Giant Mascot Road
Giant Mine, Silver Giant Mine, Giant Mascot Mine
Mining…at the Giant Mascot continued from 1951 until 1957 at a somewhat frenzied pace, and the entire operation was toted as a “‘Giant’ success story”.35
This is the last of three posts about the Giant mine on Jubilee Mountain, in which we finally discuss the period of large scale production at the Giant. The two previous posts, documenting various efforts at bringing the mine into operation, can be found here: Part 1 (1883-1900), and Part 2 (1900-1930).
As we left off in the previous post, the Giant mine area was owned by the Golden Giant Mines Company, and had last been worked in 1929, when it was leased out to a company owned by A.B. Trites. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the beginning of the Great Depression, no further activity is recorded through the 1930s.
Takeover by Silver Giant Mines
Interest resumed in the mine following the Second World War with the formation in March 1947 of Silver Giant Mines Ltd, a Vancouver based company formed for the purpose of acquiring, developing, and operating what they called the Silver Giant Mine.1 The previous owner, Golden Giant Mines Ltd, remained a minority shareholder in the new company.2
Silver Giant Mines began clean up and development work at the mine site in September, including sending 1,383 tons of ore to the Trail smelter both for tests and to cover development costs. Buildings at the camp were also fixed up and a winter camp established so that work could begin on reopening the underground workings.3 Some amount of equipment was purchased early in 1948 from Dawson Gold Mines and brought to the property with the intention of increasing production.4
Siscoe Steps In
Plans changed, however, as the positive returns from this first shipment, combined with an increase in prices for lead/silver/zinc ore, prompted investment interest from Siscoe Mines Limited of Québec. Siscoe made an offer to establish and operate a concentrating mill at the mine, asking in return for an option to purchase a controlling interest in Silver Giant’s shares at a set price.5 The Silver Giant company held a large quantity of ore to be developed, and Siscoe had the equipment for a 1,000 ton mill that was then unused, so the deal seemed to be a good one for both parties.6
Siscoe began exploration work on the Giant in September 1948, namely in conducting diamond drilling to better determine the extent of the ore reserves in order to decide how large a mill would be suitable for the property.7 These tests were not nearly as promising as had been hoped. Backing down dramatically from suggestions of a 1,000 ton mill, Siscoe suggested a 200 ton mill which was, “more in keeping with actual circumstances.”8
The Silver Giant company did not agree with that assessment, particularly as their agreement with Siscoe had guaranteed at least a 300 ton mill. When Silver Giant invoked this section of the contract, Siscoe dropped its option on the property.9
Corporate Haggling: Hedley Mascot Takes an Interest
Something of a power struggle ensued within the Silver Giant company, with one faction wanting to develop the mine internally, while another preferred to make a deal with a larger operating company.10
A solution seemed to have been found when Hedley Mascot Gold Mines Ltd began negotiations with Silver Giant in September 1949.11 Once again, the agreement discussed had Hedley Mascot installing a concentrating plant and other equipment to work the ore reserves in return for a controlling interest in the Silver Giant Company.12 The deal seemed set to go through in December,13 only to be dropped soon after, presumably after Hedley Mascot shareholders refused to give their approval.14
A third and final attempt was made at getting together a company to operate the Giant in May 1950. Once again Silver Giant Mines Ltd and Hedley Mascot Gold Mines Ltd were at the table, but this time the two agreed to form a new company, to be known as Giant Mascot Mines Ltd.
As part of the agreement Hedley Mascot agreed to provide the machinery and supply all funds necessary to bring the property into production. They were also required to spend at least $1 for each ton of ore milled on exploration and further development of the property.
