Mining History

The BC Copper Company Smokestack is 36m (121ft) high and a prominent landmark on the edge of Greenwood overlooking the huge Slag Pile.

Copper was our leading source of ore.

Greenwood’s history was not a typical boom and bust mining town based on mining and later copper smelting. The BC Copper Company Smelter was one of 3 in the Boundary Area.

The Boundary Region was one of the biggest copper producing regions of the world. Greenwood, Phoenix, Deadwood, Boundary Falls, Eholt, Summit City, and Grand Forks all grew to house and service the men who worked in the copper mines, smelters and railways. The production of copper was seen as a long term investment, not a one or two year boom and bust that happened to so many of the gold and silver laden districts of the frontier west bringing Greenwood’s population to around 3000.

The most noticeable thing about Greenwood as you drive into town is the Huge Slag Pile and imposing Smokestack. The smelter was built by the British Columbia Copper Company, a New York-based organization that bought the Mother Lode mine in 1898. The smelter was erected on a 28-hectare site at the mouth of Copper Creek (now called Mother Lode Creek) in the town of Anaconda, just south of Greenwood. the nearby superintendent’s house, which still stands today, was the only smelter building built in Greenwood.

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“The Vancouver Province” newspaper described the smelter as “one of the most complete and modern in the world today…It is a model plant in every respect on which money has been spent unstintingly, and the machinery installed is the most modern in engineering practice.”

February 18, 1901 marked the blowing in of the first furnace. The smelter was open 24 hours a day and employed 47 men during the first year. That year 106000 tonnes of ore was smelted. On January 18, 1902, a record amount , 416 tonnes, (about 9 tonnes for every man employed, were smelted. The smelter operated very successfully until 1912 when shortages of ore began to affect production. Throughout World War l the smelter worked intermittently at a reduced rate and on November 26, 1918 closed forever. The plant was sold to Leon Lotzkar who disposed of the machinery and later gave the site to the City of Greenwood as a park.

The smelter was originally built with a sheet steel smokestack that was replaced by the present brick stack when the works were expanded in 1904. The brick stack was originally 36 metres, the highest in the province, and contained nearly 250,000 bricks.

Waste slag was taken from the smelter by rail in 25-ton (23-tonne) bell-shaped slag cars, and dumped nearby. the waste slag glowed red in the night during the smelter’s heyday, but it is now a black moonscape. A visitor can walk on this once molten pile of black glass and step inside some of the “hell’s bells”! One can also visit the foundations of the furnaces and machinery now quiet among the encroaching undergrowth.

The mines that supplied the Greenwood Smelter were the Mother Lode, BC Mine, Emma Mine and many others in the immediate region

The mines at Phoenix had supplied the ore to the Granby smelter in Grand Forks, not to the Greenwood Smelter.

The large mines were reopened again the 1955 as open pit mines and supplied much more copper ore until they again were closed in 1978. Ore is still in the ground waiting for a possible resurgence of the mining industry.

We now have exhibits in the Museum as well as a good selection of mining implements in our display areas very close to the Museum with the “Granby Phoenix” overlooking the site.

Along with the boom came buildings and people. Greenwood boasted over 20 hotels as well as bars, restaurants, breweries, suppliers, of everything needed to keep a mining town running. Our Courthouse was built in 1902 to deal with the many court cases at the time and still stands as a fine example of period architecture. It housed the Provincial Supreme court for the County of Yale and still has an old gaol (jail) in its basement. Tours can be arranged at the Greenwood Museum for a small fee.

Donations are gratefully accepted for the potential renovation of this landmark!