Velvet Mineral Claim
The Velvet mine has the distinction of being the longest working mine of the Rossland mining camp, operating, although intermittently, from the 1890s to the 1980s. Although production looks sporadic, if you add it all up, between 1896 and 1981, over those 85 years, the mine was active in some reported capacity (including exploration, development, mining, ore shipments) for 50 of them, and probably even more that the records don’t show. In 1901 there were 30 pupils enrolled in the Velvet school, it was a community with families. When you put that in the context of the ups and downs of the mine at the time, it puts a different perspective on the story … not just faceless miners who came and went at the whims of the companies involved. It was also associated with two Canadian Prime Ministers. I’m going to borrow a lot from Ron Shearer’s essay “A History of the Velvet Mine” for some of this, as well as Velvet Exploration Co Ltd geologist and shareholders reports from the late 1970s and early 1980s. I’ve also used some recollections from Edward Davies and Jim Albo.
In 1891 Harry Hughes came from the Colville Reservation into the Sheep Creek Valley and staked a claim on the mountain above Big Sheep Creek. He called it “Sophie” … the name was later given to the mountain. But he soon abandoned it and in 1896 Jefferson Lewis took up the claim and renamed it “Victory”. He also located an adjacent claim he called Triumph, and sold part interest in both to Olaus Jeldness. They also acquired the Portland and Bluebell claims, and in September 1896, they discovered and staked the “Velvet”.
New Goldfield of British Columbia (Owners 1897-1920)
James Morrish (Manager 1897-1899)
In May, 1897 Jeldness and Lewis merged their two original claims as “Victory-Triumph” and sold it for $40,000.
The Rossland Record reported that Jeldness and Lewis sold the Velvet to New Goldfields of British Columbia in August of 1897 for $12,500 in cash plus $50,000 in New Goldfields shares. They also acquired the Bluebell, Triumph, Whoo-up, Last Chance, and Velvet Fraction. The founding Chairman of New Goldfields was Sir Charles Tupper, who was a Father of Confederation, and in 1896 was briefly Conservative Prime Minister of Canada for 3 months.
In October 1897, with 18 men building cabins and sinking the shaft down to 14 feet at that point, they shipped 10 tons of ore over the Dewdney Trail, rawhiding it to the railroad station in Rossland, and then to the Trail smelter by rail. In November 1897 a small 25 horsepower boiler and a small hoist, totalling 1360 kilograms in weight, were brought in over the Dewdney Trail. Early in 1898 the Rossland Miner reported that the Velvet had a power plant worth $1000. In January 1898 the main shaft was down 100 feet and 600 tons of ore was ready to ship. Using 20 packhorses and sleds they got 250 tons to the Dewdney Trail pass over Sophie Mountain, then rawhided it down to Rossland and on to Trail by rail. At that point Dewdney Trail became impassable due to spring breakup.
In early 1899 a larger steam plant, a pump, and two steam powered drills were installed. The 60 horsepower boiler was hauled in pieces over Dewdney Trail on rollers, with a crew of men and 9 horses taking 10 days to do it.
By 1899 the Velvet employed about 25 men, and 564 feet of drifting, 460 feet of crosscutting, 55 feet of sinking, and 75 feet of raising had been developed. On the adjacent Portland property 250 feet of drifting and 147 feet of sinking had been developed, and 12 men were employed. In 1902, ore was shipped to the Hall smelter in Nelson. The Velvet shaft was sunk to the 300 foot level with 300 foot drifts at Level 1 (at 100 feet), 250 foot drifts at Level 2 (at 160 feet), and 100 foot drifts at Level 3 (at 250 feet). The underground development totalled 2000 feet at a cost of £20,000 pounds. Work was suspended in 1903, and management changed.
About this time a hotel was built where the Dewdney Trail crosses Big Sheep Creek. A townsite called Sheep Creek City, later changed to Melrose City, was laid out. Also late in 1899, a company that held the Evening mineral claim on what was later called Mount Jeldness announced they were going to build a winter road south down the Sheep Creek Valley, but this never happened. The problem with a route down the valley, whether for wagons or rail, or later trucks, was that there was no firm ground for a road bed. It was wet and downright swampy in places and to construct a road for any kind of year-round transportation would have been extremely expensive.