In return, officials of Hedley Mascot would have a controlling interest in the new company and name four of the seven directors. Silver Giant Mines also agreed to turn into a new company with all of their assets, the machinery and equipment on the property, to become the property of the new company. Silver Giant also got shares of Hedley Mascot until profits from the mine began to pay.15
Development Finally Begins
Work began in developing the mine immediately. Equipment was brought from the Mascot mine at Hedley, and underground work was scheduled to begin by the end of the year.16 A 200 ton mill was installed, as well as a compressor shop, machine shop, bunkhouse and cookhouse. Tunnels at No 5 and No 6 levels were cleaned and re-timbered.17
A great deal of work was also done, with aid from the government, in improving and relocating part of the road from Spillimacheen up to the mine (the Giant Road).18 Operation of the new mill began in March 1951, with the first shipment being sent to the Trail smelter on March 16.19 (The mine switched to shipping to a smelter down in Kellogg, Idaho in November 1952.20)
The ore at the mine was primarily lead, with trace silver and comparatively little zinc, although equipment to better extract this zinc was installed in June 1952.21 A second mill was brought to the site just months after production began to further boost capacity.22
With all of this development work, Hedley Mascot quickly succeeded in bringing the mine into production,23 fulfilling its part of the deal with Silver Giant Mines. The merger between the two companies to create the Giant Mascot Mines Company was finalized in May 1951.24
Mining at the newly named Giant Mascot Mine used a combination of methods. Ore higher up above the No 1 and No 2 levels was mined using open pit techniques, or a “glory hole”. Further down, tunnels at No 3, 5 and 6 levels were used to access further reserves, with ore being taken out via a tram at No 6 level.25 Exploratory drilling also continued underneath No 6 level.26
As production continued, efforts to streamline the mining process and decrease costs per ton prompted a new haulage level to be drilled at mill level. Its portal was just 15 feet higher than the old one, but it decreased the grades necessary and enabled heavier trains of ore.27 Two new levels were also sunk: No 7 began production around the beginning of 1954,28 and No 8 by October 1954.29 A further, No 9 level, was established at the beginning of 1955, 30 followed by No 10 level at the beginning of 1956.31
A townsite for Giant Mascot workers was also put in, although the close proximity of the mine to Spillimacheen meant that many lived in town. The number of employees once the mine really began production hovered at around 100.
Efforts to decrease mining costs were aided in 1953 with the announcement that a hydro-electric plant would be put in on the Spillimacheen river.32 The mine was projected to be its biggest customer,33 and the completion of the hydro-electric plant in April 1955 was highly anticipated in hopes that the decreased power costs would help offset the increasing costs of hauling ore up from the lower levels to the No 6 haulage level.34
A “Giant” Success or Failure?
Mining and development at the Giant Mascot continued from 1951 until 1957 at a somewhat frenzied pace, and the entire operation was toted as a “‘Giant’ success story”.35 For much of this period, the company reported large and rich ore reserves. Both the company’s managing director, B.H. Gunning, and its consulting engineer, Henry L. Hill, were optimistic at growing the mine from a small scale to a large scale producer.36
Some potential investors were more reticent about the property. In December 1952 Evan Just, of the Cyprus Mines Corporation out of New York, reported with respect to investing in the operation that, “Both Mr Gunning and Mr Hill seem to cherish the idea of getting this property to a thousand tons per day. Personally, I believe that the ore reserve picture would have to be revolutionized before any such capacity would be warranted.”37
Projections of ore reserves at the property continued to be an issue. Beginning in 1954, the Giant Mascot company began drilling and exploration on adjacent properties, and a group of claims were located six miles north on what they called “Lead Mountain”.38 Surface exploration and drilling were also started in April 1956 on the Giant, Hidden Treasure, and O.K. mineral claims,39 and in June 1956 the company paid $100,000 cash for the adjacent Rothschild claim, where still further drilling was undertaken.40 Taken together, these efforts demonstrate attempts to uncover a new, large ore body, even as drilling continued from the lower levels of the main workings for the same purpose.
These exploratory efforts seemed ready to pay off in August 1956 with reports of an ore body containing “at least 500,000 tons”, and perhaps as much as 1,500,000 tons, at the boundary of the Rothschild and Giant claims.41 This proved extremely optimistic, however, and the positive projections of the company soon began to unravel.
Instead of ramping up production, as had been promised just months earlier, in October 1956 the company announced that the main body of ore at the mine had “bottomed out at the 10th level”, and that explorations over at Lead Mountain had also been called off. Further exploration of the profitable tonnage announced in August, “[had] not measured up to the first drill results,” and, as a result, the current ore reserves held by the company were expected to last, “at least six months.”42
In a desperate attempt to prolong the life of the mine, company directors announced yet another a drilling program in search for new ore.43 This failed to turn up anything, and by May 1957 it was, “understood [that] company officials are just about ready to admit defeat.”44
At the beginning of June it was announced that the mine would close down, with mining discontinued on 1 June and milling on 7 June. Drilling was continued for a brief time, until that too ceased on 29 July, after which the mine crew was reduced to a watchman.45 The base metal mining at the Giant had ceased after just six years of continuous operation.
Geology Strikes Back
This was not the end of mining at the Giant property. For nearly the entire history of the Giant mine discussed so far, intevestors and developers were interested in its deposits of lead, with zinc and silver also of note. The Giant had something of a secret weapon, however, in that these metal deposits were located in a deposit of the mineral barite (barium sulphate). Barite was regarded as increasingly valuable through the twentieth century, with its uses including as a paint pigment, a shield against radio activity, and, most importantly for the Giant, as an additive in oil drilling mud.
The presence of large amounts of barite at the mine had been noted for some time, and as early as 1920 a company had taken out an option on the property intending to begin large scale mining of the mineral.46 Nothing more seems to have come of this plan.
