Mineral King (1)

Mineral King Mine (former community, unofficial local name)

Those who examined the Mineral King property in these early years agreed that that it was, “very encouraging”24, but as the scattered investment in the property suggests, there were a number of factors impeding development.

This is the first of two posts on Mineral King Mine. This post discusses the discovery and early development efforts at the claim: next post will go into the full operation during the 1950s/60s.

Discovery

The Mineral King claim was staked by Ben Abel in the 1890s. The exact date of the initial discovery is unclear: Abel himself relates having discovered it in 1895, but the first mention we have in print is at the beginning of 1897.1

The claim is located up Toby Creek, some eight kilometers past what is now Panorama, on the spur to the west of where Jumbo Creek joins with the Toby. The original discovery was made on, “a steep bluff of rock standing out of the hillside,” upon which there was a “blow-out of quartz… through which, running in all directions, are stringers of galena up to eight inches wide, with occasional widenings to 24 or 30 inches of solid ore.”2 These surface exposures were “very considerable, and the ore… of good quality.”3 (Galena ore is the main ore for lead – the ore at the Mineral King consisted mainly of lead and zinc with traces of silver)

First Efforts

The rich surface showings at the Mineral King made it a very promising property. The first mention of it in print is the news that it had been optioned by a large syndicate out of London, Ontario, which intended to spend $15,000 in development work on the Mineral King and four other (unnamed) claims up Toby Creek.4 During the summer of 1897 about ten men were at work driving a tunnel,5 with the goal of hauling ore out that winter to ship.6 They got out about twenty tons of ore,7 but there is no indication that this was actually sent anywhere.

This first exploratory tunnel wasn’t nearly as promising as early reports suggest. Aside from a weak showing on the roof of the tunnel at one point, no ore was found.8

When a representative of the syndicate working the Mineral King claim came to inspect the property in July 1897, he also examined a number of other properties in the district,9 including the Swansea claim (which was also partly owned by Ben Abel). The syndicate went on to bond the Swansea property for $5,000 and, going into 1898, they dropped the Mineral King property entirely.10

Potential Investors

A number of companies became interested in the Mineral King property in the following years. It was picked up in 1898 by a Montana syndicate represented in part by Thomas Starbird.11 There is no indication that any work was done on the ground that summer, and in autumn the syndicate’s attention shifted to focus on the promising Red Line discovery.12

Little actual work was done on the Mineral King through 1899 either. In March 1899 it was reported as being under bond to the British Pacific Gold Property Co of Victoria, which intended to restart development work.13 That work never began, and instead representatives from two other syndicates came to examine the property.14 Neither pursued the claim further.

Attempts to Prove the Claim

Unable to attract the continued investment of a syndicate, the owners (Ben Abel along with Charles A. Watt and George Geary) decided to try and make the property more appealing. Going into winter 1899 they began putting in a camp with an intention to work the claim themselves.15 (There is one report that Henry Edward Neave, representing “foreign capital” bonded the claim in December 189916)

The efforts of the owners extended the tunnel another twenty feet or so,17 at which time excited reports of a large “strike” were printed. Abel’s enthusiasm for the property prompted the local newspaper reporter to comment that, “It is very evident from what Mr Abel said that he has his fortune made in the Mineral King.”18 This enthusiasm was likely intended to attract more investment, but it was unsuccessful.

The mouth of the tunnel at Mineral King, early 1900s. Identification of the people is sketchy: William Taynton is sitting, and it is likely that the one on the left with the fabulous beard is Ben Abel. The other two are identified in museum records as Mr Carter (leaning), and Joe Erickson (standing), although I have no record of either of these people being involved with the claim. Windermere Valley Museum, A655.

The Mineral King never did pay off for Abel. He and his partners continued to do work on the claim in 1901, “in order to show what they have.”19 The work revealed some further ore, but again not much came of it.20 Further development continued through the winter of 1904/05,21 and some further attention into 1906,22 but as with most Windermere Valley mining prospects at the time, attention was hampered by a lack of cheap transportation. Only very rich ores located closer to the main waterways could be shipped on a profit, and the Mineral King was neither.

By 1915, the tunnel was 140 feet long and showed a confusing jumbled up mass of minerals. Some galena ore had been uncovered, but “not… very much.”23 Further work was still needed to prove whether the claim was a good one.

Obstacles to Development

Those who examined the Mineral King property in these early years agreed that that it was, “very encouraging”24, but as the scattered investment in the property suggests, there were a number of factors impeding development.

The first was the property’s remote location. Located on a high bluff far up Toby Creek, transporting ore from the claim was a significant challenge and would be very costly. In the days before motorized vehicles and the railway, ore would have to be hauled out by horse (and wagons) to the river, where it was shipped downstream via steamboat. Not only was the Mineral King a long ways from the river, but the existing trail up Toby Creek (discussed in the earlier post on the Jumbo mining claim) required a great deal of work before it could be used to transport ore.