John L Morrish (Manager 1899-1901)
The first photo below was given to me by Diana Morgan, the great-great-grand-daughter of Jeldness … it was handed down in her family and she dated it as 1899, so presumably Jeldness was still involved in the mine at that point.
In mid-October 1900 a wagon road was completed from the Velvet Mine to Velvet Siding on the Spokane & Northern Railway in Washington State. The US section was built by the state and the Canadian section by New Goldfields, heading south from the top of the main shaft. A 15 drill capacity compressor (expandable to 30 drills) was purchased in England, as well as 3 new boilers, new pumps, and a larger hoist. The company got timber rights to their properties and surrounding lands, and purchased a sawmill to make lumber for buildings and timber for the mine. Four men were employed as wood choppers. The concrete foundations for the compressor were poured, then they built the compressor house, hoist frame, sorting bins, an on-site tramway, a large bunkhouse, married quarters, superintendent’s residence, a school, and stables. And the installation of a concentrator was considered. By mid-November 1900 the wagon road was in very poor condition and continued warm weather meant that by mid-December the teamster could no longer haul machinery or ore-loaded wagons on the road, even when they corduroyed it with logs.
Stanley Sorenson (Manager 1901-1902)
At the beginning of January 1901, after the ground froze, they resumed hauling equipment in, and on 16 January the first shipment of ore went out. At mid-winter the Northport smelter could no longer handle the volume and shut down to install new equipment.
In March 1901 the Rossland Miner reported that 30 pupils were enrolled in the Velvet school. Also in March the Velvet applied for a post office, naming Alex McLeod as postmaster, but nothing ever came of that.
The road became unusable again in a mid-April break-up, and a sudden late frost cracked the compressor foundation.
The condition of the road made the transport season mid-November through mid-April at best, but at times only January and February. In 1901 and 1902 they improved the road to make it somewhat usable in the summer, but it remained a seasonal road.
Velvet Rossland Mine Limited (1902)
In January 1902 the company was restructured as Velvet Rossland Mine, Limited (same name as previously except no brackets). Tupper was forced out of the chairmanship of New Goldfields and hence of the Velvet.
Sorenson’s theory was that the ore would improve the deeper you went, and the main shaft was pushed below the 500 foot level and some ore was shipped in March and April 1902. They opened a tunnel 1450 feet down the slope from the top of the shaft to connect to Level 4 and drain the mine. Ron Shearer, in his essay, refers to the drainage tunnel at the 300 foot level. John Rud, geological engineer, in his 1981 report to Velvet Exploration Ltd refers to the tunnel as at a depth of “300 feet or thereabouts”. The Dept of Mines MINFILE record states that the Velvet is accessible from the surface only by adits at Level 6 (through the long Level 8 adit) and Level 4. In the workings, Level 1 is at a depth of 100 feet, Level 2 at 160 feet, and Level 3 at 250 feet. I don’t know what depth Level 4 was at, but presumably somewhat less than 400 feet. So I’m going to refer to the levels by their numbers rather than “feet”. And I’ll assume that when they talk about the 300 foot level, they’re referring to Level 4.
In mid-July 1902 they announced they would install a concentrator. They purchased a crusher, a small (30 tons per day) flotation concentrator, and a large 100 horsepower boiler to provide sufficient power for work below Level 4. The 30 tons of machinery were hauled from Velvet Siding and housed in new buildings. And then apparently it sat idle for two years … and there’s no record of the Velvet shipping concentrates, or any more mention of the concentrator. In August they did ship some ore.
William Gray (Manager 1902-1903)
In October 1902 William Gray took over and focused on immediate results rather than long term development. He found a rich deposit of high grade ore close to the surface and followed that south toward the Portland, and developed plans to integrate the Velvet and Portland tunnel systems. When the ground froze they began shipping in earnest and continued through to July 1903. His bins were full and he couldn’t empty them fast enough. In July, Gray tried to double his ore hauling teams (4 horses and a wide tired wagon) from 6 to 12, but there were none to be had. The long drainage tunnel on Level 4 was draining the mine above it, but below that the pumps were working hard. Gray decided to let the mine flood up to Level 4. He continued to mine rich deposits on Levels 2 and 3. By July 1903, the rich deposits were depleted, and the lower grade ore no longer bore the cost of transportation without being concentrated, and the mine shut down.
