Historical Communities
Island Wildlife
First Nations Communities
Unique Landscapes
Vulnerable Ecologies


BC Archives image of Mount Sicker mine and surrounding area

Mount Sicker miner
Mount Sicker mine train
Mount Sicker mining community
Chemainus mural of Mount Sicker
Mount Sicker mine supply cart
Mount Sicker now

Mount Sicker

Duncan area

In 1895, three prospectors found traces of gold, copper, and silver on Mount Sicker, near Chemainus, BC. Claims were staked, and a fire in 1897 revealed a large copperfield on the mountain slopes. From 1898 the mines were running, extracting a combination of the three minerals, and the town of Lenora sprung up to support the miners. The mining continued until 1909, when the majority of the activity came to a halt, though some additional prospecting was carried out in the decades to come. The town emptied out, and weather, vandals, and logging companies took their toll on the derelict buildings, leaving almost no trace that there was ever any mining activity on Mount Sicker.


Settlement

Coordinates: 48°50’N 123°46’W

The area around Nanaimo was a well frequented area for prospectors in the late 1800’s due to the vast coal and mineral finds in the area. People looking to strike it rich and have their share of the resources were exploring further and further afield, and in 1895, three Americans, Sullivan, MacKay, and Buzzard, discovered traces of copper, gold, and silver in the foothills of Mount Sicker. Excited by this, they staked their claims, and began digging mineshafts to see what they could find. Though they found initial small deposits, a fire in 1896 drove them off the mountain and burned much of their valuable equipment. Undeterred, they returned with an experienced friend, Harry Smith, in 1897 to find that the fire had uncovered a 30 foot wide seam of high-quality copper halfway up the mountain. Construction began with fervor and the first mine, Lenora, opened in 1898.


Middle History

Once the secret was out, the mountain was quickly claimed from top to bottom and a rush of workers arrived to extract the valuable minerals. In 1900, named after Smith’s only daughter, the townsite of Lenora was established, and houses sprang up to accommodate the influx of miners and their families. Four hundred people inhabited Lenora at the height of operations, and the town contained a church, a grade school, and even an opera house.
Two more mines were constructed on the mountain, with the Tyee mine opening in 1901, and the Richard III mine opening in 1903. These mines were both profitable, but not nearly to the level of the lower down Lenora, which was now owned by a man named Henry Croft. Croft saw the potential of all three mines, and in an attempt to counteract the falling price of copper, he built a narrow gauge railway to the nearest harbour, and established a smelter there, in order to export highly refined metals, rather than just the ore. Though the smelter would only run for a few years, it gave the town of Crofton its start on the BC coast.


Despite all efforts to keep the Mount Sicker mining operations financially viable, the copper prices became simply too low to justify further extraction. The mines stopped, restarted, lowered production, and eventually fizzled out, with the last mine, Tyee, closing in 1909.


Present Day

With no economic base, the town of Lenora disappeared quickly. Many of the houses were salvaged and moved to nearby Duncan, and many others were simply burned. The narrow gauge railway was torn out to make way for other roads as time went on, and by the 1970s, very little remained at the townsite. A subsequent logging lease on the land cleared anything that was left, and there are virtually no traces of the once prosperous mines that occupied Mount Sicker.

Crofton however, continues to thrive. Despite the smelter’s closing along with the mines, the town converted to other resources, becoming an important hub and deepwater port on the inside passage of Vancouver Island. The opening of the Crofton pulp and paper mill in 1957 secured the towns future for another fifty years, though there is now talk of the mill closing for good.

Mount Sicker is part of a private logging area, but is accessible and can be seen from Highway 1.

 

Web site ©: The Institute for Coastal and Oceans Research (ICOR) at the University of Victoria, British Columbia Canada.