Cowichan Copper mine

Cowichan Copper mine

The mine that flooded

Elida Peers writes historical stories from the Sooke region

Cowichan Copper

When we read of mine disasters occurring anywhere in the world, it is so good to recall that when we ourselves suffered a mini disaster at the copper mine in Jordan River, no lives were lost. It was early in the 1960s that there was a cave in and the waters of the Jordan River broke through the rocks into the tunnel and flooded Cowichan Copper’s Sunro mine.

The accompanying photo, published June 2, 1965 in the Grapevine (forerunner to The Mirror) was captioned: “Portal of main tunnel which has now been cleared for a distance of 4300 feet into mountain.” Note the two-foot gauge ore-carrying railway leading deep into the mine, which stands on the east side of the Jordan River, beyond the old hydro powerhouse. The underground mill room on two levels housed machinery, crushers, etc.

The Grapevine’s front page story continues: “The underground millsite is still full of debris, and it is expected that it will take a full three months to rehabilitate all the machinery and equipment … When the mill is in full production it will be treating 1500 tons of ore daily…“

Copper was first discovered there by George Winkler in 1915 and called Sunloch Mine, with copper extraction taking place in 1919 and 1920, under the ownership of Cominco.  Operations were dormant or infrequent up until 1961, when Cowichan Copper took over, under the management of Ossie McDonald.

It was at this period that an influx of mining engineers and their families moved into Sooke.  Many of them were following the mining circuit as mining operations went from Elliott Lake in Ontario to Brittannia Mines and to Cowichan Copper. The Jordan mining operations took place between 1961 and 1977, with intermittent breaks as the dropping price of copper, stock market speculations and onsite calamities occurred. Ore was transported via truck to Hach Point for shipping out by freighter.

While 40 some years have passed since the copper industry’s local heyday, and most of the mining specialists and their families that became part of our community are now gone, we have reminders amongst us still.  Felderhof Road takes its name from mine surveyor Hans Felderhof.  Many residents know the Chlopan family; their dad was mining engineer Joe Chlopan.  A mining engineer still active in our community, Fred Chwojka, recalls that at its height, Cowichan Copper had a payroll of 128 men, on three shifts.

After the access tunnel caved in, early in 1977, the BC Ministry of Mines directed the installing of a plug near the portal. Current talk indicates the copper mine is under discussion once more.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

Just Posted

Gwen Spencer Hethey with her uncle and mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
‘She was a killer’: The Victoria woman who pioneered female sharpshooting

Gwen Spencer Hethey made military men ‘look like turkeys’ says her son

Anita Troop officially turns 100 on Sunday and cards are pouring in from around the world. (Courtesy Marina Miller)
Cards roll in from around the world for West Shore 100 year old

About 100 cards have come for the woman who turns 100 on Sunday

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
UPDATE: Search suspended for angler missing between Port Angeles and Victoria

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

A cardboard man bearing Queen Elizabeth II’s royal cipher has been placed in a window at the Royal Theatre for at least several days. (Evert Lindquist/News Staff)
Mysterious cardboard figure appears in Victoria’s Royal Theatre window

The identity of the figure, which was moved there amid cleaning, remains unknown

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads are set to get $500 each after a more than $1 million donation from a Kelowna couple. (File photo)
B.C. couple donating $500 to every Grade 12 student in the Okanagan

Anonymous donors identified as Kelowna entrepreneurs Lance and Tammy Torgerson

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

British Columbia’s premier says he’s received a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (Twitter/John Horgan)
B.C. premier gets 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

John Horgan shared a photo of himself on social media Friday afternoon holding a completed vaccination card

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

OPINION SIG
SOOKE HISTORY: A brief history of Bear Creek Camp

Malahat Logging Company began both Beach Camp and Bear Creek Camp

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Most Read