Kimberley Community Album
Consolidated Mining & Smelting Company
Kimberley has been a company town for more than one hundred years. It really began in 1892 when the Sullivan Mine was discovered, but the company aspect took a while to establish itself. Colonel Redpath and associates formed the Sullivan Group Mining Company out of Spokane, Wa. in 1896 and bought the mine for $24,000. By 1900 the CPR had constructed the North Star Branch of the railway, allowing shipments of ore to smelters at Nelson and Trail. The Sullivan Group were never able to unlock the complexity of the Sullivan ores. As a consequence their ongoing influence on the town was somewhat muted.
In 1909 the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada (CM&S) took an option on the Sullivan property and followed up in 1910 by purchasing it outright for $200,000. They were desperate to secure an ore supply for their Trail smelter and the CM&S purchase had a profound impact on the community. It took a while to unwrap the complexities of the Sullivan ore but the CM&S research department convinced people that they would. Miners began to see the Sullivan as a longtime producer and started to put down roots in Kimberley.
There was a general sense that the CM&S was committed for the long haul. In the WW I period of 1917-1921 the company struggled, almost losing financial control. S.G. Blaylock, general manager of the CM&S stated that smelting costs went up and recovery down, thereby reducing revenues. The resulting cutback in production caused unrest among the workers. CM&S took the unusual step of showing their books to a workers' committee, resolved the problems, and invested in physical plant, including a new concentrator at Chapman Camp and then a fertilizer plant in 1953.
The Company built what was needed and developed settlement and recreational options where required. The McDougall Townsite, Hospital and bunkhouses offered initial stability. They built Warren Hall at Top Mine on the Townsite and McDougall Hall on the Townsite. Finally in 1943 the Company responded to calls for incorporation and offered to sell the Townsite houses to tenants and carry on with water, electrical and fire services into the future.
The Sullivan Mine was a mammoth producer for the CM&S. It was a major source of lead, zinc, iron and sulphur, as well as silver, cadmium, bismuth, antimony, indium and tin. The ore output for 1968 alone was 2,156,000 tons, while the lifetime output was 164 million tons of ore. There was also the ammonium phosphate fertilizer byproducts, the iron and steel mill and other sources of revenue and employment. The Company did well by the mine and attempted to give back in arenas, curling rinks and other community needs.
When the Sullivan closed in 2001 some of the elements of the company town sensibility had already disappeared. Foreseeing the eventual exhaustion of the mine the City of Kimberley had taken action to develop a resort base and to begin actively seeking alternative tax sources. It is to be noted that Kimberley was once the largest city in East Kootenay with a Hudson Bay store and shopping resources that dwarfed Cranbrook. Things do change, but the sense of community and investing in community resources, such as Centre 64, is alive and well in Kimberley.