Hand sorting ore at Sullivan Mine
Teck Cominco is celebrating the centennial of its Cominco operations, and
in particular, the Trail metallurgical complex in British Columbia. With a
long and rich history of operation in the area, the Trail Operations are an
integral part of the regional economy and community.
The formation of the Trail operations date back to the discovery of
copper-gold ore at Red Mountain in 1890. A number of claims were
staked, and the mining camp
of Rossland was founded.
Over the next few years, ore
was shipped from the developing
camp via Trail Creek
Landing on the Columbia
River to U.S.-based smelters.
In 1895, recognizing the
potential in the area, F.
Augustus Heinze began to
build a small copper-gold
smelter at Trail Creek
Landing, and the first smelter furnace was fired early the next year. Heinze
then built railways from Trail to Rossland and further to Robson. The
Canadian Pacific Railway, interested in the railways, purchased Heinze’s
smelter and railway holdings in 1898, and formed a subsidiary, Canadian
By 1901, the small city of Trail was incorporated. Five years later, the
Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Limited was
formed through the amalgamation of the St. Eugene, Centre Star, and
War Eagle mines, the Rossland
Power Company, and the
Canadian Smelting Works, and
CPR held the controlling interest.
The Sullivan Mine at Kimberley
entered the picture in 1909 and by
1913 was completely owned.
Regular shipments of Sullivan lead ore began making the journey to Trail in 1910. By
1919, the company was successful in the development of the differential flotation
process, making possible the separation of the lead, zinc, and iron minerals as highgrade
concentrates. This was a significant development in the history of both the company
and the mining industry in general.
The roaring 20s and subsequent 30s were a period of rapid growth in metal production,
including large increases in lead and zinc plants and the first Trail production of
by-product cadmium and bismuth. The communities of Trail and Kimberley expanded
at an equal pace to the industrial growth.
Alleged damage to farms in Washington State by Trail smelter fumes was referred to
an international tribunal in 1927. The company responded quickly, imposing its own
regime of maximum gas content for air in the area, which was well below that of the
tribunal. As well, they began to make sulphuric acid from the low concentration of
sulphur dioxide gas in the smelter smoke.
Throughout the decades, the company brought a number of mines into production
and developed many new product lines, including fertilizers. Between 1939 and
1945, the metal and fertilizer production expanded to meet the needs of the Allied
Nations. New mines produced mercury, tungsten, and tin. Ordnance ammonium
nitrate plants were constructed at Trail and Calgary for the government,
and later converted for fertilizer production. About 2,500 employees
joined the Armed Forces, of which 104 died in active service. Back in
Trail, many women were employed in the plants.