The Early Establishment of Mining

As has been established in depth and, some might feel, repeatedly, the early population and development of the province of British Columbia was significantly impacted by the discovery of natural resources in the area and the swiftly following emergence of a mining industry.  This particular industry dates back into the 1800’s which, while it isn’t that long ago in the span of human history, is quite a chunk out of North America’s non-indigenous past. From this point, and continuing forward into today, B.C. has established itself and maintained its position as one of the world’s major mining powers.

The Tariff Mine in 1897. Image from Wikipedia.

The Tariff Mine in 1897. Image from Wikipedia.

The high concentration of mine-able materials in this region is due to the good luck of having the largest part of the Canadian Cordillera (a fancy name for the mountain belt rich in minerals and coal that runs through B.C., the southern Yukon, and western Alberta) being placed withing a large part of the eastern and northern parts of the province.  This geographical feature benefits the areas it occurs in by being rich in a number of things including copper, gold, silver, lead, zinc, molybdenum (this is not a made up word I promise- it’s a mineral which is used in things such as certain fertilizers and power plant analyzers used in pollution control), coal, and industrial minerals which are classified as ‘minerals which are mined for commercial value but are not used as a fuel’ such as clay and limestone.

As previously mentioned, to the point where I’m thinking I’m going to have to specifically look for topics that don’t touch on this, the presence of these minerals has been a key player in the growth of the province as has been touched on when discussing a number of topics including the gold rushes, the establishment of a large percentage of the province’s early town-sites (100 Mile House, Cascade City. and New Westminster among many others), and finally the establishment of British Columbia as a British Colony.

Coal miners reemerging into the daylight. Image from

Coal miners reemerging into the daylight. Image from

The two most significant items to be mined early on were gold, which brought a huge increase of people to the area and resulted in a large amount of the province’s early settlement, and coal, which was first produced on Vancouver Island in the 1840’s and greatly assisted the establishment of railroads, opening up the region even further.  As the population increased the infrastructure improved which had the circular effect of opening up the province for additional exploration and allowed for the discovery of still more resources.

For the first century of mining in B.C., from the 1850’s to the 1960’s, mining was an entirely underground endeavor but through the early 1960’s open-pit production saw vast improvements which had the direct result of several copper mines being oldest including one which is still one of the largest in the world today.



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