As time went on, there was a slow realization in mining circles that there might be a market for barite. In July 1953, Giant Mascot sold about 50 tons of it to an oil drilling company in Alberta. A pilot plant for processing barite had also been constructed,47 but although a “considerable market” for barite was hoped for, this seems to have been the only shipment for some time.48
A Canadian First
It was only after the close of the base metal part of the mine that the idea of mining barite was seriously pursued. It helped that the tailings on property, the rock left over after processing it for lead and zinc, were largely barite: an estimated 250,000 tons in all. In May 1958 Giant Mascot Ltd signed a contract with McPhail Engineering in Tacoma to produce 1,500 tons of barite a month, projecting a profit of between $2 and $3 a ton ($500,000 in total).49
There was a degree of novelty at the time in the idea that mine tailings, typically regarded as waste rock, might be turned into a profit. When a new barite flotation plant was installed at the Giant it was Canada’s first, and was reported as, “the only operation on this continent to recover barite from mine tailings.”50 An early newspaper report on the scheme, titled “Giant Finds Profit in Old Ore Dump”, has an air of incredulity at the notion that tailings from the mine might actually be worth something.51
Canada’s first barite flotation mill was short-lived. Production began in August 1958, but was discontinued in December after a fire destroyed the drying plant. Still, those few months in operation were promising enough that plans were made to rebuild and resume operations.52
Small in Scale, but Long in Running
Barite production did continue, but Giant Mascot Mines Ltd stepped back from the operation. In 1959 they entered into an agreement with Baroid of Canada Ltd for the company to produce barite from the mine. Baroid of Canada also operated a barite quarry at the former Bunyan Mine property near Invermere.53
As part of their agreement with Giant Mascot Mines, Baroid of Canada had the option to purchase the Giant property within the next three years. The company took up this option in November 1960, and Giant Mascot sold its entire 46 claim property, mill, and buildings to Baroid of Canada Ltd for $155,000.54 The previous year, Giant Mascot had moved machinery from the Giant mine to its property at Camp McKinney (near Grand Forks).55
Barite operations at the Giant mine were of a much smaller scale when compared to metal mining. The company had a crew of under ten men employed for a period of between three and four months every year to take out out barite, both recovered from mine tailings and in new workings. This work continued from 1959 until at least 1975, with production officially ceasing at the mine in 1983, during which time over 187,000 tons of barite were removed (contrast with just over 29,000 tons of lead).56 The success of the barite plant at the Giant prompted similar efforts to recover barite from tailings at the Mineral King Mine.
The Giant Mine: A Series of Firsts
As was the case with most other mines in the area, the Giant mine was never more than a small scale operation, although this was certainly not for lack of trying. A combination of location and mineralogy made the Giant mine a good candidate for innovation, and it was the site of a number of firsts. For those keeping track, including those mentioned in previous posts, these include:
- 1883: First hardrock mining claim staked in the East Kootenays
- 1883-1890: First smelter built in British Columbia (likely built for claims near to the Giant)
- 1886: One of the first hardrock tunnels in British Columbia
- 1907: First use of the Elmore vacuum plant in Canada (a precursor to all later flotation plants), and possibly the first use of oil flotation for lead ores in B.C.
- 1926: First use of diamond drilling in the Windermere/Golden Mining Divisions
- 1958: Canada’s first barite flotation plant
It was a full century between when the Giant claim was first staked, in 1883, and when activity at the mine finally ceased, in 1983. The property seems to have frustrated its investors more often than it rewarded them, but it’s doubtful that mining would have continued for so long had it been easy.
Base Metal Mining Production57
|Year|||Owner|||Employed|||Mined (tonnes)|||Silver(g)|||Lead(kg)|||Zinc(kg)|||Sb(kg) |||Cd(kg) |||Cu(kg) ||
|1953||50 tons||Giant Mascot Mines Ltd67|
|1958||4,325 tons||Giant Mascot Mines Ltd68|
|1959||3,026 tons||Baroid of Canada Ltd69|
|1960||690||Baroid of Canada Ltd|
|1961||4,796||Baroid of Canada Ltd|
|1962||2,948||Baroid of Canada Ltd|
|1963||3,941||Baroid of Canada Ltd|
|1964||6,857||Baroid of Canada Ltd|
|1965||7,343||Baroid of Canada Ltd|
|1966||11,047||Baroid of Canada Ltd|
|1967||11,510||Baroid of Canada Ltd|
|1968||7,528||Baroid of Canada Ltd|
|1969||13,523||Baroid of Canada Ltd|
|1970||17,543||Baroid of Canada Ltd|
|1971||14,808||Baroid of Canada Ltd|
|1972||16,320||Baroid of Canada Ltd|
|1973||19,927||Baroid of Canada Ltd|
|1974||17,510||Baroid of Canada Ltd|
|1975||12,894||Baroid of Canada Ltd|