Island Copper Mine, Rupert Inlet

Island Copper Mine, Rupert Inlet

by | Feb 27, 2023

Island Copper was an open pit mine located at the northern end of Vancouver Island on Rupert Inlet at the head of Quatsino Sound, about 4.6 miles (7.4 km) east of Coal Harbour and 8.5 miles (14 km) south of Port Hardy, British Columbia. The mine extracted a copper-molybdenum-gold deposit from quartzfeldspar rocks associated with the Island Plutonic Suite which is a series of igneous intrusions in a geologic formation called the Bonanza Volcanics that overlie the Wrangellia terrane. Rupert Inlet was historically known as Rupert Arm, named after Fort Rupert, the Hudson’s Bay Company trading post established on Beaver Harbour near Port Hardy. This area is the traditional territory of the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw people, which means ‘Kwakʼwala speaking peoples’ that includes the Haisla, Wuikinuxv, and Heiltsuk.

Quatsino Sound extends east from the Pacific Ocean and branches into several smaller inlets creating an intricate complex of bays and islands. It is the northernmost of five sounds on the west coast of Vancouver Island, the others being Kyuquot Sound, Nootka Sound, Clayoquot Sound, and Barclay Sound. Near the Pacific entrance to Quatsino Sound, Forward Inlet extends north and branches into several smaller inlets including Winter Harbour. Koskimo Bay and Koprino Harbour are located farther east in Quatsino Sound, and Drake Island is near the eastern end. Neroutsos Inlet extends southeast from Drake Island and the town of Port Alice lies near the end of the inlet. East of Drake Island, Quatsino Narrows is a tidal rapid that connects the eastern end of Quatsino Sound to Holberg Inlet and the smaller Rupert Inlet.

Island Copper Mine is on the northern shore of Rupert Inlet and was operated by BHP Minerals Limited of Canada before closing in 1996 when reserves of copper-molybdenum-gold ore were depleted. At its peak operating capacity, the mine employed almost 1,000 people and produced approximately 30,000 tons of ore monthly containing 27 percent copper. Other minerals extracted included molybdenum, gold, silver, and rhenium. The bottom of the pit was 1,320 feet (402 m) deep and below sea level at the end of the mine’s life. At the time, this was the lowest point on earth replacing the former lowest point which was adjacent to the Dead Sea. The tailings generated by the mine were dumped at several locations surrounding the main pit. The largest dump locations were Rupert Inlet Beach and the North Dump. The beach site represents about 400 million tonnes of tailings dumped into Rupert Inlet which affected benthic marine life due to the heavy metal content of the tailings. In 1996, the pit was flooded at the conclusion of mining. See a video of the mine prior to flooding here. Read more here and here. Explore more of Island Copper and Rupert Inlet here:

About the background graphic

This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2022 (bottom). Each stripe represents the average global temperature for one year. The average temperature from 1971-2000 is set as the boundary between blue and red. The color scale goes from -0.7°C to +0.7°C. The data are from the UK Met Office HadCRUT4.6 dataset. 

Credit: Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading). Click here for more information about the #warmingstripes.

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