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The Brenda copper-molybdenum mine, located in the Okanagan watershed approximately 22 km northwest of Peachland, (up Princeton Avenue) was operated by Brenda Mines Ltd. from the late 1960s until 1990. During this period, approximately 200 million tonnes of ore were mined and milled. The mine produced 278,000 tonnes of copper and 66,000 tonnes of molybdenum in concentrate form, and employed between 350 and 400 people during the operation. The mine site, at 1,460 metres altitude, occupies a divide between the headwaters of Trepanier Creek and Peachland Creek, both tributaries to Okanagan Lake.
The recorded history of Brenda Mine dates back to 1947 when Geological Survey of Canada Memoir #243 was published, describing Dr. HMA Rice's examination of the Copper King showing in 1944. The first claims were staked in 1954 and further claims were staked in 1956 when Noranda Exploration Company became involved. Despite low copper grades and the lack of a market for molybdenum, a joint Noranda-Kennecott program of geological mapping and x-ray drilling was undertaken in 1957. The results were discouraging and eight years passed until further feasibility work was commissioned. These studies, from 1965 to 1967 concluded that a low grade, high tonnage operation could be profitable. The decision to bring the Brenda property to production was made in 1967,. A production rate of 19,600 tonnes/day was achieved by its official opening in April 1970.
The primary features of the Brenda Mine site include a large open pit, from which ore and rock were excavated; four rock piles around the periphery of the pit, where approximately 109 million tonnes of rock are stockpiled; a concentrator building and other surface facilities; a tailings impoundment consisting of 150 million tonnes of finely ground flotation tailings solids permanently stored behind a dam constructed of 50 million tonnes of coarse tailings sands; numerous pipes and ditches used for routing surface runoff in the vicinity of the site; and several roads. The site's hydrological regime dictates that a surplus of water, mainly runoff from snow melt, is generated each year. During mine operation, this water flowed to the tailings pond and was taken into storage in the pores of the tailings solids. The excess water is currently being diverted into the open pit, which is becoming a lake.
During the 23 years of mining operations, no water was discharged to the environment from the tailings impoundment, with one exception. During the period Sept 1983 to May 1984 the mill was not operating and water accumulated in the tailings impoundment. Following discussions with the Provincial Government, it was considered necessary to discharge a total of 3 million cubic metres of water to Peachland Creek. The controlled discharge was carried out under the direction of the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources and the BC Ministry of Environment. At all other times the water management plan has consisted of diverting practically all of the surface water flowing towards the mine area, around the site, thereby avoiding contamination; and collecting any water contaminated by mining operations and conveying it to the tailings pond for recycling to the mill.
Planning for mine decommissioning was initiated several years prior to closure. The decommissioning program, which is designed to reclaim the mine site in an environmentally acceptable manner with regard to water quality, safety, stability and land use, is detailed in 4 volumes and is available to the public at the Peachland Library.
The Saddle Dam
The Saddle dam was originally built in 1979. It is an earthfill structure, consisting of an impervious central core of compacted glacial till and outer shells of compacted cycloned sand, sand and gravel, and rockfill. It has a crest length of approximately 1055 m and a maximum height of 31 m. The lower slope of the dam is protected with a 300 mm layer of sand and gravel. A drainage blanket is incorporated into the base of the downstream zone and any seepage from the dam is collected at the low point of the drainage blanket, passes through a culvert under the main access road and into the reservoir for the upper reclaim dam. There have not been any problem associated with instability or seepage from the saddle dam since its construction.
- The Brenda Mine site receives approximately 640 mm of precipitation annually, 2/3 of which falls as snow.
- Summers are short, with a frost free period of about 60 days while winters are long and cold.
- July is the warmest month with a mean daily temp of 14.2 C, and
- January is the coldest month with a mean daily temp of -7.8 C.
- Extreme temperatures of +33C to -38C are listed in the records.
- Snow normally accumulates Jan - March and is generally melted by June
Excerpts from "Peachland Memories"
compiled by the Peachland Historical Society, Vol 1.
