From the Archives

At the Museum


The Museum’s archives are an essential source of information on Britannia’s past. In this section we are making available parts of the archives that directly support our educational programming. You will also find materials written by Museum staff on Britannia and topics related to Britannia.

Our goal is to enable teachers, students, self-learners, and researchers better access to primary resources.

The Environment

Environmental Impact 1970-2000

Britannia is known for suffering serious environmental issues following the closure of the Mine. For two decades, acid mine drainage ran into Britannia Creek and Howe Sound. The first step to reversing this impact occurred in 1997, with the passing of new provincial legislation which granted the government the ability to hold previous landowners of contaminated sites financially responsible. This was followed in 2001 with the initial work by UBC on the Millennium Plug in the upper mine portal which had been leaching contaminated water into Britannia Creek since 1981. Lastly, the EPCOR Water Treatment Plant was constructed in 2005 – a plant that uses the same treatment principles as the original proposal made by Anaconda before the Mine closed.

This set of source documents covers the period from compliance to being a significant pollution point in North America.

Environmental Remediation

This document written by the Museum provides an overview of the acid mine drainage issue Britannia faced as well as how it was successfully remediated.

Mining & Milling

Mining Techniques used at Britannia

This document prepared by Museum staff provides an overview of the drilling, blasting, and rock movement methods used within the Mine, as well as an overview of the size and content of the Mine.

The Concentrating Process

This document prepared by Museum staff provides an overview of how the valuable metal-bearing minerals were separated from the rock.

A detailed look at The Concentrating Process

This document prepared by Museum staff provides a more detailed look at how the valuable metal-bearing minerals were separated from the rock.

Concentration of Britannia Ores, H A Pearse – transcribed from original document

This document from 1927 was originally published in Transactions of the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. It provides an in-depth explanation of the mineral separation process including challenges, mill operations and mill performance.

Gold Recovery at Britannia – transcribed from original document

This document from September 1930 describes how gold was recovered as part of the Milling process.

Mill Flowchart, 1929 - transcribed from original document

Over the years, the milling process was changed several times to accommodate new technology and improve mineral recovery rates. This document provides the methods in use in 1929.

Copper Sulphate Plant - transcribed from original document

Copper sulphate was used at Britannia to aid in the recovery of sphalerite (zinc sulphide) in the flotation process in the Mill. It proved more economical to produce copper sulphate at Britannia than to ship it in. This source document from 1949 explains how copper recovered from the Mine’s waters was used to produce it.

Steel Ball Manufacture - transcribed from original document

In 1931, 2.5 pounds of steel balls were consumed by the milling process for every tonne of ore milled. That equates to thousands of balls per day. To meet this need, the Mine produced steel balls on site out of scrap metal to reduce costs. This source document explains how scrap metal was recycled into steel balls.

Copper Laundering

Britannia had copper in its water. As Britannia was a copper mine, the Company installed a method to recover the copper from the water. This method, called copper laundering, became a significant part of Britannia’s copper production. This document, prepared by Museum staff, explains why there is copper in the water, how the Mine got it out, and what is being done today to remove the copper.

Safety

Safety Committee, 1923 - transcribed from original document

Britannia worked continuously to improve safety both above and below ground. One example of this is the Safety Committee which was implemented in 1923. This document provides a look at the measures being undertaken at the time to keep people safe.

Fatality inquest, 1951 - transcribed from original document

When a fatality occurred, an investigation into the incident was required. This incident provides one look at the process of mine accident investigation.

Incline accident, 1939 - transcribed from original documents

In 1939, the incline train lost control and raced down the hill where it smashed into the Mill. Fortunately nobody was killed. This document contains the correspondence related to the accident.

Influential People

Dr. A. Forbes - the Discoverer of Britannia's Copper

Dr. Forbes is credited with the discovery of copper at Britannia in 1888. The story of the discovery however includes another prospector and a buck. This document prepared by the Museum gives some background on our Scottish physician/prospector and the mineral discovery that became Britannia.

J W D Moodie - Britannia's Autocrat

In 1911 Mr. Moodie came to Britannia with one task - make the mine profitable. He succeeded. This document prepared by the Museum gives an introduction to the man that revamped Britannia, providing the foundation for it to grow into the largest copper producer in the British Empire.

Other original documents

Emergency Meeting held to discuss 1957 closure

Letter seeking employment, 1923

Letter explaining medical administration, 1922

Doctor's account of 1921 flood (Canadian Medical Association article)

From the Museum

Statement on the Historic Significance of Britannia

Extracts from Britannia - Story of A Mine

'Britannia - Story of a Mine’ captures the essence of Britannia with stories ranging from the great tragedies to the realities of life in an isolated town. Copies of this book written by Bruce Ramsay are sold in the Gift Shop

1918 Flu Epidemic

1915 Jane Slide Disaster

Life in Britannia Beach and Mount Sheer

General Manager J W D Moodie

The 'Skip' Incline Railway

Sport in the Communities

World War 2 and the Japanese Interment