May 20th, 2021 1 Minutes
The Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company smelter at Trail B.C. overlooks the townsite and the Columbia River. Collection No. 0133.0196 ca. 1950 – Image courtesy of the Kootenay Gallery of Art, History & Science and the Columbia Basin Institute of Regional History

Cominco and Trail are almost synonymous. It is nearly impossible to talk of one and not the other. Indeed, the City of Trail’s motto is “Gold must be tried by fire”, referencing the smelter. However, Cominco is linked to development throughout the Kootenays and beyond.

The Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company was formed in 1905 by CP Rail, amalgamating several key assets, including the Trail smelter, War Eagle-Centre Star mines in Rossland, the St. Eugene mine in Moyie.

By 1911, the company had purchased the Le roi mine in Rossland and the Sullivan mine in Kimberley. West Kootenay Power and Light, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cominco, generated power on the Kootenay River between Nelson and Castlegar.

Other West Kootenay mines sent their ore for processing at the smelter, including the Blue Bell mine in Riondel and the Hudson Bay mine near Salmo.

All mines play out eventually.

The Le Roi in Rossland would close in 1929 (although sporadic interest continued into the 1990s), St. Eugene would peter out in the 1930s. Cominco would run the Blue Bell from 1952 to 1971, while the Sullivan would close in 2001, ending nearly a century of mining in Kimberley.

Although Cominco is known primarily as a lead and zinc producer, the company also produced Elephant Brand fertilizer in its fertilizer plants near Marysville and Warfield. During World War II, Cominco would be part of the Manhattan Project as they produced the necessary heavy water in a top-secret building in Warfield.

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