The remains of the Kootenay King Mine concentrator, cement walls and machinery support pads, a large wooden ore bin, and other bits are still visible a few kilometres up the Wildhorse River road. In production for only a brief time in the early 1950s, there many things to explore, surprising given how short the plant lasted. Easy to access, you won’t even need to break a sweat to explore this fascinating operation.
The buildings we see here, or should I say the remnants of them, were in support of the Kootenay King mine which was located on a precipitous mountain side a number of kilometres away. Ore was trucked down from there to this plant where it would be pulverized into fine material and concentrated down. From there the resultant product would be hauled away by truck again for loading on rail cars at nearby Fort Steele, for final forwarding to a smelter.
Inside the building, which sits right beside the Wildhorse Road, there would have been various grinding mills, separators, and the like. Above all this is an ore bin, which would have feed the operation. The building sits on a hillside so gravity can do some of the work – the same Wildhorse Road switchbacks above the concentrator allowing easy access to the top of the operation. From there ore would travel down through various mills and sorters before being hauled away.
A power plant would have been nearby, or perhaps in the concentrator building itself. Water would have been pumped from the nearby Wildhorse River.
The ore processed here contained a mixture of Lead, Zinc and Silver, with some minor Gold and Cadmium. There was also Copper at the Kootenay King mine, but it appears it was not processed. There was probably not enough volume to justify the extra expense to separate it out.
The Kootenay King Mine was located high on a steep mountain side not terribly far away. Given the limited space at that location helps explains why the concentrator is located where it is and not at the mouth of the mine.
Mining and the processing of ore took place for only a short period in the early 1950s (52 and 53). Even then it’s likely the operation shut down during winter months due to difficult conditions – heavy snow pack for example. I followed the old mine road on Google Earth and to get to the workings would have been quite a challenging drive, especially so for the dump truck drivers negotiating it while heavily loaded. They must been a bit crazy.
Some thirteen thousand tons of material was milled here in the short time the concentrator operated, most of it in the first year of operation.
It’s not known what happened to the plant after the operation shut down. Did it sit idle for a time, perhaps waiting for the mine to reopen, or was the equipment quickly salvaged and the plant demolished?
The Kootenay King deposit was discovered in the 1880s, with the property passing through many hands over the years (notable owners include Britannia Mining and Cominco). In all that time it was only worked for this brief period however, by Kootenay Base Metals Ltd, although as I understand some prospect tunnelling was done in the early years. Even today the mine area is still be explored and evaluated.
Located opposite the concentrator building are a couple other foundations. According to old reports it’s likely these were the remains of offices and personal buildings mentioned in those documents. An odd outhouse sized building sits nearby. Given its substantial construction, thick concrete walls on all sides, it must have protected something important or valuable. What though, is hard to say.
Tiny Brewery Creek flows in front of the plant. Some placer gold can be found here, although the the nearby Wildhorse River. which this creek empties into, is and was a much bigger producer of the yellow stuff. The whole area has been worked on and off for close to a hundred and fifty years. The famous Dewdney Trail which was built in the 1860s to access the Wildhorse gold fields, passes not far from here.
The origin of the creek’s name has not be confirmed but it’s safe to assume the local brewery operated nearby. A no-brainier really, since the former gold-rush boom-town of Fisherville is only a kilometre or two away, and would have certainly been an active market for that liquid gold.
A little upstream from the concentrator, in dense bush, we found an old miner’s cabin, partially collapsed. There is a bed frame inside which is something that seems to turn up at every old cabin we visit, along with an oddly modern folding chair and other miscellaneous junk.
Now that we’ve visited the concentrator, we’d like explore the mine site at some point, even though research seems to hint that little remains. Access it via a rough and challenging 4wd road.
Nearby is the old gold mining town of Fisherville and to see a report we did on it, click the link below…
A brief visit to Fisherville.
Not far away we hiked a very difficult trail and visited an old hard rock mine, and to see that report, follow this link…
Sunken (Lost) Creek to Dibble Mine – Cranbrook BC.
If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: October, 2013.
Location: Near Cranbrook, BC.