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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Afterlife of a mine : the tangled legacies of the Britannia mine Rhatigan, James


What happens to mining towns and their environments after they close? This question draws attention to both the social and cultural afterlives of mined landscapes, as well as the environmental legacies that follow mine closures. In this thesis, I explore these issues through a case study of the former copper mining town of Britannia Beach, BC. Located 30km north of Vancouver, on the eastern shore of Howe Sound, copper mining began at Britannia Beach with the opening of the Britannia mine in 1905. Production continued for the next 70 years, and at its peak, the Britannia mine was widely considered to be the largest copper producer in the British Commonwealth. Following its closure in 1974, the mine was redeveloped as a museum and heritage site, celebrating the history of mining at the Britannia and in BC. However, the site’s mining past continued to define and shape Britannia’s afterlife in other less celebratory ways. In the years after the mine closed, Britannia became mired in controversy over its longstanding pollution problems in the form of acid mine drainage. In examining the afterlife of this formerly mined site, I trace out the history of both of these legacies: cultural and environmental. I detail the redevelopment of the old mine as a museum and heritage site, and trace out ways in which the state and the mine’s various owners negotiated and developed remediation projects in order to address Britannia’s environmental issues. I focus on the tensions, conflicts and controversies that emerged between these cultural and environmental legacies -- between the desire to preserve and commemorate Britannia’s mining past and the need to remediate the mine. In tracing out the interplay between these dynamic and entangled legacies, I explore the ways in which different narratives of place, the past and the future were articulated through processes of commemoration and remediation.

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