Not surprisingly, an inspiring visit to this National Historic site leads to greater interest in the Mine and its legendary past.
In its seventy-year life, the Britannia Mine had a fascinating history. With over 60,000 people living and working here, you can imagine that there are a few stories to tell! There was pioneering work on ore extraction technologies - peak production rates making it the then biggest copper mine in the British Empire, dictatorial and benevolent managers, fire, floods, a tragic rock slide and much more.
There's too much 'story' to tell it all here.
But have a look at our A to Z of Britannia (9 page PDF)
For a more in depth look, this 1970 Western Miner article gives a good summary of the Mine and its communities.
Ore discovered - 1888
Years of operation - 1904 to 1974
Number of employees and residents - over 60,000
Number of countries of origin of employees - 50
Main mining communities - Britannia Beach (processing and shipping operations) and Mount Sheer (mining operations)
Mining camps - 9: Victoria, Empress, Beta, Barbara, Jane, Incline, Daisy (Goldsmith), Seaview, Seymour
Owners - Howe Sound Company and subsidiary Britannia Mining & Smelting Company (1904 - 1963), Anaconda Copper Company (1963 - 1974)
Ore extracted - over 50 million tons
Ore present - metal sulphides: pyrite, chalcopyrite, sphalerite, galena; gold and silver
Metal produced - copper (650,000 tons), zinc (137,000 tons), lead (17,000 tons), cadmium (500 tons), silver (188 tons), gold (15.6 tons/500,000 ounces)
Underground workings - 210km tunnels (longest 16km), over 1750 metres of vertical distance to a depth of around 650 metres below sea level
Peak production - Mill processing 7000 tons of ore per day; largest copper mine in British Commonwealth (late 1920's/early 1930's)
Extraction rates - 90% to 95%
Mill operations - Mill 1: 1905 - 1914, Mill 2: 1914 - 1921, Mill 3: 1923 - 1974
Fatalities - estimated 98 underground fatalities in 70 years
Disasters - Jane Slide (1915, 56 deaths); Britannia Beach flood (1921, 37 deaths); Mill 2 fire (1921, 0 deaths)
Over the years, the Mine had several newspapers and newsletters for the community. Several have been transcribed here. They provide a unique insight into the events and people that made Britannia home in the 1970s.
1967 Newsletters (871 KB)
1968 Newsletters (866 KB)
1969 Newsletters (571 KB)
1970 Newsletters (1038 KB)
1971 Newsletters (267 KB)