Velvet-Portland Mining Co. (1903)
Andrew Larson (Manager 1903-1905)
When the mine shut down, Alan Maclean, a director, and Andrew Larson, the new mine manager went out to the Velvet and met up with William Thompson, then mine manager for the Rossland-Kootenay Co, who they retained as an independent special consultant. They all concurred that the companies should be merged and run the Velvet and Portland as one mine and finish connecting the underground works. Thompson recommended that the Sorenson concentrator be reactivated, but also to add a pyritic smelter to reduce the ore to a semi-pure metallic state. New at the time, a pyritic smelter would use, as fuel, the iron sulphide contained in the ore itself, so no coal was needed. The crushers reduced the ore to 1.5” then to 0.75”, then it went into a stamp mill where it was pulverized by large concrete blocks that were dropped on it. Any free gold or copper was removed at this stage. The powdered ore was then combined with a stream of water that flowed over a concentration table where the heavier metals were caught by the table and the lighter gangue went out as tailings. The metal concentrates were then dried and fed into the furnace of the pyritic smelter where the metals in the concentrate would melt and flow out the bottom of the furnace into moulds.
In June 1904 reconstruction of the Sorenson concentrator began, and at the beginning of July underground work resumed in the mine. The crushers began processing ore in mid-July, and the concentrator was started a week later. Water was partly drawn from a creek on Sophie Mountain, and partly pumped from the mine. The concentrate was then stored on-site. The concentrator worked so well they decided to increase it’s capacity. It was designed for 25-30 tons a day, but in August it was producing 45-50 tons a day, so they ordered equipment to expand it. Also in August a miniature furnace was brought in to test the process, and in October it was announced that a small smelter would be established in the spring. That never happened. In December they started shipping concentrates to Northport. In mid-January 1905 the equipment had finally arrived and the installation of the concentrator expansion was complete. It now boasted 2 crushers, 6 gravity stamps, 6 steam stamps, 5 Jenckes concentrating tables, snd sacking and loading platforms for the concentrates and scales. The mill ran for 3 days in 1905, but the small creek couldn’t supply enough water for the concentrator, and pumping water from the mine proved too costly. So the mine and mill shut down during their most productive transport season. They said they would start up again when water flow increased with spring thaw, but of course that was their least productive transport season. In March 1905 Maclean came from London and again met Thompson, who recommended to locate the concentrator in the bottom of the valley and drive a tunnel into the mine at the lowest level (500 feet) to drain the mine and provide abundant water for the concentrator. But this would involve considerable capital expense, not to mention it would necessitate the building of a 6 mile wagon road along the soft bottom of Sheep Creek Valley
In April 1905, with serious disagreement among major shareholders about what course to take, a group of shareholders led by Maclean broke away and bought the Velvet under a new company, New Velvet-Portland Mine Ltd. incorporated on 22 November 1905
New Velvet-Portland Mine Ltd. (1905)
Paul Couldrey (Manager 1905-1906)
The new company, with Larson gone and very little working capital, hired as a part-time manager, Paul Couldrey, the Le Roi 2 mine manager at the Red Mountain mine.
In May 1906 they prepared to reopen and on 3 June mining was resumed. The mine operated for a few weeks, employing 15 men. On Level 4 they developed 250 feet of drifting, of which 110 feet was in ore. Then work was suspended due to lack of funds. This was the end of British operation of the mine.
Ed Ehrenberg (Leaser 1909-1910)
In October 1909 the mine reopened under a lease arrangement with Ed Ehrenberg of Spokane. He strengthened the bridges on the American part of the wagon road from the border to Velvet Siding, and in late November made his first shipment to the Trail smelter. By this time the Le Roi mine had switched their smelting contract from Northport to Trail, and the future of the Northport smelter was in serious doubt. Ehrenberg ran it for the winter and shipped 664 tons of good grade ore over the wagon road to Velvet Siding, but transportation costs made profitability unattainable, so he gave up the lease in 1910 and the mine was placed in receivership.
In 1915 and 1916 a total of 183 tonnes of ore were shipped to cover the British investors’ costs of maintaining the assets of the otherwise idle mine.
