With a thrilling sound and light show launching this summer, and additional exhibits in development, the Britannia Mine Museum is hoping to entice 110,000 annual visitors by 2022

BOOM! – the Britannia Mine Museum’s newest attraction – is going to blow your mind. For the last 10 years, the team at Britannia have been fundraising, designing and building an exciting new experience for visitors that will bring the unique history and significance of Mill No. 3 to life.

The historic mill is the distinctive 20-storey stepped building towering above the Sea-to-Sky Highway, midway between Vancouver and Whistler. It began processing copper ore from the Britannia Mine in 1921, crushing around 2,000 tonnes per day until the mine shut down in 1974.

“Mill No. 3 was a high producer of copper and made Britannia the largest copper producer in the British Commonwealth during the 1920s,” says Kirstin Clausen, executive director at Britannia Mine Museum. At the height of production in the late 1920s to early 1930s, it was supplying 17 per cent of the world’s copper, contributing vital copper products for electricity transmission infrastructure spreading across the globe.

Behind-the-scenes construction of BOOM!, a new live-action show inside the 20-storey Mill No. 3 building, which features lights, sounds and thrilling special effects. | Brittania Mine Museum

But after 1974, when the mine closed and the museum opened, the mill building fell into disrepair. In 2007, it underwent a seismic upgrade and important repairs to make it safe for visitors, then work on the mill accelerated prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

“In 2010, the stars aligned,” says Clausen, “A lot of really big blocks outside of the museum moved that allowed the museum to put into place a vision. By 2012, we settled down and decided that we were going to try to do some sort of show.” “It’s the mill’s turn to shine,” says Clausen.

In addition to $2.6 million in support from the B.C. mining industry, Britannia received a $1.4-million funding contribution from the Government of Canada under its New Building Canada Fund and, through the dedicated advocacy efforts of AME, a further $300,000 was received from the provincial government.

With $4.3 million in funding secured, Britannia teamed up with two local companies to turn ideas into reality: the storytellers at Vista Collaborative Arts in Vancouver, who use technology and special effects to create immersive experiences for museums, science centers and themed attractions, and Port Coquitlam-based Dynamic Attractions, which engineers, fabricates and installs rides and roller-coasters. Together, they have created BOOM!, a multi-sensory, immersive sound and light show inside the historic mill. The special-effects adventure employs multiple screens, over 30 speakers and some exciting engineering to bring the historic No. 3 Mill building back to life.

“People will have fun,” says Clausen. “They will laugh, they will be scared, and they will also cry. It’s poignant and nostalgic. It matters what happened in that building. It mattered to the world, it mattered to the community, and it mattered to people. People operated the machines, people lived in this community, and people built the mine.”

BOOM! launches to the public in June 2019; (Below) Fabrication of a new mock rail car skip that is a highlight of BOOM! | Britannia Mine Museum

Outreach for our industry

Developing the mill show adds an important perspective to the story the Britannia Mine Museum is telling. Aside from preserving historically important buildings and providing a fun and memorable experience for visitors, the museum also plays a vital outreach role for the mineral exploration and mining industry in B.C. and its representative associations, including AME. Educating students and the public about the importance and benefits of mineral exploration and mining is a key component of that outreach. One quarter of Britannia’s annual visitors are students in grades 3-7, mostly from Lower Mainland schools but also from further away, including Kelowna, Kamloops, and Vancouver Island. About 40 per cent of non-school visitors come from the Lower Mainland and another 15 per cent from elsewhere in B.C. and Canada; 20 per cent are international visitors. In 2018, 76,000 people visited the museum and Clausen is hoping to reach 80,000 in 2019 and tick over 110,000 by 2022.

“That is a very realistic goal for us,” says Calusen, “We’ll have to continually add new experiences to grow the visitation.”

AME supports the Britannia Mine Museum financially through the outreach fund, and with technical advice. “We’re not miners,” says Clausen. “Our staff, myself and our team, we really value the subject of mining, but we’re approaching it from an education perspective. We’re educators, historians, communicators. We’re tourism experts.”

“AME has always recognized that we can be that voice into the public in a way that is different than how AME may be able to do it,” says Clausen. “Think of us as a part of the industry.”

If you would like to support the outreach the Britannia Mine Museum is doing on behalf of the mineral exploration and mining industry in B.C., consider becoming an individual member. Aside from the unlimited visits and other visitor benefits, you will receive an invitation to the annual general meeting and have a voice in the museum’s future development. Visit BritanniaMineMuseum.ca.

Author

  • Kylie Williams writes about science, technology, sustainability and responsibility in the mineral exploration and mining industry. Follow her on Twitter at @resourceswriter, or visit resourceswriter.com.