The Rock Candy mine was named by it’s original miners, circa 1917, for the colourful fluorite ore found here. The mine provided flux for smelting copper and gold ores. Flux helps seperate the valuable metals from the waste rock, mostly iron minerals.
The Canadian mining company, Cominco, started as a subsidiary of Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). In the early 1900’s, CPR was losing market share to U.S. railroads that had established smelters near their rails, thus getting a monopoly on the shipment of heavy metallic ores. CPR created the Trail, BC smelter to compete. Their main problem was that the local ores required flux, and the nearest source of fluorite was in Illinois. The Rock Candy deposit was discovered by a local prospector, who sold it to CPR/Cominco, which enabled the Trail smelter to sucessfully compete.
The mine operated from 1917 to 1929, when it closed with the world-wide economic crash. By the time it could have re-opened, new smelting technology had been invented, replacing fluorite with the much cheaper silica (beach sand) for flux.
Cominco operated Rock Candy as an underground mine, on three levels. In 1986, Cominco sold the mine to geologist Bob Jackson, who had visited the defunct property as a college student and was then working with the M.Y. Williams geologic museum at UBC. Jackson recognized the tourism potential of the mine, and worked with the Ministry of Mines to create an ongoing operation that allows visitors to collect pretty minerals out in the sunshine, while healing the scars of earlier mining.
In 1917, the only mineral of any economic interest at the mine was fluorite. The miners threw away quartz crystals and barite crystals, as they had no commercial value. A few specimens were saved by miners who kept them as curiosities or perhaps a visiting geologist or two who recognized that the pretty crystals had collector value.
Fast forward 100 years … fluorite still has value, among other things it is used to make the stannous (tin) and sodium fluoride that dentists use to help prevent cavities. But the value of well-crystallized mineral specimens far exceeds the commodity price of fluorite. Rock Candy produces the finest barite crystals known from Canada, often perched on translucent green or purple fluorite crystals, which in turn formed atop sparkling crystals of drusy quartz. Collectors and museums vie to purchase the best Rock Candy mineral specimens Jackson and his crew find each year. Join us on a Rock Candy tour to take home pieces you unearth yourself!