Granby Consolidated (Leaser 1918-1919)
In May 1918 Granby Consolidated leased the Velvet-Portland to supply ore for their Grand Forks smelter, which was running out of ore from their Phoenix mine. They pumped out the lower levels of the mine, did some diamond drilling below Level 6 (finding some rich deposits), and shipped 215 tonnes of previously mined ore from the dumps to their Grand Forks smelter. In 1919 a strike in the Crow’s Nest Pass coalfields stopped their supply of coking coal and forced the closure and dismantlement of their aging smelter, and they dropped the lease.
Rossland Velvet Mines Limited (Owners 1920-1932)
In 1920 a newly incorporated Rossland company called Rossland Velvet Mines Limited leased the mine with option to buy, which they eventually did. Directors of the company were Edward Nordman and James Gregory (father to Phyllis Gregory Ross, the first female Chancellor of UBC) and grand-father to John Turner (former Prime Minister of Canada). In 1920 they shipped 266 tonnes and in 1921 they shipped 73 tonnes before the Rossland-Northport railway line closed and they were left with two carloads of oar stranded on the Velvet Siding. Late in 1922 the Cascade Highway was completed from Rossland to the Velvet. Now ore could be transported by motor truck directly to Rossland except in the winter when the road was closed by snow. Nothing was shipped in 1922 or 1923, but they shipped 102 tonnes in 1924. Those shipments came from previously mined deposits in the upper levels of the “stable shaft”, some distance from the main shaft. In 1925 and 1926 they dug a 1730 foot adit from the surface on Level 8 to dewater the mine from the bottom and access the richer ore that was thought to be below Level 8, but Ron Shearer says he never found any evidence that they connected it to the bottom of the main shaft on Level 6. From the upper levels they shipped 150 tonnes in 1926 and 6 tonnes in 1927. In 1927 they closed the mine.
Velvet Gold Mining Company - Velgo Mining Inc (Owners 1932-1948)
George Coryell Jr (Manager 1932-1937)
After closing it’s Red Mountain mines in 1928, Cominco was no longer operating it’s copper furnace in Trail. Since the Velvet ore contained copper it required a copper furnace and they had to ship to Tacoma. In 1932 a Seattle group, led by George Coryell Jr, called the Velvet Gold Mining Company, leased the idle mine with option to purchase, and after restructuring as Velgo Mining Inc. they purchased it. They cleaned up the long dormant site, improved the water system, built a new reservoir, and repaired mine and mill equipment and on-site roads. By Oct 1932, 25 men were working there, and in January 1933 political pressure forced the Highways Department to open the Cascade Highway as far as the Velvet. Their equipment broke down in the deep snow before reaching the mine, and the trucking contractor had to hire some equipment to finish opening the road. By late January 73 tonnes were trucked out and shipped to Tacoma. In May 1933 mining was started again and the old concentrator was operating again. The mine employed men to improve the old wagon road to Velvet Siding and in July two shipments of concentrate went by motor truck directly to Northport and then by rail to Tacoma. The concentrator ran out of water, so a shipment of ore was made in September, and then after the water supply at the concentrator increased a shipment of concentrate was made in early December, after which they closed for the winter. In April 1934 the Trail smelter re-opened it’s copper furnace to take the gold-copper ores from it’s Rossland properties that were being leased to unemployed workers, and they started accepting ore from the Velvet, but by midsummer the Velvet was again shipping to Tacoma. They purchased a newer concentrator from the Sunrise mine at Roseberry, but this proved to unsuitable for Velvet ore. In 1935 they reopened with a new, larger concentrator and resumed shipments to Tacoma.
Velvet Mining Company (1936-1937)
In July 1936 the mine closed and the company restructured as Velvet Mining Company (dropping “Gold” from the name). When they reopened in October, they had replaced the wood-fired steam plant with electrical service from West Kootenay Power and Light Company, which required new capital investment for new equipment. They shipped a small amount to Trail in 1936, but the small Trail copper furnace was overwhelmed with gold-copper ore from it’s Red Mountain leasers and restricted shipments. In January 1937 the Velvet Mining Company went into receivership and the mine was closed. They restructured as Velvet Gold-Copper Mines Ltd, still based in Seattle, and continued production. In January 1938 the final restructuring occurred as Velgo was incorporated. Velgo dug the raise to connect the Level 8 drainage adit (driven by the Gregory group) to the bottom of the main shaft at Level 6, then closed the mine.
