Lost Mines of the Bow Valley

New mining exhibit at the Canmore Museum & Geoscience Centre

ImageWhen mining is referenced in the Bow Valley, talk inevitably turns to coal.

And for good reason, as coal mining was a major factor in how the Bow Valley developed economically and physically. But all too often, other Rocky Mountain mines are overlooked.

With the exception of Silver City (officially known as the Town of Silverton), these were often small operations worked by small groups of miners; a few of these mines were also one-man operations.

A new exhibition – Lost Mines of the Bow Valley – opening at the Canmore Museum & Geoscience Centre on Saturday (March 3) at 6:30 p.m. shares the story of 10 of these lesser-known mines, including Silver City, Alberta Mine, Protection Mountain and Bookrest Mine, where mining copper, talc and quartz were mined

Organized by a group – Perry Davis, Don Mickle, Peter Watts, Gord Antoniuk, Jim Murphy, Dave Hunter, Bonner Hunter and Ben Gadd – interested in mining history, the story begins with the first miners in the Rockies, aboriginal people who used flint and quartz for arrowheads, argillaceous shale for pipe bowls and reddish ochre for painting pictographs.

The exhibit includes panels on each of the lost mines, highlighting the mines and a few of the people connected to them, such as Joe Healy, who was led by an aboriginal man named Goldseeker to a copper deposit on Copper Mountain in 1881, two years before railway construction would reach the Bow Valley.
“When the railway was being pushed through in the fall of 1883 everybody was trying to strike it rich. There were larger companies doing the coal mining and then there were these independent prospectors and small mining companies going in and trying to find things,” said Brent MacDonald, earth science coordinator at the Canmore Museum.

“Most of the mines were small scale, they were just trying to make money; small parties of people going out and digging in the mountains and finding these things. In the early days when all of this was occurring, they were encouraging people to come out to Silver City.”

One of these mines, Bookrest Mine, is connected to Bill Peyto, a packer, guide and prospector who hoped to strike it rich. Peyto’s original claim stake – engraved into a tall piece of wood – is on display as part of this exhibition.

In May, the CMAGS will host Operation Bow Athabasca, which will feature an extensive mapping project spearheaded by the Geological Survey of Canada in the 1960s.

Reprinted from the Rocky Mountain Outlook

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About Rob Alexander

I am a writer, photographer and historian and the author of The History of Canmore, published by Summerthought Publishing of Banff, AB.
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