The history obsessed crew at BIGDoer.com pays a visit to British Columbia where we’ll explore the remains of the historic Yankee Girl Mine overlooking the tiny community of Ymir. There’s the mine dumps where non-ore bearing material was discarded, some collapsed buildings, bits from a tramway, rails, metal, who knows what, and much more. The adits, for safety reasons of course, are closed up. We also touch on some of the Dundee workings above, which this operation was at times amalgamated with.
Ymir (pronounced here as why-mur) was founded in the 1890s and is located a bit south of Nelson. The mountains around are rich in metallic minerals and as such was witness to a flurry of mining activity in years past. Ymir was built on mining. The town’s name comes from Norse Mythology – “from Ymir’s flesh the earth was created”. See the connection? Earth? Mining?
Starting in the 1890s the area here was opened to up to settlement and development. As was often the case in areas like this, a flood of prospectors soon followed and in no time the hills around were teaming with men in search of fortune. And boy did they find it. Rich veins of Lead and Zinc, Silver and Gold. To those early on the scene, those who saw the potential, did their homework, then staked the claim, it was a bonanza. For decades Ymir was home to a number of prosperous mines.
One of the most important producers was the Yankee Girl. Discovered late in the nineteenth century, it went on to be the largest mine in terns of output in the Ymir area. The workings included some adjoining claims (Canadian Girl and Atlin for example) incorporated under these same holdings. The location here is the steep and often densely wooded slopes of Mt Dundee – that they found ore in these challenging conditions is a testament to the rugged unfailing determination of prospectors. Access was via a mine road, still in place, which we hiked.
Initially the mine exploited near-surface deposits via open cuts, trenches, and soon thereafter via an adit blasted into the mountainside. Eventually the workings amounted to many thousands of metres worth of underground tunnels. Minerals found here include Lead and Zinc in good quantities (Galena and Sphalerite respectively), along with high amounts of Silver (impurity in Galena), and Gold (in Pyrite) along with some minor Cadmium added to the mix. In total over three hundred and seventy thousand tonnes of material was mined. In today’s prices, the value of metal extracted would be worth hundreds of millions!
Ore from the Yankee Girl was originally brought down by waggon. Later a 2km long aerial tramway connected the main adit to the railway line in Ymir for further forwarding to any number of smelters in Southern BC. In the 1930s a mill was built across the river from the tracks which allowed more precise pre-processing of the ores. The most productive periods, under various owners and names over the years, was the early 1900s, the early to late 1910s, the late 1920s and a decade long stretch from the early 1930s to early 1940s when output was at it’s highest. In between work was sporadic at best. Limited mining continued into the 1950s. Then it was simply abandoned.
Every so often a junior mining firm will come in and explore the property and then soon leave, dreams of riches unfulfilled I guess. This suggests the ore body must be exhausted, or at least not worth the trouble in today’s market.
Another mine, the Dundee, slightly earlier on the scene by a few years but overall much smaller in terms of output, was amalgamated into the what would be the Yankee Girl group, circa 1940-ish. It comprised several levels each a bit higher than the last on the mountain above the Yankee Girl workings. The two would end up being connected underground. The Dundee was worked concurrently for a year or two before it was closed.
The Yankee Girl mill tailings in Ymir were subject to an environmental cleanup in the early 2000s.
Seen this trip is the main dump of the Yankee Girl. It covers a broad area and extends down the hillside a fair distance. As with places like the this, the discarded rock is sterile and devoid of any real life, even after all that time. Some old mine rails are scattered about. Remains of an ore bin and parts of the tramway are off to one side. The view out over the valley is stunning.
At the Dundee workings more dumps are found at varying heights, but smaller in size. We didn’t visit them all – not enough time. Like those of the Yankee Girl, they were similarly comprised of a pale yellow barren waste rock, with lots of old metal scattered about. And nothing grows here. A memorial cross (not that old) is found at one Dundee Mine dump – see the photos. Not sure the story behind it.
We climbed to a point about half way up the ex-Dundee property before being forced to turn back due to time running out. We’d like to return to explore this operation further (of course we say that every time) and for that matter, other old mines in the area. There’s many that interest us.
We attempted to track down the remains of the tramway lower down the mountain. We found bits of cable here and there but nothing much. Earlier, while bushwhacking through the woods a bit to the south, we did find different tramway remains (more steel cables) – we know they couldn’t be connected to the Yankee Girl as they were headed the wrong way. Hmmm, something to explore another time.
Little remains of the mill down near Ymir. Still, we poked around the site a bit. It’s now a disc-golf course.
The mine’s name? Hard to say the origins but it’s clear there is a strong US connection. We do know much of the financing for mines in the area came from across the border, which is close by, as did many of the mine workers themselves.
Ymir is home to perhaps a few dozen people in town with many more out in the hills and valleys nearby. In the old days the place was hoping busy, home to hundreds and hundreds more. The once rough and tumble community, vibrant and brash, it’s now pretty quiet. On assignment in the area for a week, this author used the town as a base camp, staying at the historic Ymir Hotel within sight of the former Yankee Girl Mill. Great place!
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: July, 2016.
Location: Ymir, BC.
Article references and thanks: BC Ministry of Energy and Mines, Geological Survey of Canada, YmirBC.com,
The Yankee Girl (and Dundee) workings can be visited. While closed up, they are still extremely dangerous places.