Aragonite (december 14th, 2015)

Todays Mineral Monday is one of two forms of calcium carbonate – Aragonite (the other being calcite). Aragonite forms either through chemical or biological processes, being the form that is found in the shells of marine animals.

This specimen was recovered from the Sullivan Mine in Kimberley, British Columbia. The Sullivan Mine was one of the most productive mines in the Province, and contributed to the wealth, infrastructure and history of the area.

The complex ore body contains lead, zinc and silver, and was first discovered in 1892. It was later acquired by the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada in 1909, who then developed a new milling process to separate lead and zinc from the ore, which came into effect in 1916 and was largely responsible for the mines economic success. In the early days, mining was ‘conventional’, i.e. by hand using tools in narrow vein, with tunnels being 8ft by 8ft wide and serviced by an extensive underground rail network. In the 1970’s, mechanical mining was introduced by digging 10ft x 10ft tunnels to bring in heavy equipment and the operations expanded.

Ore was partially processed on site, but was shipped to the smelter in Trail for final processing. Had it not been for the mine, the town of Trail would likely never have existed.

The mine officially closed on December 21st, 2001 after 92 years in operation. In that time, it produced over $20billion worth of lead, zinc and silver.

Since closure, the owners (Teck) have been working on remediation of the site, including managing the water draining from the mine (Acid Rock Drainage), as well as rehabilitation of the surface.

Alas the mine was to claim its final four victims on May 17th, 2006. Douglas Erickson was a contractor who had entered the mine to take water samples for routine environmental monitoring. The tunnel had poor oxygen flow and he suffocated. His body was found two days later by Teck employee Robert Newcombe, who was able to dial 9-1-1 before succumbing to the lack of oxygen himself. Two first responders arrived on site, Kim Weitzel and Shawn Currier, alas they also perished whilst trying to get to the other victims. Eventually, all four bodies were recovered by firefighters with specialized breathing apparatus. This accident highlights the dangers of old mines and enclosed spaces, and is one of many reasons you should never enter a mine without the proper equipment or training.

Specimen Information

Store: Pacific Museum of the Earth, University of British Columbia
Collection: Sutton-Thompson Collection
Accession #: S-74-43
Primary Mineral: Antimony
Secondary Mineral: n/a
Site Locality: Engineer Mine
Location: Atlin, British Columbia
Special Features: Botryoidal