DID THE COOLEST THING YESTERDAY!!! I explored the BC Copper Company Smelter Ruins in Greenwood, British Columbia (BC). IT’S BEEN ABANDONED FOR 102 YEARS!
The weather on Big White (Mountain) called for rain all day, that was the perfect opportunity for a day trip! Initially planned to head to Penticton, BC and the weather was equally sucky there, so opted to head in the opposite direction and head down toward Beaverdell, Rock Creek, Midway and Greenwood. I’ll post a separate blog on Greenwood, BC because I think it’s worth having a separate blog, it’s a super cute “city” with a colourful past and history. Today, I’m specially going to focus on the BC Copper Company Smelter ruins.
Visible to passersby just off Highway 3, travelling East (left hand side) is a HUGE black slag ridge and imposing 215 foot smokestack.
In searching for the entrance to the smelter, we came across this kind gentleman. He owned a house near the Welcome to Greenwood sign. He wore a ball cap, had thin transition glasses on, which were in sunglass mode because he was outside gardening. He dawned a greyish/black moustache and had lightly greyed hair sticking out from his ball cap. He described his little town, where he’d come from to settle there, and the inexpensive price of land. He offered to take us to another abandoned mining town (City of Paris). We rain checked and definitely will take him up on it some time in the future. He guided us to turn left at the road before you get to the Cango gas station to get up to the smelter (then turn left). 10 minutes or so into the conversation and, just as we were departing, I introduced myself, he replied “my name is Pat”. This man not only looked like my dad, had some of his mannerisms … to boot his name was Pat. Ironically (or not) this weekend marked 5 years that we spread my dad’s ashes at the trailer (came up in my Facebook memories). Dad was undoubtedly saying “hi”.
The smelter was built by the British Columbia Copper Company, a new York-based organization that bought the Mother Lode mine in 1898. All of the material that was processed at the smelter came from the Mother Lode mine, which was about 8 kms away my rail. The smelter was erected on a 22-hectare site at the mouth of Copper Creek in Anaconda (just south of Greenwood), the smelter’s own little community.
The smelter operated 24 hours a day and during its 1st year in operation, 106,200 tonnes of ore were smelted. January 18, 1902 marked a record day …. 416 tonnes (about 9 tonnes for every man employed), were smelted!
Throughout World War I the smelter operated at a reduced rate and on November 26, 1918 it closed its doors, forever. The plant was apparently sold to a Mr. Leon Lotzkar who then disposed of the machinery and gave the site to the City of Greenwood as a park. Nothing has been done with the park other than erecting the gazebo type structure below, by no means is it a “memorial park”.
As instructed by our local friend Pat, we turned left just prior to the Cango gas station and parked at the entrance … gates are closed for driving access and there’s a sign that suggests you enter at your own risk. Contrary to the sign at the entrance, the mine is not active, nothing has been mined here in over 102 years.
When you first enter you’ll see a house on the left hand side, I didn’t take photos of that (and I should have). I assume this was the house of the person who operated and oversaw the smelter.
This must have been a very impressive operation, the ruins are massive! Walking past the house, you immediately come to the large, and I mean large, black mountain of slag. The smelter ruins mostly sit on the heavy ridge of slag. Very cool to see up close and walk on. Slag is the glass-like by-product left over after a desired metal has been separated (smelted) from its raw ore. Slag is usually a mixture of metal oxides and silicon dioxide. It was light (maybe a couple of ounces) “rock”, looked like glass and was very dark black/grey. Every so often you come across slag in the shape of bells.
The ‘bells’ are huge black slag cones which are referred to as “hell’s bells”. They were a by-product of the smelter operation. Transported by bell-shaped rail cars (see last photo above – remnants of an old rail line), they were dumped onto the ground, red hot and glowing. What a sight that must have been at night time – similar to molten lava from a volcano!
Walked up a bit further to find the entrance of what appeared to be a draft shaft and a side shaft.
Further up the trail appeared the smelter stack —- tada! The original stack was built with sheet steel and was replaced by the present brick stack when the works were expanded in 1904. The brick stack is 36 meters tall, the highest in the province, and contains nearly 250,000 bricks.
Other building ruins have been graffitied – although not in keeping with the historical were pretty cool and created awesome photos.
A little further down from the building ruins, I came across remnants of mining materials which were not sold off. These artifacts have been sitting and exposed to the elements for 102 years! 102 YEARS! One looks like to could be some type of boiler or air compressor, the other large piece looks like it could have been part of something that belonged in the Blower Room.
Abandoned SINCE THAT TIME, the smelter’s huge slag pile and tall brick stack has become a landmark along Highway 3, with the site possessing a very appealing mystique. From the last I saw, the City was writing grants and looking for funds to develop the BC Copper Company Ruins into a tourist destination, that was in 2016, nothing yet.
I could have spent way more time at the smelter, really taking in the historical significance of where I was. Getting really present to what an awesome piece of history I was standing on. I think it’s absolutely fascinating.
This is a must see/do in my books if you’re in/near Greenwood, BC.