Velvet Gold Leasers (1938-1943)
In late 1938 a Rossland group, which included Harold Elmes (Provincial Assayer for the district), Rinaldo Bielli (manager of the Alan Hotel), and Ole Osing (long associated with the IXL mine just outside Rossland), leased the mine and shipped a small amount to the smelter in Trail. In 1940 Reg Lefevre started working there and over 3 years they mined 27,500 tonnes of ore, concentrated it and shipped the concentrate to Tacoma. In 1942 Reg Lefevre went to the armed forces.
George Coryell Jr (Manager 1946-1948)
In 1946 George Coryell Jr operated the mine and diamond drilling was again taken up in the deepest part of the mine, but with the exception of a very small amount in 1948, nothing was shipped, and the mine was closed again.
Kenward & Sweet (Owners 1948-1955)
The Velvet was then purchased by H Kenward of Vancouver and W Sweet of Seattle. The mill machinery was dismantled and sold and the mine sat idle until 1952.
Velvet Leasers Lefevre & Urguhart (1952-1954)
In 1952 another Rossland group, the Velvet Leasers leased and operated the mine. They included JC Urquhart, Harry Lefevre, Reg Lefevre, Henry James Lefevre (father of Harry and Reg), and Bert Price. In 1952-53 they shipped 47 tonnes of very rich ore, taken from at or near the surface, to Tacoma. In 1953 they used a small gasoline powered hoist and operated a concentrator they acquired from another mine, and in 1954 shipped over 1000 tonnes of concentrate to Tacoma. And then the mine was sold from under them. The 1953 photo gallery below is all taken from this period, from the Edward Davies Collection. Edward is the nephew of Harry and Reg. The first photo with the deer is of the cabin his grandfather (Henry James Lefevre) stayed in at the Velvet. When they were finished there and Henry moved back to town, his cat escaped and found it’s way back to the Velvet, some 13 kilometres over a mountain through rugged country. I believe it was also about this time, 1953 or 1954 that the Legion in Rossland was robbed and the safe was taken and dropped down the Velvet shaft. Edward Davies remembers that they had opened the safe at the Velvet and then dropped it down the shaft. Someone found some papers strewn around and contacted the RCMP, so they called Ted Davies, Edward’s dad, who they always called when they needed a tow truck for accidents. Ted went out to the Velvet with the tow truck, Reg Lefevre went in the Level 8 adit to the bottom of the shaft and hooked the safe to the tow truck cable, the Ted winched it out.
Jim Albo also remembers the RCMP coming to their house and asking him and his brother if they had heard anything during the night … their house was at the back of the Legion and their bedroom faced the Legion.
Mid-West Copper & Uranium Ltd (Owners 1955-1978)
In 1955, with copper prices soaring, under the ownership of Mid-West Copper and Uranium Ltd, repairs were made to the equipment, the underground workings were rehabilitated, a modern 150 ton flotation mill was built. A program of diamond drilling reported rich new bodies of copper ore deep underground. Shipments to Tacoma resumed. In 1955 and 1956, a total of 2024 tonnes of ore were mined and concentrated. In the first 6 months of 1957 12,336 tonnes of concentrate were shipped, then the price of copper collapsed and in July operations were suspended.
I can’t quite pin down when the ball mill was installed at the bottom, but Jim Albo remembers fishing in Corral Creek with his dad, and then when the tailings pond polluted the creek and they could no longer fish there. And he remembers the mill in operation. That would have been in the 1950s. And Edward Davies vaguely remembers his dad delivering steel balls to the ball mill. So I believe that ball mill and tailings pond were in operation during the 1955 to 1957 period. During the 1952 to 1953 period Edward Davies 1953 photos of the Reg Lefevre group show the tailings pond at the bottom but not the ball mill (although that location is outside the frame of the photo). The 1953 photos also show the upper tailings pond and mill, which would have been about the size the Reg Lefevre group was using, and they were mining the upper levels. Also the mill machinery was dismantled and sold by Kenward and Sweet between 1948 and 1952. So I’m pretty sure that the ball mill was installed in 1955 … before that time folks were still fishing in Corral Creek.
