing 2,600 feet of flume to the concentrator building provided the waterpower.
In addition to the concentrator building, a storage building (or two) and bunkhouse were built next to the tracks. A hotel, office, manager’s residence and eight 8-room cottages were built on a grassy flat across the river. The mine, and buildings, were supplied with electric lighting from a water powered electric generator. An assay office ‘with a commodious laboratory and every convenience for assaying’ was also built to not only service the mine but also to analyzing the ore from the surrounding district. Also, a well-equipped sawmill, was constructed to produce lumber from the large quantity of good timber available.
A glowing annual report by the Ministry of Mines in 1896 sighted the availability of 100,000 tons of ore, three and a half tons of which would concentrate into one ton. The estimated the capacity of the concentrator was 100 tons in 24 hours.
However, the next year the 1897 annual report by the Ministry of Mines painted quite a different picture. Apparently management had disregarded the first tenet of good mining by commencing on a vigorous plan of development before the quantity and quality of the reserves were proven. A large gang of men was set to work mining all the ore in sight and when this was exhausted and nothing had been done to look for more, work came to a stop. The ore, consisting of argentiferous galena (silver containing lead sulphate), also turned out to not be of a very high-grade in silver as the concentrates ran from 57.5 to 64 ounces in silver per ton and 66 to 72% lead.
In his 1905 report on topographical survey of the Selkirk Mountains adjacent to the Canadian Pacific Railway, A. O. Wheeler lamented on finding the site abandoned.
“At two and a half miles [east] from Illecillewaet is seen the pretty situated, but deserted, mining camp of Laurie. In a little grassy, flat on the opposite side of the river, is placed a free hotel, office and manager's residence, and to the 'right a number of miners’ cottages. The river is crossed by a bridge.
Near the track a brand new concentrator, equipped with the latest machinery, was convenient for loading ore into the cars.
Perched high up on the perpendicular face of the cliff is the bunk-house, near the mouth of the main shaft. From this point, the ore was carried in iron buckets along a steel wire cable to the concentrator, 3,000 feet below. The cable was suspended over a deep, rocky gulch to an open woodwork tower, erected on a projecting spur, midway between the bunkhouse and the concentrator, from which point it descended sheer to the latter. It was customary for the miners to ascend and descend in the buckets. The cable has now been removed, but I should think it must have been a trip requiring much nerve.
The company owning these buildings had … commenced operations on a somewhat extensive scale. The ore is a rich galena [lead sulphate], but, through some miscalculation, was never found in sufficient quantity to pay and the very large sums of money expended on the building were practically thrown away, for recently the concentrator and machinery have been sold and removed to the Kootenay mining district. It is a pity that some enterprising company does not take hold of the hotel as a summer resort, for here, in the peaceful solitude of these greatest works of nature, the blasé and tired-out man of the world can find the rest he would search for elsewhere in vain…”
The 1918 annual report by the Ministry of Mines indicates that the mine was subsequently sold to new operators who found new deposits above and below the original workings and put it back into operation. A cited assay of the ore indicated gold, trace; silver, 35 oz. [per ton]; copper, 3.4%; lead, 51 %. ; zinc, 12.4%.
Several photographs of the Lanark Mine exist in the British Columbia Archives collections and may be viewed online. Several of these were used to model the Lanark Mine on the MBC1887 route.
Search for I-55045 in Identifier Field.
This photo shows a view of the concentrator looking east up the Illecillewaet River valley. The Canadian Pacific Railway track can be seen on the right. The concentrator appears to be located on a dead-end spur, perhaps because of the close proximity to the Laurie Snow Shed to the west. The turnout indicated that a passing siding was located to the east of the concentrator.
The end of the flume can be seen on the left of the photo and three of the 8-room cottages appear to be visible above the flume and across the river.
Search for G-02090 in Identifier Field.
This photo appears to have been taken from the mid-point on the tramway looking back at the concentrator and surrounding buildings. To the left can be seen the east end of the Laurie Snow Shed. A roadway and two-span bridge passes under the flume and over the Illecillewaet River to the open flat on the north side of the river. At trackside to the east of the concentrator are what appear to be two storage sheds and the bunkhouse. Rail cars can also be seen parked on the siding.
Search for I-55053 in Identifier Field.
From higher up on the aerial tramway the concentrator building can be seen just tot he right of the tramway bucket support. In the centre of the photo and above the river is the Laurie Snow Shed, which connects to a tunnel, which protects the rail line from most of an avalanche chute.
Search for G-02088 in Identifier Field.
A. O Wheeler noted in his report that the miners used the tramway to ascend to and descend from the mine workings. This photo shows a miner likely having completed the descent from the mine entrance to the midway point on the tramway and about to descend to the concentrator building.
On the MBC1887 a miner is shown over the Illecillewaet River on his descent to the concentrator building.
Search for G-01259 in Identifier Field.
Looking north from the concentrator building the cut for the tramway can be seen up until where it meet the ridge at its mid-point. The bottom of the tramway is seen to connect with the concentrator building at an angle.
Search for I-55054 in Identifier Field.
A power pole is evident tin this photo indicating that, in addition to the concentrator, other building were lite with electric lighting from the power generated by the water-driven turbines. The tramway station connected to the concentrator building can be seen to be supported by a wooden framework.
Search for I-55048 in Identifier Field.
Three building on the north side of the Illecillewaet River are evident in this photo. The largest in the foregound is likely the substantial hotel A. O Wheeler suggests would make an excellent summer resort. The other two building would be the office and manager’s residence mentioned in A. O Wheeler’s report. The power poles in the foreground appear to be carrying eclectic power to the hotel and other buildings.
Search for G-02091 in Identifier Field.
Search for G-02087 in Identifier field.
These two photos have been attributed to the Lanark Mine but are likely photos from some other mine site. First, the roofline of the upper section of the building is parallel to the rail line, a 90° variance with the photos referenced above. Secondly, the sections of the building, of which there are four not three, are at different elevations to those shown in the photos referenced above. While at a later date modifications might have been made to have the terminus of the tramway at the bottom and under the building rather than at the top and to the side, and a conveyor of some sort added to the west of the building, it is unlikely that the main structure itself would have under gone such extensive changes.
Annual Report of the British Columbia Ministry of Mines 1896.
Annual Report of the British Columbia Ministry of Mines 1897.
Annual Report of the British Columbia Ministry of Mines 1918.
Mining in the Illecillewaet. Brown Bag Lunch March 9, 2016. Revelstoke Museum and Archives video.
The Selkirk Range. 1905. A. O. Wheeler, Ottawa Printing Bureau.