Strathcona Provincial Park is unique for a couple of reasons. First, it’s BC’s oldest provincial park, created in 1911. It’s also the only provincial park with a working hard rock mine in the middle of it.
The Myra Falls Mine opened in 1965 after the provincial government conveniently carved out a chunk of Strathcona Park to allow Westmin Resources to begin mining lead, zinc and copper ore.
It started as an open pit, but went underground soon after. The mine tailings and waste rock are stored next to Myra Creek, which flows into Buttle Lake.
The mine has been controversial since the first truckload of ore left for the dock in Campbell River more than 50 years ago. It has been called an environmental ticking time bomb because of the threat of acid-laced run-off impacting fish-bearing waters in Strathcona Park.
Over the years, the mine has suspended operations when mineral prices were low. Ownership has also changed hands several times.
In 1998, the Swedish company Boliden Resources bought Westmin and acquired the Myra Falls Mine in the deal. The company owned the mine until 2011 , when it sold to a Swiss company, Nyrstar Corporation.
In 2014, Nyrstar mined nearly 500,000 tonnes of ore but announced a shutdown of operations citing aging infrastructure and the need for investment to develop new mine works. As a result, nearly 100 workers lost their jobs.
Two years later, the federal government added Nyrstar to the Environmental Offenders Registry for “depositing untreated acidic wash water into Myra Creek.” At the time, provincial officials declared that the spill wasn’t harmful.
But the feds disagreed and went on to charge and fine the company $185,000 for violating the Fisheries Act and the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations.
Nyrstar restarted mining at Myra Falls in 2017. Three years later, the Singapore multinational Trafigura bought Nyrstar. According to the company’s website, the Myra Falls Mine now employs 300 people, and the owners plan to ramp up production to 800,000 tonnes of ore per year.
All this in the heart of BC’s oldest provincial park.