The other problem with early development work on the property was the geology. If you recall, the first step taken to develop the property was to drive a tunnel under the surface showing. This approach to mining was standard at the time: drive a tunnel underneath the surface showing to crosscut through the ore body underground, thereby showing the extent and quality of ore. This approach didn’t work at the Mineral King. Rather than cut through a definite ore body, that initial tunnel only gave a weak showing.

The lack of obvious ore was discouraging, but did not necessarily mean that the property was worthless. An 1898 account concludes that just because the tunnel didn’t uncover ore at depth didn’t mean that it wasn’t there somewhere. The writer suggests that the tunnel should have been driven deeper or perhaps in a different direction.25 Such efforts would take time and money, however, and numerous companies remained (understandably) unwilling to make the investment.

As it turns out, those companies were correct in their wariness. The problem with geology at the Mineral King went beyond digging in the correct spot. No large ore body was found by these early exploratory efforts simply because there was no large, extremely rich ore body to find.

An examination of the property in 1915 lays out the extent of the problem. Instead of a well defined underground ore body, “the [underground] formation consists of quartzites and slate, which stand nearly vertical, but are badly twisted and contorted… The occurrence of ore here is quite peculiar and no satisfactory explanation for it could be obtained… the whole thing is a somewhat jumbled up mass of quartzite, lime, schist, barytes and quartz. Galena occurs speckled through the barytes, but in places there are streaks of solid galena up to two feet in width; these, however, are very irregular and are not continuous longitudinally.”26

In short, the geology at the Mineral King was a mess. This was not the Paradise Mine, where rich shipping ore could be literally shoveled into sacks and sent to the smelter, or even the Delphine Mine where a rich vein of ore could be followed into the mountainside. If one wanted to get the ore, one had to sift through a whole lot of complicated waste rock to find it. Combine the cost of getting the ore out of the ground with the cost of getting it to the smelter, and it is no wonder that early mining syndicates quickly dropped it.

The Interwar Years

Just because there were problems with developing the Mineral King, however, doesn’t mean that the property was written off entirely. In 1920 the Toby Creek Mining Company, organized out of Vancouver, did exploratory and development work on the property (which it named the Silver King).27 For a time this work seemed encouraging. The company worked through the winter and were “very well satisfied with the results obtained.”28 Operations continued with a small crew through 1921, and the work, “certainly improved the appearance of the property.”29

Unfortunately the company seems to have hit the same problems as those before it. Through 1921 and in 1922 their attention turned away from systematically developing the property to focus on “gouging out the richest ore” from the surface diggings and sacking it in preparation for shipment.30 This was, according to mining engineer A.G. Langley, “not good mining practice,” and as there wasn’t even a usable road up to the mine at the time, the company was unable to even ship the ore they had sacked.31 The company then abandoned the property.

The Mineral King went back to being inactive, but again, interest remained. A 1928 examination of the mine concluded that, “if the property were better located as regards transportation it would certainly be worth developing further… but under the existing conditions it can not be recommended.”32

An Investment Property

By this time it was concluded that, despite the rich surface showings, any underground ore at the Mineral King was, “essentially a milling ore” and could not be mined profitably without a concentrator (a large mill used to process rock and extract valuable shipping ore, thereby reducing shipping costs).33 A concentrator would require significant investment, however, and a great deal of systematic development on the property was required to figure out if there were sufficient ore reserves to make such investment worthwhile.34

The property was a complicated one, and not one where a company could swoop in and make a quick buck (with one exception: an unknown party shipped some amount of ore in 1928, likely that ore sacked back in the early 1920s.35) As the Great Depression began, activity at the Mineral King stalled entirely.

That’s where we’re going to leave it this week. Check back two weeks from now to see how Mineral King went from being a somewhat promising prospect to the largest underground mine in the Windermere Valley.

