Britannia Mine Museum marks 100 years at British Columbia’s Mill No. 3

Mill No. 3 circa 1923. Image from the Britannia Mine Museum.

May is BC Mining Month, and the Britannia Mine Museum is commemorating “100 Years of Mill No. 3”, with a feature exhibit that will run till the end of the year.

Designated as a National Historic Site, the 20-storey Mill No. 3 building was an architectural feat of engineering at its time, built on the side of Mount Sheer at Britannia Beach over a period of 18 months, and completed in 1923. The Museum’s feature exhibit “100 Years of Mill No. 3” delves into how Mill No. 3 served as the heartbeat of the Britannia community, its history, technological innovations, and impact as an icon of the Sea to Sky Corridor.

“Mill No. 3 played a significant role in providing for the Britannia Beach and Mount Sheer mining communities, contributing to BC’s economic well-being until the Mine’s closure in 1974, and has served as an iconic landmark and feature along the Sea-to-Sky region for the last 100 years,” Laura Minta Holland, Curator of Collections and Engagement at the Britannia Mine Museum said in a media release.

“We wanted to pay homage to the Mill’s 100-year history and importance with our ‘Dig Day’ celebratory event and feature exhibit, as well as highlight its technology and engineering marvel as Canada’s last remaining gravity-fed concentrator Mill,” Holland said.

Mill No. 3 is also the feature story of the Museum’s BOOM! Show, a live-action, sensory-thrilling, special effects show that takes viewers behind the scenes and transports visitors back in time to the 1920s and 1930s when the mine was booming as the largest copper producer in the British Commonwealth.

 Built from concrete and steel in 1923, Mill No. 3 is the third mill that was built at Britannia Beach. Its role as a processing plant was to move ore from the mining tunnels, using gravity to move ore from one level to the next, crushing and grinding the ore into valuable copper concentrate.

Mill No. 3 fast facts:

  • It is 20-storeys high built of concrete and steel in 1923.
  • Despite being so tall, Mill No. 3 has no elevator so Mill workers had to climb more than 240 steps one way.
  • It is Canada’s last remaining gravity-fed concentrator mill.
  • At its peak in the early 1930s, Mill No. 3 was processing up to 7,000 U.S. tons of ore per operating day.
  • In the 1930s, the Britannia Mine produced 17 per cent of the world’s copper, becoming the largest copper mine in the British Commonwealth.
  • Mill No. 3 is historically significant in being the first in BC to successfully employ froth flotation process to extract upwards of 95 per cent of minerals from ore.
  • The Mill also processed for zinc, lead, gold, silver, and cadmium.
  • Dozens of TV shows and movies have been filmed in Mill No. 3 such as G.I. Joe: Snake EyesOkjaThe Decedents 2, and Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.
  • On November 20, 1987, Mill No. 3 was designated a National Historic Site.

 The Museum will be hosting a “Dig Day” public celebratory event on Saturday, May 20 from 10 am to 3 p.m. with family friendly hands-on geoscience themed activities, including demonstrations from geologists and minerals experts.

More information is here.