Beyond Britannia - John Wedderburn Dunbar Moodie

Beyond Britannia - John Wedderburn Dunbar Moodie

Beyond Britannia

John Wedderburn Dunbar Moodie is the third person in this series.

In 1910, Schley hired JWD Moodie to turn around the ailing Tintic Mine. In one year, Moodie was able to revamp its operations, taking it from a money losing to a money making position. 

His next challenge was doing the same for Britannia. His history and past success with Schley (second person in this series) was the foundation for the significant authority by which he operated Britannia. His job was to do what he did at Tintic – take the unprofitable Britannia operations and make them profitable.

In the mining operations, he changed from a square set practice to a shrinkage practice where the rock was stable enough to do so. This had three immediate benefits. First, shrinkage uses little timber compared to square set mining. While Britannia held the timber rights to the land, making the timber free, cutting and installing timbers in the mine added labor costs and slowed production. Second, Shrinkage methods requires fewer muckers, further reducing manpower costs, Third, Shrinkage methods create natural underground storage areas for broken rock, allowing the mine to stockpile ore until market conditions allowed for profitable processing and sale. (This is significant, for it meant when Mill 2 burnt down, the Mine could keep operating. When Mill 3 was processing over 6000 tonnes a day, it was because the Mine was feeding it from new mining operations as well as the stockpile created while Mill 3 was under construction.)

With shrinkage mining came another radical shift in mining at Britannia that followed upon what was happening at mines across North America - a shift from selective mining to non-selective mining. The result was greater productivity, as more tonnage per man per shift was moved than before.  The shift also changed the role of the miner, from an extraction specialist to a labourer. The reduced level of skill needed by the miner reduced the pay the job demanded. It was accompanied by the rise of the mining engineer, who was now responsible for determining where men would work.

While the mine itself went through this radical shift, there was still more to Moodie’s changes that set the stage for a large, profitable mine.

From 1906-1910 exploration was a major focus of the mine. Moodie expanded upon this. He launched an extensive exploration program that as in years prior remained active even when the copper markets were down.  The men doing exploration work were the skilled workers. These men earned higher pay and were given more freedom in decisions than production workers. In essence, the workforce had become divided into 4 groups. The skilled miners did development work, the production drillers worked established deposits as instructed, the blasters managed the explosives, and the seasonal workers. For many men over the life of the mine, mining work was seasonal. While 60,000 people worked at Britannia over its lifetime, many of those people came and left several times. The transient nature of many workers is something that benefitted the company to some extent, when it needed to adjust employment levels to production needs.

Moodie industrialized the mining operations at Britannia by applying methods introduced elsewhere.

Moodie accomplished so much at Britannia not just because of his acumen, but because Schley granted him complete authority over the operations. At Britannia, Moodie was ‘the boss’. This unfettered authority was only challenged following the passing of Schley in 1917. When Schley’s son, Evander became president of the Company, Moodie no longer had the financial freedom he once had. The story goes that Evander Schley and Moodie also did not care much for each other. The end result of the change in leadership was that in 1920, Moodie resigned.

The next man to take the helm of Britannia for any length of time was Carlton Perkins Browning in 1922. The story of Browning falls outside the time frame this series covers, but it should still be noted he took the Britannia from big, to biggest in the British Empire. It is also interesting that while Browning and Moodie held very different management styles, they did share one thing in common. Moodie was a close friend of Grant Schely. Browning was a friend of his son Evander. 

Our story continues with a man who impacted both Robinson and Schley - Fritz Heinze.


Also in Museum

Earth Day
Earth Day

Mill Photo Display --
Mill Photo Display -- "Mill Stills"

June to September

"Mill Stills" is a temporary photo instillation in our Machine Shop that showcases the Mill's story of innovation and mining.

Annual General Meeting
Annual General Meeting

June 19th, 2019

The Britannia Mine Museum Society invites its members to attend its Annual General Meeting on Wednesday, June 19th, 2019, from 3:30PM to 4:30PM.