Morden Mine issue catches attention of province

NANAIMO – Efforts to save one of only two remaining coal mining headframes and tipples in North America took a step forward Monday.

Efforts to save one of only two remaining coal mining headframes and tipples in North America took a step forward Monday.

A Friends of Morden Mine Society delegation met with Terry Lake, B.C. environment minister, to discuss Morden Colliery Provincial Historic Park, the work required to save the mine’s headframe and tipple and the park’s potential development as a recreational and tourism site.

Built in 1913, the headframe has deteriorated over the years to the point the structure is unsafe. The site became a provincial park in 1972 but has seen little in terms of development.

Society members Eric Ricker, John Hofman and John Knappett, and Parksville-Qualicum Liberal MLA Ron Cantelon, spoke with Lake for 30 minutes.

“We had to get a lot across in the time we had available to us, but I think we definitely have his interest,” said Ricker. “We discussed in detail the structural failings, the most vulnerable parts of the structure that need immediate attention.

“At all times we emphasized there just isn’t much time left for the structure. We have to move quickly or it’s going to be lost.”

Lake agreed to consider a proposal on the costs of an engineering study to determine what’s involved to fix Morden.

“We should have that proposal to him in the next couple of weeks and then it will be up to him to find the money to fund that study,” said Ricker. “The next stage is to get the government to cough up the money to get somebody on the site to start the work. We didn’t get into that kind to detail because they want the study first.”

Ricker knows funding is hard to come by for these type of projects, but if the government can repair the headframe and tipple, the Friends of Morden Mine would fundraise the estimated $2 million it would take to turn the park into an interpretive centre.

“Governments over the years have acquired more and more parks but haven’t funded development,” he said. “A way of getting out of this spiral is to enter into partnership agreements with communities that care about their parks. I think [Lake] liked that idea, but I can’t say he’s going to run with it.”

Cantelon said his role in the delegation was to impress upon Lake that the site is an important piece of history.

“It is the only surviving relic, above ground, of coal mining in B.C. It needs to be preserved,” he said. “The park has great potential in terms of recreation and tourism, and ties in with so many things we are trying to do on the Island.”

Cantelon echoed the fact the government has little money to spend, but he sees partnerships working toward a common goal.

“I’d like to see some help from the mining industry in British Columbia,” he said “Here’s a good example of looking after your own. Going back afterwards and selling mining.”

With the risk of the Morden headframe collapsing, time is not a luxury as costs continue to increase to repair it.

“The first step is to put in a proposal to what it would cost for an engineering study of what needs to be done. I hope, and trust, that will acceptable to the minister,” said Cantelon. “It is a provincial park,  and we need to keep our provincial parks up to snuff.”

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