Peachland Irrigation District.
From "a synopsis by M.E. Smith"
As early as 1899, J.M. Robinson, on behalf of the newly formed Townsite Company had taken out water rights on two springs - one, the Miller Spring, on DL 1185, and the other on DL 490. In 1900 he added two more. Orchard lots were selling well, and when these were cleared they needed more water than was available from springs, so in 1906 a water system was laid out by the Townsite Company, using water from Deep Creek.
Later, sometime before World War I, a ditch was put in bringing water from Penask Creek into the system. W.B. Sanderson worked on this at that time. No minutes are available but it seems licenses covering the amount of water being taken were not processed when the ditch was made, and trouble lay ahead.
Water came down by ditches and flumes to service the newly planted orchards. By 1916 when the orchard were bearing fruit, the settlers were becoming disillusioned - they had paid high prices for their land, spent time and money clearing and planting, and the ditches and flumes carrying the much needed water were deteriorating badly. Moreover the Townsite Co had made little provision for water storage badly needed in years when there was a light snowfall in the hills. Because of these problems, the Water Users met in Aug 1916 to take some action on their grievances.
On Oct 16, 1916, a request was made that all unrecorded waters of Peachland (Deep) Creek be set aside for the organization of the Peachland Irrigation District. IN Dec 1916, the clerk of the Municipality wrote… "Owing to the inadequate and unsatisfactory service, and to the notice given by the Peachland Townsite co. Ltd. That they would only carry water and would refuse to store any water for the purpose of irrigation: in view of these facts, the Water Users of Peachland made application under the "Water Act" to form an Irrigation Corporation . This application was forwarded to the Water Board and every assistance was given by the Water Branch Department to bring same to a successful finish. Everything went all right until the fixing of a price with the company was attempted. They held out for what the water users considered a prohibitive price, with the results that negotiations were broken off, and there appeared to reasonable hope that either party would change their opinions.
This left the prospects of the Fruit Grower in this settlement in a very critical condition Without water, nothing can be grown, and no promise was given by the company that they would or would not supply water in the coming season. The system deteriorated to such an extent that it appeared to be beyond the financial powers of the Company to put same into such shape as to ensure safety of the operation. The Fruit Growers urgently required Government Assistance in the form of taking over and maintaining all storage dams and main ditches. The Municipality, or the Water Corporation could then take over and put in proper shape all the laterals necessary for the proper distribution o f the water to the water user.
In Sept 1918, An Order IN Council approved the spending of $12,000 to secure the enlargement, construction and repair of the reservoirs, ditches and dams and other works o f the Peachland Townsite co. Ltd. This was spent and a further $5,000 to complete the operation was recommended to be advance.
An agreement which was made with Greata Ranch and P.I.D. whereby each got their allotted share of water seems to have worked fairly well over the years with the Trustees and the Long brothers of Greata Ranch able to settle any differences amicably most of the time. A License to take water from Brenda Lake was given to P.I.D. but they were unable to use it as hard times were settling in and there was no money available to do the work. The Trustees asked at this time for permission to investigate the headwaters of the North Fork and South Fork of Deep Creek with the idea of securing more water. W.D. Miller was asked to do some scouting and assess what it would cost for a diversion ditch to carry water from a creek into the North Fork Dam.
...by 1925 it was decided to make an earth dam at Wilson Lake...Labourers were paid $3.50 per day...
...Dry weather always meant tampering with gates and water users also had money problems...
...No water... No fruit... no money for water taxes.
...Some water users were determined to use Penask Creek water as they had done previously as their trees were suffering from the dry weather of midsummer and in danger of dying. They therefore went to Penask and put in logs to diver the water into the ditch. The ranchers and Indians on the Nicola side of the divide were then short of water for their hayfields and they shut the water off. When the Peachland men returned again to retake the water they were confronted with some very angry ranchers and Indians - and the Indians of the Nicola Country had a reputation of being pretty tough.For more Peachland stories of dams, ditches, diversions, flumes, irrigation ire and water woes...