Virtual Museum of Canada
 
Click to view blueprints of the mill building

The Importance of the Mill Today

The Legacy of the Mill

The rehabilitation of the Mill. A large crane lifts the plywood used to replace the roof.
The rehabilitation of the Mill.
A large crane lifts the plywood
used to replace the roof.
The BC Museum of Mining was created in 1974 when Britannia Mines (then operated by Anaconda) closed its doors.  One of the mandates of the Museum is to care for the 23 historical buildings located on its site.  As one of the last standing gravity fed mills in North America the Museum continues to care for and educate its communities about the significance of the building.

Mill #3 is a dynamic symbol for local communities, British Columbia and Canada in the past and the present.  It represents the spirit and the legacy of our industrial history.  Some of the reasons include:

The Concentrator represented the health of the communities of Britannia Beach, The Townsite (Mt.Sheer) and beyond to BC and Canada.
The Concentrator was the economic heartbeat of the community of Britannia Beach that processed over 50 million tonnes of ore during its 50 years of operations.  As long as the Mill was running there was prosperity locally, provincially and nationally.

The Concentrator holds a legacy of knowledge for today’s students.
The Concentrator is one of the last gravity fed mills left in North America, it was a feat of engineering and architecture at the time of its construction in 1922. The information that its structure contains is still very significant to students learning architecture and engineering today.

The Concentrator is our hope for a new, exciting future.
The Concentrator will be the jewel in the crown of The Britannia Project, our vision of a world-class museum and attraction at Britannia.

All 1,194 windows were removed and either repaired or replaced
All 1,194 windows were removed
and either repaired or replaced

The Concentrator is a reflection of Britannia Beach itself.
The Concentrator has always been a poignant reflection of Britannia Beach.   As we move into a new exciting chapter for the community, most importantly the successful environmental clean up, the rehabilitated Mill will be a reminder to Britannia’s important past and vibrant future. 

The Concentrator is an essential element of the historical Howe Sound view.
There are 1,194 windows and 18,792 panes, each one adding to the commanding presence The Concentrator extends over the landscape of Howe Sound since 1922

The Concentrator is a major part of the economic history of Canada.

Powerwashing the windows off the Mill in during its rehabilitation.
Powerwashing the windows off the
Mill in during its rehabilitation.

The Concentrator was a very successful mill with a high productivity rate.  This led to Britannia Mines being the largest source of copper in the British Commonwealth in the 1930’s.  This industrial legacy is the foundation of the economic development of Canada and a major reason for its National Historic Site status.

A National Historic Site and a British Columbia Provincial Landmark

In 1987 Parks Canada and its Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada programme recommended that the gravity-fed concentrator complex at Britannia Mines was of national historic and architectural importance and declared it a National Historic Site.  This programme contains over 1500 people, places and events that our Government has chosen as illustrative of Canada’s defining moments.   In 1991 the Mill was also declared a British Columbia Historic Landmark.  To research other National Historic Sites visit: www.pc.gc.ca/progs/lhn-nhs/

Saving the Mill for future generations

The pool at Britannia Beach with the Mill in the background.
The pool at Britannia Beach
with the Mill in the background.
C. 1950. BCMM# 12010

The importance of the building is also being reflected in the energy put towards conserving it.  The BC Museum of Mining began the process of rehabilitating the Mill building in 2005.  Throughout the process the Mill had its windows, siding and roof replaced, returning the exterior of the building close to its original appearance.

The Environmental Issue at Britannia Beach

Quite often discussions around the environmental problems at Britannia misrepresent the problem as having to do with the Mill.  Although Britannia Beach is the location of the serious environmental problem of acid rock drainage (ARD) it is not directly related to the Mill, nor does the acidic water come from the Mill. 

In 2000 the Province began its pursuit of potentially responsible parties (PRP’s). In the spring of 2001 a voluntary settlement was announced. Remediation work is ongoing as a result of this settlement that totals 30 Million dollars from the named responsible parties, including former mine owners.

In November of 2005 the water treatment plant at Britannia Beach became operational.  EPCOR Utilities Inc. is responsible for construction and operation of the plant.

For background and further information visit the British Columbia’s Britannia Beach Remediation website at www.britanniamine.ca.





The Mill and the bunkhouse. c. 2002. Credit: Bob Brant
The Mill and the haul truck. c. 2002. Credit: Bob Brant The Mill with the windows removed for rehabilitation. 2005 Inside the Mill facing north on the ground level thickening tank platforms. 2006 The Mill from the bottom of the stairs. c. 2002 Machinery inside the mill. 2006