The future of Morden Mine appears to no longer be in doubt.
The provincial government announced Thursday it has committed $1.4 million to restore Morden Mine’s concrete headframe and tipple structure at Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park, south of Nanaimo.
Restoration work is expected to take more than a year to complete, according to a government press release, which notes that crews will be stabilizing the seven-storey-high mining structure over the next two months, resulting in temporary closures to the park.
“This park is a vital reminder of the significant role of coal mining communities on Vancouver Island,” Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan, said in a press release.
Plans are also in the works to develop a multi-use trail that connects Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park to nearby Hemer Provincial Park, the release notes.
Constructed in 1912, Morden Mine is Canada’s only remaining concrete coal tipple and headframe and one of two left in North America, with the other one – O’Gara No. 12 Mine – located in Illinois.
Sandra Larocque, Friends of Morden Mine president, said the announcement brought her to tears and that the long-term future of the structure is no longer in doubt.
“It’s going to be here for a long time now,” she said.
Larocque said the money is coming from B.C. Parks and that B.C. Heritage stabilization efforts will begin April 15 and that the park will be closed periodically while crews install shipping containers around the structure.
“Crews are going to be using shipping containers to kind of scaffold the mine so it won’t fall down and give people a secure foundation for people to work on it,” she said.
Once the mine’s structure is stabilized, the remaining restoration work won’t impact people’s ability to access the park, said Larocque.
In recent years the province and FOMM have carried out assessment work including an engineering analysis on Morden Mine as part of an effort to determine what action was needed to restore the structure. In 2017, the province committed $25,000 to conserving the mine’s structures.
Larocque, whose father and grandfather were both coal miners, said she’s very thankful for provincial government’s latest investment and wishes there were provincial laws similar to Illinois state law, which mandates O’Gara No. 12 Mine be maintained.
“We’ve lost so much heritage,” she said. “We can put all the mine monuments up that we want but [the structure] can give people a visual history lesson.”
Details about closures at Morden Colliery Provincial Park can be found at http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/morden/