After 16 years of hard work, a local not-for-profit society has succeeded in bringing together multiple levels of government, structural engineers, heritage consultants and volunteers to save the 106-year old Morden Colliery.
Inspired by the innovative use of shipping container modules to stabilize historic buildings in the aftermath of the 6.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand in February 2011, the Friends of Morden Mine (FOMM) worked with heritage experts from Victoria-based Heritageworks Ltd. to develop an emergency stabilization scheme for Morden based on a laser scan of the structure. Through a $1.4-million contribution from the B.C. government, work is now underway to conserve the historic structure in Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park near Nanaimo.
In May and June this year, contractors and FOMM volunteers worked under the careful direction of rigging expert Steve Lawrence to arrange 16 shipping containers, that look like giant Lego blocks to stabilize the headframe and tipple, making it safe for workers to do repair work. Some of the heaviest lifts weighed almost 8,000 kilos and had to be threaded between the fragile posts and beams of the ruins with less than a two-centimetre clearance per side!
The 23-metre tall headframe and tipple structure, one of only two surviving examples in North America, is all that remains of the once bustling Pacific Coal Company mine that operated on the site between 1913 and 1921. The site was recognized as a National Historic Site in 1971 and the provincial park was established in 1972 to protect the ruins. The structures were in an extremely perilous condition, prompting Heritage BC to list it on the 2018 Heritage BC Watchlist as an example of a highly significant historic site at risk of destruction.