Open house at Highland Valley Copper Mine

Highland Valley Copper Mine has the world's largest Canadian Flag that is visible from space

This is a view of the domes from the copper mine

This is a view of the domes from the copper mine

Every BC Day for the last number of years, Highland Valley Copper Mine has held an open house.  On this day, everything is free – the food (hot dogs, pop, popcorn, ice cream and doughnuts), the games, and the many tours; well, one of the games had a small fee which went to a very worthy cause, the Royal Inland Hospital Foundation.

This year I attended for the first time and enjoyed myself immensely.

As you approach the parking areas, the first thing you notice are the three huge domes that have been coloured like the Canadian Flag.  This is the world’s largest Canadian Flag and is visible from space.  Each dome is 100 metres in diameter and 31 metres tall, and cover the crushed ore piles.   It was designed to solve the site’s dust problem, which poses environmental, as well as health, concerns to people in the area.  Construction of the domes started in 2009 and was completed in September of 2011.

Once you move from the parking lot to where all the tents are, another very noticeable attraction are the trucks – trucks whose wheels are close to 12 feet in diameter.   Everyone is welcome to stand next to the huge tires for picture taking, and they have a professional photographer taking pictures at the second truck, where everyone gets to stand in the scoop.

From there, a brief visit at each of the booths for interesting information and many giveaway items.  The TNRD had its Bear Aware display there, for example.  Then over to the booths to register for some of the tours.  There were six tours available this year.  Several required pre-registration, not that you had to register prior to the day, just that they knew from previous experience that they were the popular tours and would fill up fast, so by registering early you could guarantee yourself a spot.

The tours:

The Mill – this tour takes you through the mill where the ore is processed;

Mine Maintenance – this tour takes you through the shop where the various vehicles are repaired; (I liked this one, as you got to see the vehicles close up and even climb into some of the cabs.)

Mine Operations – this is a tour of the mine and pit areas;

Reclamation – this tour takes you to the areas being reclaimed and rehabilitated for wildlife;

Assay Lab – this is a tour of the mines lab; and the sixth tour was the ‘assisted’ tour, for those with mobility issues.  The tours run throughout the day, with the last ones leaving around 3 p.m.

Also on the site, near the bouncy castles, was a stand of trees that hid a very interesting feature – the Highland Valley Copper Heritage Site.  A plaque placed at the site reads as follows:

“Archaeological investigations in 1982 and 1985 have determined that human activities have occurred in the Highland valley for at least 5,500 years.  Indications are that the early inhabitants used the region as a migration route rather than for permanent settlements.  The early inhabitants depended on ungulate (deer, elk) hunting supplemented with small mammal hunting and trapping.  There was no evidence of fishing activity.  Many micro-blades (small stone items such as arrowheads, scraping tools, etc.) have been found in the region.

“In 1889, four indian reserves (IR12, 13, 14 and 15) were established in the Highland valley to provide wild hay for cattle forage.

“The square building was built in the 1940s by Albert and Margaret Wilson on IR12, which included 24 Mile Lake.  The Wilsons lived in the house from 1940 to 1973 and raised nine children.  Farming was centred on hay production from the valley meadows.  Cattle were pastured in the valley during the summer and were moved to the 89 Mile Ranch by the Thompson River for the winter.  Hunting and fishing provided additional food sources.

“The rectangular building was build in 1956-57 by Oliver Thomas “Poncho” Wilson for his family, which included three children.  This house was also located on IR 12 beside 24 Mile Lake.”

Both of the houses mentioned on the plaque are there, amid the trees, for visitors to see and enter.  Both have a sod roof.  It’s amazing to think those little houses had so many people living in them all at the same time.

Lunch consisted of hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream, doughnuts, and apples.  While it was all free, there were donation boxes at the concession, for those who wanted to donate to the Royal Inland Hospital Foundation.

Uncle Chris the Clown was there all day, doing his show several times, and wandering amid the crowd in between show times.

Another neat area was next to the tourist trailer where they were showing a DVD about the site.  Just outside of the trailer was a gravel area that was laced with interesting rocks.  Anyone, young or old, could pick up and take home any rocks they liked.  Very fun for the rock hounds.  (I picked up a few myself.)

I only managed to squeeze in three of the six tours, so I am definitely planning on coming back next year – I want to see the rest.  All in all, a very enjoyable day, and well worth the drive.