Turning Back the Pages: Golden was an ideal area for mining

By Colleen Palumbo

This area around Golden provided early prospectors with ideal conditions for certain kinds of mining and for a short time in the 1880s and 1890s, Golden became a busy mining center.

Steamboats carried ore up and down the Columbia River between Fort Steele and Golden. Once the ore came to Golden, it was transferred to the railway for the trip to the smelter at Trail.

A company from England bonded several claims in the area and realizing the potential of their claims, they built a smelter in Golden so that the ore would not have to be taken so far away.

About the time that construction was finished on the smelter, the price dropped out of the silver market and with the price of lead being so low the smelter never ran a single shift.

During the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway through the Yoho in the early 1880s, float was discovered on the side of the mountain and eventually in 1885, J.Tretheway and J.W. Haskins located three claims; the Monarch Cornucopia, the Alpha and the Mogul. The Monarch became the second oldest location of lead ore in British Columbia.

Within the year pioneer broker, George DeWolf, had bonded the Monarch and turned it over to Claude Vautin of London, England. Vautin organized the B.C. Smelting Company to develop and operate the Monarch. This new company, with a capital of $350,000, began work in Field in 1888, spending $50,000 on the mine in that first year.

Railway sidings were put in, ore bunkers built and then the mine was connected to the railway by aerial tramway.

A tunnel was driven 287 feet and 8,000 tons of ore were taken out. The ore from the Monarch Mine, near Field, was a very complex lead zinc ore carrying a little silver that could not be successfully treated in those days and, in fact, it was another 37 years before a successful separation process was used.

Three companies out of Vancouver; Mt. Stephen Syndicate, Great Western Mines Development Co. and Minerals Recovery Co., took over operation of the mine in a big way.

A mill was built in which lead and zinc concentrates were made and the mine did very well during the first world war when lead and zinc brought in such high prices.

In 1925, Mr. A.B. Trites bonded the operation and new management, in the form of Major Angus W. Davis, M.E., took over and successfully built the company up to a point where it could be said that it was a proven mine.

The area of the Monarch Mine was a very large one indeed and was visible from the railway.

It had outcrops on both sides of the valley of the Kicking Horse River.

Most of the development was carried out on the north side of the river but it was believed that the south side of the river carried deposits that were equally as rich.

Geologically, the Pre Cambrian belt that runs northwesterly into British Columbia from Idaho, is one of the richest areas in silver-lead deposits. This is the area of the Selkirks that flank the Columbia River on the west.

The one downfall that the mine faced from its very beginning was the fact that it was in a National Park and therefore mining was frowned upon. The only way that mining operations were able to be carried out in that area was because the operation was going to mean so much to the northeast Kootenay area.

In 1928, the Monarch was acquired by the Goldfield Consolidated Mines of Reno, Nevada. Goldfield Consolidated was controlled by George Wingfield, who made his fortune in the Tonopah mining boom in about 1903. Mr. Wingfield also acquired, through foreclosure, the Dolly Varden mine at Alice Arm and it was to Alice Arm that many of the employees went when the Monarch finally closed.

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