NEWS RELEASE · 21st August 2013
Kitimat 60th Anniversary
Some people from afar have thought of Kitimat as a mining community. Who could blame these folks for assuming because of our smelter that we also had a mine. But we donít mine here, or do we? Well yes. Believe it or not, Kitimat is a mining community and we have a large mine worth millions. Ours is an open pit, or should we say an open hillside mine. Ours is known as, the Sandhill.
The Sandhill has historically been an essential element of Kitimatís success. In pioneer times it was prominent. It was featured in the early 1900s with a picture in an early edition of the church newspaper, the Na-Na-Kwa. In those days, the valley did have a few hard rock mines, including the Golden Crown Mine. Since then, our most valuable and successful property has been the Sandhill.
The origins of our pile of gravel goes back tens of thousands of years ago when the continental ice sheets were in retreat.
In melting, the vast glaciers left huge ground-up rock or gravel deposits known as moraines. The Sandhill is a particularly deep deposit of material which at one time not so long ago, was below sea level, thus accounting for the marine shells that are periodically discovered within.
The Sandhill came into its own in the 1950s, when 15,000 cubic meters a day were being extracted. For months,85 dump trucks worked round the clock to remove ¨fill for industrial and residential sites.
By the mid 1950s the dump trucks had been replaced by a more than 4km long conveyor belt which connected the Sandhill to the Alcan site. This conveyor clanked and groaned, 24/7, for years.
Mined gravel from our Sandhill, was essential to our town and the three principal industries that founded it. At Alcan the delta lands were so boggy that a solid gravel base was mandatory. Likewise in the late 1960s when Eurocan was conceived, the gravel again was an essential element. Of course, neither the Ocelot/Methanex site nor the government hatchery sites would have been possible without huge amounts of gravel. In its heyday, the Sandhill mine had a crew of 24. Of that crew, up to nine were cat-skinners, otherwise known as skilled bull-dozer operators.
Like most mines our Sandhill is fraught with danger. Avalanche slides have been a constant worry. In the 1950s Charlie Richardson, who supervised the gravel mine extraction, witnessed a major slide, when his routine dynamite charge went o and a large chunk of the mountainside came down with the hopper assembly and the complete 100 metre tunnel. All went cascading into the Kitimat River.
Similar to hard rock mines, our Sandhill mine has a deadly record Ė it has claimed lives. Considering that the Sandhill was once situated right at the riverís edge, at the current site of the Alcan and old Eurocan pump houses, it has receded considerably.
By 1957 nearly ten million cubic metres had been extracted and the hill had moved 80 metres west.
Geologists today tell us the gravel reserves in the Sandhill are still quite prodigious. Gravel reserves are limited, but that will not prevent plans like Cascadia, from being reformulated.
Who knows, perhaps the mine of the 1950s will resurrect itself into another Kitimat export industry.
Our Kitimat Sandhill remains an asset. Its vast content of gravel should, if managed, be able to develop a new generation of Kitimat business and industry but donít let anyone tell you we donít have a mine in Kitimat for as was said in the 1950s, we have the Sandhill.
ďItís our million dollar baby.Ē
- Walter Thorn