Britannia was a thriving mining community on Howe Sound in Southwestern British Columbia for 70 years. It was exclusively a mining company town with company housing only. Today it is a mining museum. Mill #3, built into the cliff is the main structure remaining; the other buildings are an assortment of sheds and a couple of old restored camp homes.
Operating between the years 1904 and 1974, the town was for a time the largest producer of copper ore in the British Empire. The town was accessible only by water for much of its operational days. The railway and road were not built until the 1950s.
A 45 min. tour into the old mine is offered at the museum. The tour takes people into some of the safer tunnels of the old #3 mine. 210 kilometres of tunnels exist in the nearby mountains, but most are unsafe and remain blocked off. The tour is informative with a demonstration of one ore drill that still works and a couple of older ones on display. The electric lights are turned off briefly to show how difficult it was for the miners to work by candle-light in the early days. This is followed by a demo of a carbide lamp that produced much better light.
When you step out of the exit tunnel, the guide blows the old whistle that indicated the end of one shift and the start of the next.
From here, the tour moves into the old mill to explain the process the ore went through to be prepared for market.
When your tour ends, there is still plenty to do around the museum. You can try some gold panning (actually chalcopyrite, but still pretty) and wander through the collection of buildings that make up the museum. I have passed by Britannia dozens of times over the years, often planning to stop yet continually putting it off. I’m glad I finally stopped by as it is well worth a visit.