A piece of Vancouver Island’s coal mining history has been brought back to life.
Restoration of the 108-year-old concrete headframe and tipple structure at Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park near Nanaimo has been completed by BC Parks, the Heritage Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development, and the Friends of Morden Mine (FOMM), preserving all that remains of the once-bustling coal mine.
“Morden Colliery is a tangible reminder of the coal mining industry that dominated the mid-island for nearly a century,” said Kelly Greene, Parliamentary Secretary for Environment. “Conserving this historic site demonstrates the importance of history and culture, along with ecological conservation in our provincial parks.”
Built in the early 1900s by the Pacific Coal Company, the 22.5-metre (74-foot) headframe and tipple structure was the first of its kind in the region that was once dotted with coal mines. At least eight communities on the island had coal mines employing thousands of people.
The concrete headframe and tipple, which were used to load coal into railroad cars for transport, is one of only two structures of its kind left in North America. The structure was recognized as a National Historic Site in 1971. The provincial park was established a year later to protect the deteriorating site.
“Our community cares deeply about our shared history and has worked in partnership to preserve Morden Colliery for future generations,” said Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan. “I am thrilled to see this historic site has been revived and will continue to be there for the descendants of the people working in coal mines in the mid-island. I thank everyone who has been involved over the years to help reach this goal.”
In April 2019, the Province contributed $1.4 million to FOMM to conserve the historic pieces. The project presented unique challenges, such as stabilizing the structure with 16 shipping containers and extensive shoring for workers, given the deterioration and large spans in the headframe. Some of the shipping containers weighed almost 8,000 kilograms and had to be threaded between the ruin’s fragile posts and beams with less than a two-centimetre clearance on each side.
Sandra Laroque, FOMM’s president, lobbied for years to preserve the site. She said she was brought to tears when she heard the structure would be saved.
“Friends of Morden Mine are so pleased that this has finally happened. It feels wonderful to come and look up at the headframe and know it will not fall over,” said Laroque. “Preserving this structure is important so future generations can see how it was done on a real-life scale. It’s amazing to see everyone be able to see history, as a picture cannot do it justice.”
For more information about Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park, visit: