Anyox, Observatory Inlet

Anyox, Observatory Inlet

by | Jan 20, 2022

Anyox is an abandoned mining community in the Coast Mountains at the mouth of Anyox Creek on Granby Bay in Observatory Inlet, about 79 miles (127 km) north-northeast of Prince Rupert and 37 miles (60 km) south of Stewart, British Columbia. The name Anyox means ‘hidden waters’ in the Nisga’a language. Observatory Inlet was named by Captain George Vancouver in 1793, for the temporary astronomical observatory he established to calibrate navigational chronometers. The Coast Mountains are a major component of the Pacific Coast Ranges of western North America, extending from southwestern Yukon through Southeast Alaska and all of the British Columbia mainland coast south to the Fraser River. The mountains consist of deformed igneous and metamorphosed rocks that originated as tectonically active terranes of different ages with a broad range of geographic origins. The terranes were accreted onto the North American Plate forming five distinct geological belts arranged from west to east as the Insular, Coast, Intermontane, Omineca, and Foreland Belts. Each has different metamorphic, physiographic, metallogenic, and tectonic histories. The geological formation called the Anyox Pendant is located in the Coast Belt and is part of a region of rich base and precious metal mineral deposits covering 98,560 acres (39,886 ha). A pendant is a geological term referring to a mass of rock that is entirely surrounded by an igneous intrusion such as a batholith or other pluton. The Anyox Pendant is surrounded to the north, south, and east by granite, quartz monzonite, and granodiorite of the Paleocene to Eocene age Hyder Pluton. The Anyox Pendant contains complexly deformed greenstone volcanic layers overlain by a thick succession of turbidite sedimentary rocks. At the contact between the two layers are copper-rich mineral deposits well known to the Nisga’a people who have inhabited this area for thousands of years.

The Nisga’a are a Tsimshian people that historically had hostile interactions with the Haida and Tlingit. The Haida would frequently venture from the outer coast into the fjords of the mainland with a hundred canoes and a thousand warriors and take slaves, massacre males, and destroy villages. Anyox was the Nisga’a name for a hidden creek used as a refuge during Haida raids. In 1793, Captain George Vancouver sailed into a fjord he later named Observatory Inlet with the HMS Discovery and HMS Chatham while exploring the coast for a northwest passage. The principal means of navigation in the 18th century was to use observations of the stars to determine the latitude and a chronometer to determine longitude. Chronometers of that time were prone to error especially on long voyages and required periodic calibration. Observations of lunar distances were the main method used by surveyors and navigators to calibrate historical chronometers. But the calculations required for determining lunar distances were still complex and time-consuming. Typically, an observation station would be established onshore at a location where the night sky could be seen over the greatest arc length. Dozens or even hundreds of observations of the moon would be made and each observation would have required about 3 hours of calculations. Vancouver established an observation station at present-day Salmon Cove on the western shore of Observatory Inlet about 10 miles (16 km) south of Anyox. He left Lieutenant Joseph Whidbey in charge of the observatory from July 23 to August 17, with orders to make all necessary observations for determining the true position of the station and calibrating the chronometers. Vancouver then departed to explore more of the coast in small boats. In the late 19th century, Nisga’a lore included reference to a mountain of gold adjacent to the inlet, which attracted the attention of gold-hungry prospectors.

In 1889, John Flewin and Charles Todd ventured into Granby Bay and discovered a piece of chalcopyrite, a possible indicator that a copper deposit was not far away. The next year, Flewin returned and discovered a large body of ore that became the Bonanza mineral claim. The news of a possible copper discovery caught the attention of copper baron Marcus Daly, from Butte, Montana, one of the founders of the giant Anaconda Copper Mining Company. Flewin returned to the area in 1901 with some experienced prospectors and discovered the Hidden Creek group of ore bodies. Development work began that summer but Flewin had trouble raising more capital and was forced to put the property up for sale by 1908. Daly died in 1900 but his scout, M.K. Rodgers and T. Hodgins purchased the property and continued development work on a large scale until 1910. This initial development work generated the interest of the Granby Consolidated Mining, Smelting and Power Company, which purchased Hodgins’ share of the property and started construction of the town in 1912. By 1914, Anyox had a population of almost 3,000 residents and the mine and smelter were in full operation. Copper was mined from the Hidden Creek and Bonanza deposits and smelted on site. Coal to fuel the smelter was shipped from Union Bay near Nanaimo on Vancouver Island and from Fernie in southeastern British Columbia. Anyox had no rail or road links and all connections were served by ocean steamers. In the early 1920s, a hydroelectric dam was built, standing 156 feet (48 m) high, which at the time was the tallest dam in Canada. Anyox was almost wiped out by forest fires in 1923, but the townsite was rebuilt and mining operations continued. The Great Depression drove down the demand for copper, and the mine shut down in 1935. The town was abandoned, and salvage operations in the 1940s removed most machinery and steel from the town. Two forest fires, in 1942 and 1943, burned all remaining wood structures. During its 25 years of operation, Anyox mines and smelters produced 8,750 lbs (3,669 kg) of gold, 500,000 lbs (226,796 kg) of silver and 760,000,000 pounds (344,730,201 kg) of copper. Today, limited mining continues in the area, and there has been speculative interest in renovating the hydroelectric dam and connecting this power supply to the British Columbia grid. Read more here and here. Explore more of Anyox and Observatory Inlet here:

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