The Velvet Mine production record shows that between 1901 and 1956, a total production was 61,000 tons of ore, which yielded 17,561 ounces of gold, 1,710 pounds of copper, 15,425 ounces of silver, 36 pounds of zinc, and 22 pounds of lead.
Velvet Leasers Lefevre & Urquhart (1960-1961)
In May 1960 the Urquhart-Lefevre group again leased the mine with Reg Lefevre managing. In 1960 and 1961 over 11,000 tonnes of ore were mined and shipped to Tacoma, recovering copper and silver in quantities that were the largest in the history of the mine. But the rich deposit was depleted and subsequently their yield dropped and they dropped the lease in 1963.
When they died, the ashes of both Harry and Reg Lefevre were put down the main shaft at the Velvet.
Mid-West Mines Ltd (1964-1968)
In 1964 Mid-West Mines started some production but in October they refinanced and reorganized as Mid-West Mines Ltd, and in 1965 a Toronto company took an option on the mine and over 1965 and 1966, Rayrock Mines Ltd conducted a program of mapping the underground network. In 1967 Mid-West Mines Ltd drilled 6 holes, which never led to anything.
In 1968 Mid-West Copper & Uranium Mines conducted a four day program of geological mapping and prospecting. This is the last reported activity until 1978.
Velvet Exploration Co Ltd (1978-?)
On 9 May 1978, William Graham, president of newly formed Velvet Exploration Co Ltd, announced in a news release to shareholders, the purchase of 9 crown grants, known as the Velvet Claims, from United Cardigan Developments Ltd.
On 30 April 1980 Graham announced that work had commenced on the Level 8 tunnel. The road was cleared and widened, and the portal was cleared of all debris and overburden. They found the tunnel in excellent condition and the railway track still intact and they used ore carts to clear 1200 feet of the tunnel, needing only a minimum of timbering.
On 25 and 26 November 1980 KF Brunning, manager of the mine, visited the Velvet with Yuma, Arizona geologist John Rud and Calgary, Alberta geologist GG Krause. Brunning reported on the contract miners’ progress. The portal entrance was reinforced and a draft door installed. Water was draining well and 1000 feet of airline was laid in preparation for future drilling. Timbering had been completed where required but some additional timber would be needed before Level 8 could be used for haulage. Access via a temporary passageway had been gained to the rest of Level 8 so they were able to visit the locations of several chutes. (I don’t quite understand why they couldn’t use the main portal at this time, but I’m speculating that this temporary passageway is the small opening you can see in both the 2012 and the 2019 photos. In the 2012 photos you can still see the main portal, but not in the 2019 photos.) The chutes still contained either ore or waste. Ladders were installed or replaced in the 801 raise for access to Level 7. On Level 7 they found extensive work from the past, several drifts, a stope, and some open grizzlies (I’m speculating that’s where the screen seen in 2012 and 2019 photos outside the Level 8 portal originated). They also found several pillars of ore. They also installed or repaired ladders in the raise to Level 6. This man-way also had a winch slide in it, used in the past to raise equipment, etc to Level 6. That was the end of the work completed to date.
Brunning laid out the work plan for the next phase, to be carried out in the following order. Outside access to the 400 foot level (Level 4) was located for the miners by W Graham and should be cleaned out to provide a second exit from the workings. Then restore and repair man-ways from Level 4 down to Level 6 to provide access and the second exit. Hook up water and air lines to Level 7. Then drill about 20 test holes 6 feet long on Level 7 into the sulphide deposit to assess copper, gold, silver, lead, zinc, and molybdenum content. Close the upper opening of the old shaft by building a secure platform over the open end and then covering it with dirt and rock, leaving only a ventilation chimney. And finally, at the face of the main drift, drill a series of 100 foot holes, a minimum of 8, in a fan formation to attempt to locate the ore body. This list was expected to take the contract miners until 20 December 1980.
On 2 April 1981 Graham announced they had completed 58 drill holes totalling 2300 feet on Level 7, which indicated extension of the massive sulphide deposit previously mined on Level 6.
