Above Video: From the 1970’s CBC series ‘The Northerners’ with host Bob Switzer, remarkable footage of early gold and silver miners in the Stewart area, Anyox and Kitsault.
Stewart, B.C. is a small town tucked at the head of the Portland Canal District, in British-Columbia. The town was once as large as 10,000 people before the First World War yet now holds less than 500 permanent residents. This is largely due to the fact that the town once had an active mining industry. That is no longer the case today. This article looks to outline the mining activities that occurred in and around Stewart, B.C. in the past.
Exploration in the area began in 1898, when a group of 68 prospectors travelled to the area in search of placer gold deposits. Evidence suggests, however, that the Nass River Indians knew the area at the head of the Portland Canal well before this and referred to it as Skam-A-Kounst, meaning safe place. They would travel to this area as a retreat from the harassment of the coastal Hiadas.
Here, they would hunt birds and pick wild berries. In 1896, Captain D. Gilliard arrive in the area, exploring the area on behalf of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Gilliard Cut within the Portland Canal would later be named after him. Two years later, D.J. Raine would arrive within the area. This is another founding father of the town which boasts a creek and a mountain which are named after him. Furthermore, the Stewart brothers arrived in 1902 and 1905.
The first of which, Robert M. Stewart, named the town. Altogether, the group of prospectors that arrived in the area discovered mostly gold and silver mineralization. The area was actively mined on several fronts after this point until 1956, after which, only the Granduc Copper Mine continued to operate until 1984.
The following lists some of the main properties that were discovered and explored within the Stewart area. Firstly, the Big Casino property was discovered in 1908. It was actively trenched in 1910 which revealed mineralized stringers up to 4ft in width. Unfortunately, the deposit was never put into production, largely due to the erratic nature of the mineralization.
Secondly, the Big Missouri group of claims was first discovered (in part) in 1904 with the majority of the exploration work being completed by the Big Missouri Mining Co. The property was eventually acquired by the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada and was put into production in 1938. This was an underground operation which included an underground mill which had a capacity of 750 tons. The company also built a hydro dam along Long Lake to power the project.
Eventually, the project was abandoned in 1943 after having produced a total of 850,000 tons of gold and silver ore. Thirdly, the Cassiar Raibow showing were explored during the first half of the 20th century. The showing returned some silver and gold bearing samples but never produced. A road tunnel, which was excavated in 1968 to avoid a snow slide, interested the area and did not intersect noteworthy mineralization.
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