Sep 132012
 
Magnesium plant Aldersyde

What’s the story behind that mysterious huge brown complex seen off the highway between Aldersyde and High River? I don’t know how many times, on trips to South Kananaskis, that I’ve passed by the place and asked myself that very thing. I never seemed find the time to stop…until now that is.

This is or actually was the site of the Magnesium Company of Canada (or MagCan), a state of the art facility built using (of course) a great deal of Government money. Opened in 1990 and closed not much more than a year later, during it’s brief existence it never came close to operating at full capacity. It never turned a profit and employment came no where near the levels promised.

The Magnesium ore was brought in by rail from a mine near Radium BC. Once ramped up, production was to be 30 tons of ingots per day. I am not sure if the fished product shipped by rail or by truck and I have no idea where the end customers were (but I’ll keep researching).

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The closing of the plant was blamed on low metal prices, the high Canadian dollar and higher than expected operating costs. No doubt the latter could be partly blamed on the long distances the product had to travel between the mine, plant and end user. I can’t imagine how this spot could be considered ideal for this facility.

The question being asked, is where did all the money go? Over 100 million in loan guarantees was paid by the Alberta Government. Only a few people know I am sure and I doubt they’ll talk. Some pockets must have been lined, and the whole thing reeks of a scheme to me.

When the plant closed, employees were given a small souvenir ingot of Magnesium along with their pay.

During the ensuing years the MagCan plant was used for a couple other industrial concerns, but they did not seem to last long. I actually visited the site in the 1990s in my truck driving days, delivering some pipes to the facility. But I never saw inside any buildings and don’t recall who the shipment was for. The grounds at the time of my visit were as empty as they are now. A mystery.

A current idea being tossed around is using the site for a natural gas fuelled power plant. But it’s only talk at this point.

Jump to 2012, Connie and I finally decide it’s time to pay a visit to the Magnesium Company of Canada plant. It feels like were are pulling up to Area 51 or maybe we’re in an X-Files episode. There is no one around, nothing, yet the buildings and grounds before us looks in perfect condition. It’s like they left yesterday, but it’s been 20 years! It’s eerie, nothing is disturbed, nothing is overgrown. A very strange experience. We walk around the perimeter fence expecting some security guard to show up, but the whole time we were alone.

I have no idea how the buildings were utilized, but they sure are stunning. And huge! They can be seen for kilometres in all directions and it dominates the skyline near the busy highway.

Rules of exploration: show respect, don’t knowingly trespass and take only pictures.

There is rail loading area is near the south end of the plant. Rail cars would get delivered using CPR’s MacLeod Subdivision branch. Now little used and nothing more than a spur off the Aldersyde Subdivision mainline, this line passes right by the plant and now ends a few kilometres south at a meat processing facility. This place is rail ready for the next tenant that takes it over (if that ever happens).

Numerous power lines enter the property and I can only image how much electricity it would take to process the Magnesium into metal.

A sign near the site says Saddlebrook Industrial Park.

I’d sure love to go inside, but I doubt the current owners, if they could be found, would be accommodating to a hobby explorer like me. So for now, we peek thought the fences and imagine what’s inside.

Magnesium has many uses, but most its most known application is as a special strong but lightweight metal used in automotive components.

To see some other industrial sites we’ve explored, follow these links…
Coleman Collieries plant and mine.
Crowsnest power plant.

If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!

Date of adventure: September 2012.
Location: Between Aldersyde and High River Alberta.

Magnesium Company of Canada

The Magnesium Company of Canada plant between High River and Aldersyde.

MagCan High River

Peering through the fence.

MagCan Aldersyde

The CPR tracks entering the complex.

High River MagCan

Looking from the little used CPR branch line.

Aldersyde MagCan

Even though vacant for 20+ years, the plant does not look it.

Magnesium company Aldersyde

Abandoned, yet it seems oddly intact.

Magnesium company High River

The rail car loading/unloading area.

Magnesium plant High River

The south side of the “MagCan” plant.

Magnesium plant Aldersyde

Alberta’s Area 51.

Aldersyde Magnesium company

The scale of the plant is huge and can only be appreciated close up.

High River Magnesium company

The power lines in – it must have taken a huge amount of electricity to run the place.

High River Magnesium plant

This is the north side of the complex.

Aldersyde Alberta railway

The plant many kilometres away as seen from Aldersyde.

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37 Comments on "The mysterious Magnesium Company of Canada"

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Coal Man
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Coal Man

I’ve passed by this building countless times and often wondered what it was about. Good article! What a huge debacle.