On 15 April 1981 John Rud reported to Graham that he had completed his preliminary evaluation of the data presented on numerous mine maps and reports, as well as his inspection of Levels 6, 7, and 8. He estimated that potential ore reserves above 705 stope (which was in development when the mine closed in the 1960s) to Level 6 to be 20,000 tons. The 705 stope was open when he inspected it. The 710 stope was about 180 feet southwest of the 705 stope and was also in development when the mine closed and potentially could provide more reserves. He also reported that data on the mine maps and the geology of the mine strongly suggested that parallel veins in the upper levels which had been previously mined indicated excellent conditions for extensive mineralization at depth. He estimated that potential ore reserves in the mine could exceed 500,000 tons.
On 1 May 1981 Graham announced that the service road and Level 8 portal were being widened, and railroad tracks were being replaced where necessary in the main haulage tunnel. $150,000 was allocated for this. He expected mining of ore to commence in 2 weeks. According to government records they shipped 1000 tonnes of ore to a smelter in Salmo.
In August 1981 John Rud, a geologist, spent 11 days at the Velvet, both underground and on the surface, and prepared a report for Velvet Exploration Ltd. It is summarized here (you can find the entire report, including a cross section of the underground workings and assay results at the bottom of this page … look for “Velvet Historical Report 1981”.
Levels 1, 2, and 3 : The Velvet Mine has been developed by a 3 compartment shaft sunk to 620 feet, which serviced the upper 6 levels until the Level 8 haulway was driven. The bottom of the shaft and Level 8 are connected by the 801 raise, which provides an ore pass for Levels 4, 5, and 6. The shaft is inaccessible due to a fire in the late 1960s which burned the headframe and timbers in the upper levels, creating a blockage on Level 4. The upper 3 levels are considered to be worked out.
Level 4 consists of 1900 feet of drifting, including the Level 4 drainage tunnel. At least 10 stopes and numerous raises have been developed on this level. Limited assay results from Level 4 indicate additional exploration and development may be beneficial.
Level 5 mapping done by Rayrock Mines in December 1965 shows over 500 feet of drifting, 5 developed stopes, and numerous raises. Very little development on Level 5 was ever carried out and some interesting assay values indicate something could be found here.
Level 6 has over 900 feet of drifting and is considered mined out. However diamond drilling on this level indicate excellent zones and grades of mineralization.
Level 7 was the last area of mining and development when Mid-West Copper & Uranium Mines Ltd terminated operation in the early 1960s, and was not mined out at that point. It consists of over 1200 feet of drifts and 4 major stopes. Level 7 was the major source of ore mined by Mid-West Copper & Uranium Mines Ltd in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Analysis indicates the possibility of 30,000 to 50,000 tons of ore reserves left on Level 7.
Geologic conditions are considered favourable for additional mineralization both north and south of the Velvet Mine. Prospect pits and adits examined, many over 2500 feet south of the Velvet show mineralization strikingly similar to the Velvet vein. And on the east side there are 4 veins that have never been fully explored. An analysis of all the available data indicate that the Velvet Mine area has an excellent potential to contain ore reserves in the 400,000 to 500,000 ton range.
In November 1981 W Graham, president of Velvet Exploration Co Ltd, announced they had signed a Letter of Intent for the purchase of a 200 ton a day mill and equipment, including buildings, etc with Carnelian Mines Ltd, which owned the Midnight Mine just on the west edge of Rossland, approximately 12 miles from the Velvet Level 8 portal. They also agreed to a 5 year lease with an option for an additional 5 years on the Midnight property. Their intention was to truck their ore to the Midnight for processing. It seems that plan was never pursued … the last reported activity at the Midnight was in December 1979 when Tagus Resources Ltd sub-optioned the property from Carnelian Mines Ltd and then dropped it in 1980 after limited diamond drilling and sampling. Government records show that in 1981 the Velvet shipped 1000 tonnes of ore to a mill in Salmo.
In 2018 or 2019 some company did some reclamation, including plugging the ventilation chimney in the main shaft at the top and plugging the entrance to the Level 8 adit. They had listed for sale a large group of mineral claims that stretched from the Velvet almost to Patterson.
Velvet Historical Report 1981 … a good history of development at the Velvet Mine on various levels, including a cross section of the workings
Velvet Reports 1981-1982 … reports on development in 1981 and 1982
Velvet Mine Appraisal 1978 … an appraisal of the Velvet Mine in 1978
Velvet MINFILE Mineral Inventory … the government record on the Velvet Mine