With polybasite from the Highland Bell Mine

Silver is an important precious metal used since ancient times. It is still highly valued today and has many important uses, as well as being used for jewellery. Silver has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity and reflectivity of all metals and is widely used in electronics and industrial chemistry. It is also used to make mirrors, photographic and x-ray film and collectible coins. Silver has natural antiseptic properties so also has many different medical applications. Silver can occur in its elemental form as metallic silver, or in compounds and minerals with other elements like gold and lead. Silver has a distinct silver-grey colour and is soft and malleable, meaning it can be easily worked and shaped.

This specimen was collected from the Highland Lass mine in Beaverdell, 25 km east of Penticton in southern British Columbia. The mineralization in the area was first discovered in 1897. Soon, prospectors arrived and set up that camps that eventually became the town of Beaverdell, and several mines were established, including the Lass, Wellington, Sally and The Bell.

The whole mineral system is very long – 3 km or so, but only about 800 m wide. The thickest silver veins are about 15 cm wide, containing silver, quartz and other minerals. Alas the ground is so broken up by faults that the individual veins only continue a short distance before ending abruptly, making this a challenging mining environment, although the richness of the veins made miners persevere!

The Highland Lass mine was established in 1922, but was amalgamated with the neighbouring Bell mine in 1936, and the name was changed to the Highland Bell mine. This specimen was labelled as coming from the Highland Lass mine, so we can assume that it was collected prior to the 1930s. 

In the 1940s, gold was found in a section of mine. The mine changed hands several times and continued production until it was closed in 1991.

During its heyday between 1922 and 1936, the mine produced 30,925,029 g silver, 5940 g gold, 313,371 kg lead and 487,528 kg zinc. (After this period, records were incorporated with the Bell mine and so it is not clear what the individual recovery was).


Specimen Information

Store: Pacific Museum of the Earth, University of British Columbia

Collection: Sutton-Thompson Collection

Accession #: S74-6647

Primary Mineral: Silver

Secondary Mineral: Polybasite

Site Locality: Highland Bell Mine

Location: Beaverdell, British Columbia

Special Features: n/a

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