NANAIMO, B.C. — The restoration of a more than 100-year-old coal mining structure has been completed near Nanaimo.
BC Parks announced crews had wrapped up restoration work on a 108-year-old concrete headframe and tipple structure at Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park. Also assisting on the project was the Heritage Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development, and the Friends of Morden Mine (FOMM).
“Morden Colliery is a tangible reminder of the coal mining industry that dominated the mid-island for nearly a century,” said Kelly Greene, parliamentary secretary for environment, in a statement. “Conserving this historic site demonstrates the importance of history and culture, along with ecological conservation in our provincial parks.”
The mine was built by the Pacific Coal Company. It included a 22.5-metre headframe and tipple structure — the first of its kind in the region that was once home to many coal mines. At least eight communities on the island had coal mines.
The concrete headframe and tipple was designed to move coal into railroad cars for transport. It is one of only two structures of its kind in existence in North America and is a designated National Historic Site. The provincial park was established to protect it.
“Our community cares deeply about our shared history and has worked in partnership to preserve Morden Colliery for future generations,” said Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan. “I am thrilled to see this historic site has been revived and will continue to be there for the descendants of the people working in coal mines in the mid-island. I thank everyone who has been involved over the years to help reach this goal.”
The $1.4-million project required stabilizing the structure with 16 shipping containers and extensive shoring for workers. This was necessary due to severe deterioration. Some of the shipping containers weighed almost 8,000 kilograms and had to be threaded between the ruin’s fragile posts and beams with less than a two-centimetre clearance on each side.
Sandra Laroque, FOMM’s president, worked for years to save the structure and noted news of the project to preserve the site brought her to tears.
“Friends of Morden Mine are so pleased that this has finally happened,” said Laroque. “It feels wonderful to come and look up at the headframe and know it will not fall over. Preserving this structure is important so future generations can see how it was done on a real-life scale. It’s amazing to see everyone be able to see history, as a picture cannot do it justice.”