Aboriginal people, who have occupied the land for millennia, depended on an abundance of natural resources for food, clothing and trade. More recently, European and other settlers learned to access the wealth of the land by establishing a vast network of industries.
British Columbia traces much of its colonial history and heritage to the industries of fishing, mining, forestry, farming and transportation, which was supported by an impressive infrastructure of mines, mills, canneries, trains and tracks, and much more.
In time, affected by changing priorities, conditions, technologies and economies, many structures were abandoned or neglected and some are at risk of disappearing entirely.
The International Committee on the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (ICOMOS) defines industrial heritage as:
Industrial heritage consists of the remains of industrial culture which are of historical, technological, social, architectural or scientific value. These remains consist of buildings and machinery, workshops, mills and factories, mines and sites for processing and refining, warehouses and stores, places where energy is generated, transmitted and used, transport and all its infrastructure, as well as places used for social activities related to industry such as housing, religious worship or education.
The threats facing industrial heritage include:
(from Canada’s Historic Places)
Morden Colliery, built in 1913, comprises the physical remains of a Vancouver Island coal mine, including the mine pithead, a reinforced concrete headframe and tipple, and the remains of related buildings and structures dispersed throughout a 4-hectare wooded site. This historic place is located in Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park, approximately seven kilometers south of Nanaimo, British Columbia, in the Regional District of Nanaimo. Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park was added to the Provincial park system in 1972. The primary role of the park is to protect and preserve remnants of the Nanaimo region’s coal mining history.
Key character-defining elements of Morden Colliery include:
In 1972, Morden Colliery was designated as a provincial historic park for its unique status as the only above-ground reinforced concrete coal tipple on Vancouver Island. The park continues to protect features of Vancouver Island’s coal mining history. A trail, maintained by the Regional District of Nanaimo, runs through the park to the Nanaimo River along a historic railway right-of-way. Interpretive signage offers information about the mine site.
The Colliery is fenced off for public safety.
The Friends of Morden Mine have been working for over 14 years to stabilize and rehabilitate the concrete mine head frame and tipple structure, to prevent its ultimate collapse. Currently, the Society has engaged Heritage Works, with funding from the B.C. Heritage Branch and B.C. Parks, which are working on an incremental rehabilitation plan for the mine structure.
At 105-years-old (in 2018), the conservation of the head frame and tipple structures of the Morden Colliery is seen as a race against time. With continuing deterioration, dislodged chunks of concrete can be found on the ground and reinforcing steel is exposed to the elements.
The Friends of the Morden Mine Society, an organization that advocates for the preservation of the site, has estimated “emergency repairs” to cost up to $500,000. But, with continued degradation and the inflationary cost of construction, the actual cost of remediation and conservation will continue to increase.
The height and size of the headframe require extensive shoring to ensure the safety of workmen and remedial work that will slow the deterioration processes and maintain the structural integrity to support gravity and wind loads.
Overall, the Morden Colliery has not benefited from its national recognition as a rare example of this type of industrial heritage and its siting in a provincial park. Recently, the Heritage Branch has established a partnership with BC Parks to stabilize and preserve threatened site.