Wayne S
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Wayne S

Interesting. I’m newly resident in High River. Wondered what this place was. And it does look well maintained. Also an abandoned stock car speedway around there somewhere.

Attrell
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Attrell

Wow that is neat! I never knew about this place.

hodgy
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hodgy

I remember the site being used for the tire recycle, I think around the turn of the century.

Norm
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Norm

Western tire shredders was actually renting in there around 2001, I delivered tires for them to be shredded and shipped out until it went under and I believe at that time Transcanada pipeline was the owner of the building

Fergie
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Fergie

I worked at the Magnesium Plant in the laboratory. Was a very sad day when it was announced the plant was shutting down. The process originated in England in a pilot study and the High River plant was built on a much larger scale. Some suggested the process should have been evaluated at a mid scale facility but I am sure there were a lot of other unforeseen factors that we weren’t aware of to justify abandoning the project.

Donovan@big D electrical
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Donovan@big D electrical

The stock car track is directly across the river to the east. It was shut down because of many different fights with the MD of foothills over permitting. Really to bad it was a fun place to take the kids.

Allan
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Allan

Years ago I worked on bringing MagCan to Alberta, specifically to the Crowsnest Pass… The Company Reps came from Texas…But the financial backing came from a Company from Monte Carlo… The location chosen was in my opinion purely political. And the rest as they say is history.

Aaron Suchy
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Aaron Suchy

Hello my name is Aaron Suchy, a group of us are very interested In the magnesium building and grounds. I would like to speak to you about it if possible.

Steff
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Steff

Drove by it today cause as many I was very interested in the place. I did notice many TransCanada pipeline signs, that is why it probably looks well maintained as its probably owned by them, will need to do more digging.

Joe
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I’ve been in the building several times in the past few years. It is owned by Trans Canada as mentioned it was purchased as a potential new site for a power plant. The inside of the building is in ruff shape. All the copper has been stripped from the building by crooks and it has been heavily vandalized. It has been the home of some owls and pigeons.

mike
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mike

Is it for sale and who would I contact?

Donovan@big D electrical
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Donovan@big D electrical
I worked on the demolition of the plant which was sold for pennies on the dollar. Specifically the electrical demolition. What you see now is just the shell. We removed tanks vessels pipe and structural steel of every shape. The tall part of the building is more than 13 stories tall. There were other outbuildings as well which were.broken down and sold. There were 8 different reactors and everyone had a different configuration which was a little suspect to those of us working on it. The electrical company that manufactured the wiring happened to be owned by our then premiers family. I was told at the time as.a.young labourer that the wire used was the most expensive that you could buy and that was very evident when we removed one type that was $1200 per linear foot. We had to measure mark and sort all of it and eventually some… Read more »
Dianne
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Dianne

Rumour has it Peter Pockington(sp?) who was involved with Edmonton sports teams also involved with the gov. In the building before everything went by the way. I think he was charged, but it ended with a slap on the hand. You might find out more by checking handsard on the gov of AB website.

David Kemery
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David Kemery
Hi. I posted this earlier today but you must have inadvertently deleted it. I will try again. Thanks. David Kemery. Here’s what I know about Magcan. I would like to correct a few inaccuracies in your story. I began working at Magcan as a welder’s helper in January of 1990 so I have a bit of information about it. The ore did as you stated come from the Baymag mine in Radium BC but it came in by truck. I recall the company name was John Wolfe Contracting or something like that. They brought it in in end dump gravel trucks of different configurations. I recall a lot of tandems pulling quad axle wagons. The rail “loading” facility you pictured was actually the Chlorine gas unloading facility. The ore was unloaded on the North side of the plant on the East end of the tall portion of the building. If… Read more »
Debbie
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Debbie

It is Pocklington btw (there’s an L in there).

Thanks for this article…my husband and I have always been intrigued by the mystic of what happened with the MagCan plant that was in operation for a nano second and then nothing. And there it sits.

Richard S.
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Richard S.

This was one of Premier Don Getty’s blunders. There was a guarantee loan to build this structure and the loan was never recovered. Ralph Klein wrote off the debt.

Andrew Roe
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Andrew Roe

I’ve lived in High River my whole life (all 19 years), and I’ve not known the history behind the mag plant. I would love to get the opportunity to go inside and see everything!

Also, do you know who the current owners of the building are? I’ve heard Trans-Canada but I’m not too sure..

Thanks!!

Andrew Roe
High River

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