Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Nimpkish miners extracted iron ore

The article originally appeared in the North Island Gazette April 3, 2008.
The Nimpkish watershed is a part of the traditional territory of the 'Namgis First Nation.  It is the largest watershed on Vancouver Island, draining almost 1800 sq kms.  Although the Nimpkish is a beautiful area for recreation and fishing, many industrial activities have also taken place within the watershed.  One of these activities was the Nimpkish Iron Mine, which operated from 1959 to 1964.
In the 1950s Al Upton secured an iron ore deposit in the Nimpkish, about five kilometers from Anutz Lake.  He brought in a firm who drilled and determined that there was about a million tons available, but they declined to develop the claim.
Ted Takahashi, an American agent who marketed iron ore to Japan, offered the claim to another company.
Representatives came in to examine the claim in 1957.  By 1958 a deal had been struck for the property, and construction of the Nimpkish Iron Mine began in 1959.  The company had about 30 employees, who were housed in Canadian Forest Products Camp A at Anutz Lake.  A number of new panabode homes were constructed on the lake and mine employees lived alongside the employees of CFP.
The mine was an open pit operation which also provided processing to secure the iron content required for markets.  David W. Burns, the operations manager of the mine, explained the process:
"The grade of the ore was about 42 percent iron.  The contract called for 62 percent iron, therefore the product had to be upgraded.  To do this we used the property that magnetite could be attracted by magnetism," said Burns.
"The ore was crushed in two stages to about half inch size.  This material was passed over a small magnetic drum, like a 45 gallon steel drum.  It rotated and inside was a stationary magnet that covered hald of its circumference.  When the material was fed into the drum, the waste (not magnetic) dropped off the rotating drum.  The ore (being magnetic) stuck to the rotating drum until it passed the magnetic field, then it dropped off and was conveyed across the river to a stockpile.  This was the dry phase of the plant. The ore was now about 50 percent iron."
"Next the ore was conveyed to a rod mill, something like a rotating cement mixer.  It was a large cylinder about 8 feet in diameter and ten feet long.  It was charged with 2 inch steel rods 8 feet long.  Water and ore were added.  The grinding of the rods reduced the material to sand.  The product then went into a wet magnetic separator. This unit was similar in construction to the dry separator.  In the rotation the non-magnetic waste dropped off, the magnetite ore adhered to the drum until it was ready for the next step.  The product was then pumped to a filter, dewatered, and conveyed to rail cars for shipment to Beaver Cove.  The grade of the ore was 62 percent iron or better."
Burns said that he and his family spent a few wonderful years at Anutz Lake.  "Living at Anutz was a wonderful experience for us - the location and the logging families will never be forgotten."


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