Virtual Museum of Canada
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British Columbia, Canada and the Mill

A mill worker inspecting equipment
A mill worker inspecting equipment.
c. 1960. BCMM# 10773

Much of Canada’s history is tied to its industrial roots and rich natural resources, which provided opportunities for settlers from all over the world to build new lives for themselves and their families. The money and activities generated by this settlement supported community development and helped build Canada’s early economy. In fact, the gold rush was the reason the colony of British Columbia was created in the mid 1850’s. Prior to 1950, industries such as farming, mining, fishing and forestry provided the bulk of the economic activity in BC.

The Mill is an artifact of the importance of Britannia Mines in this resource-based economy. During the 1910’s, copper accounted for 35% of the total value of mineral production and Britannia quickly emerged as one of the largest and most productive mines in the world. Copper was surpassed by lead and zinc through the 1920’s and 1930’s, but it remained an important commodity, with almost 42,000 tonnes produced in 1930.

Chinese cooks employed at Britannia Mines.
Chinese cooks employed at
Britannia Mines.
Date unknown. BCMM# 12281

Today, British Columbia mines still produce 45% of all the copper in Canada, more than any other province. Mining remains the third-largest BC industry in dollar value, after forestry and tourism.

Many British Columbians can trace their history back to these industrial roots. Early workers and their families established most of the communities that exist today. Throughout Canada there are various museums and National Historic Sites that celebrate the contribution these settlers made to our history, including the BC Museum of Mining at Britannia Beach.

BCMM 12431 The dock at Britannia Beach. 1948. BCMM 13501. The foundations of the Mill. 1922. BCMM 13505. The Mill under construction. 1922. BCMM 13511. The Mill from the west side, taken from the water. c. 1960 BCMM 13519. The Mill c. 1960. BCMM 13496. The building of the Mill, south end of 2 middle floors. 1922.