Footnotes

1. “The Mineral King Strike,” The Outcrop (Canterbury, B.C.), 14 June 1900, p 1.
http://peel.library.ualberta.ca/newspapers/OTC/1900/06/14/1/Ar00104.html
“Local and General,” The Golden Era, 13 February 1897, p 4.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0227003
2. British Columbia. Legislative Assembly. Annual Report to the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1898 Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc. in The Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1899), p 1039-1040. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0064233
3. British Columbia. Legislative Assembly. Annual Report to the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1898 Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc. in The Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1899), p 1040. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0064233
4. “Local and General,” The Golden Era, 13 February 1897, p 4.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0227003
5. “Round About the Mines,” The Golden Era, 23 July 1897, p 1.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0226989
6. “Windermere,” The Golden Era, 23 July 1897, p 2.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0226989
E.A. Haggen, “Golden,” The Mining Record, Vol 3, No 8 (August 1897), p 27.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0303462
7. “Round About the Mines,” The Golden Era, 30 July 1897, p 1.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0227252
8. British Columbia. Legislative Assembly. Annual Report to the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1898 Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc. in The Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1899), p 1040. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0064233
9. “Mining News,” The Golden Era, 29 July 1897, p 1.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0081325
“Round About the Mines,” The Golden Era, 30 July 1897, p 1.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0227252
10. “Mining News,” The East Kootenay Miner (Golden), 29 July 1897, p 1.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0081325
11. “Round About the Mines,” The Golden Era, 14 January 1898, p 1.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0227166
“Round About the Mines,” The Golden Era, 27 May 1898, p 1.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0227241
“Mining News,” The Golden Era, 24 June 1898, p 1.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0081365
“Mining in the Windermere District,” The Golden Era, 9 July 1898, p 1.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0348556
12. “The Vulcan Property,” The Golden Era, 25 November 1898, p 4.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0227144
13. “A Great Camp,” Times Colonist (Victoria, B.C.), 29 March 1899, p 5.
https://www.newspapers.com/image/505795478
“Windermere Mines and Town,” The Prospector (Fort Steele, B.C.), 8 April 1899, p 1. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0186750
14. “Windermere News,” Nelson Daily Miner, 21 June 1899, p 4.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0211395
“Round About the Mines,” The Golden Era, 21 July 1899, p 4.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0227312
15. “Mining News – Windermere Nov 23,” Nelson Daily Miner, 29 November 1899, p 4. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0083151
British Columbia. Legislative Assembly. Annual Report to the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1899 Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc. in The Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1900), p 666. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0064241
16. “At Windermere Are Many Mines,” Nelson Daily Miner, 24 December 1899, p 6.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0082883
17. “The Mineral King Strike,” The Outcrop (Canterbury, B.C.), 14 June 1900, p 1.
http://peel.library.ualberta.ca/newspapers/OTC/1900/06/14/1/Ar00104.html
British Columbia. Legislative Assembly. Annual Report to the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1900 Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc. in The Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1901), p 805. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0064241
18. “The Mineral King Strike,” The Outcrop (Canterbury, B.C.), 14 June 1900, p 1.
http://peel.library.ualberta.ca/newspapers/OTC/1900/06/14/1/Ar00104.html
19. “Ledge Croppings,” The Outcrop (Canterbury, B.C.), 13 June 1901, p 1.
http://peel.library.ualberta.ca/newspapers/OTC/1901/06/13/1/Ar00102.html
20. “The Windermere Mines,” The Prospector (Fort Steele, B.C.), 5 October 1901, p 1.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0187244
British Columbia. Legislative Assembly. Annual Report to the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1901 Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc. in The Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1902), p 1013. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0384214
21. British Columbia. Legislative Assembly. Annual Report to the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1904 Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc. in The Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1905), p G113. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0064402
“District Croppings,” The Outcrop (Wilmer, B.C.), 12 January 1905, p 1.
http://peel.library.ualberta.ca/newspapers/OTC/1905/01/12/1/Ar00106.html
22. “District Croppings,” The Outcrop (Wilmer, B.C.), 12 July 1906, p 1.
http://peel.library.ualberta.ca/newspapers/OTC/1906/07/12/1/Ar00103.html
23. British Columbia. Legislative Assembly. Annual Report to the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1915 Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc. in The Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1916), p K90. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0059746
24. “Windermere: June 16th, 1897,” The Golden Era, 26 June 1897, p 3.
https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0227185
25. British Columbia. Legislative Assembly. Annual Report to the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1898 Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc. in The Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1899), p 1040. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0064233
26. British Columbia. Legislative Assembly. Annual Report to the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1915 Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc. in The Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1916), p K90. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0059746
27. “The Mining News: Windermere,” Mining and Engineering Record, Vol 25, Nos 9 & 10 (31 May 1920), p 73. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0224032
28. British Columbia. Legislative Assembly. Annual Report to the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1920 Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc. in The Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1921), p N111. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0226034
29. British Columbia. Legislative Assembly. Annual Report to the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1921 Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc. in The Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1922), p G124. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0300642
30. British Columbia. Legislative Assembly. Annual Report to the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1921 Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc. in The Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1922), p G124. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0300642
31. British Columbia. Legislative Assembly. Annual Report to the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1922 Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc. in The Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1923), p N185. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0300577
32. Charles C. Starr, “Report of Examination of the Mineral King Mine,” 29 July 1928 (for Goldfield Cons Mines Expl. Co), p 5.
http://propertyfile.gov.bc.ca/reports/PF004133.pdf
33. British Columbia. Legislative Assembly. Annual Report to the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1922 Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc. in The Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1923), p N185. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0300577
34. British Columbia. Legislative Assembly. Annual Report to the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1922 Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc. in The Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1923), p N185. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0300577
35. British Columbia. Legislative Assembly. Annual Report to the Minister of Mines for the Year Ending 31st December 1928 Being an Account of Mining Operations for Gold, Coal, Etc. in The Province of British Columbia (Victoria: Government Printer, 1929), p C515. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0300544

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