Traveling between Lake Cowichan and Duncan many of us are aware of Hill 60 , a distinct landmark where a manganese mine was once situated.
How did Hill 60 get its name?
One might well ask. In 1914 and 1915, during World War I, Canadian soldiers in Belgium distinguished themselves in the Battles of Ypress, part of Flanders Field, despite heavy casualties. One particular noteworthy engagement was the taking and holding of Hill 60. Cowichan residents were so proud of the bravery and achievement of the Canadians that they named the local mountain Hill 60.
In 1917 the government of Canada Munitions Board declared a little known mineral, manganese, of strategic importance in the making of munitions and steel. It was the following year, in the summer of 1918, that Merlin Douglas and Thomas Service discovered manganese deposits on the 2,000 foot level on Hill 60. With C.H. Dickie and T.A. Wood as partners, they acquired a lease from the C.P.R. which had purchased the E & N Railway in l905 and formed the B.C. Manganese Co. Three claims were staked on Hill 60 which became productive.
A four mile wagon road was built from the mine to an ore bunker at Charter Siding, the federal government paying half the cost. The campsite was established with a cookhouse and bunkhouse for the workers. The first shipment from the open pit mine was shipped to Bilrow Alloy Co. in Tacoma, Washington. It consisted of 530 ton of ore, averaging 5% manganese and 19% silica. During 1919 and 1920 a total of 1,117 tons of ore was shipped to Tacoma for the manufacture into ferro-manganese steel. There was a great demand, so much so that in the winter of 1919-20 an aerial tramway was built on the mountainside from the mine to the bunkers along the railway line below. However the flurry of activity didn’t last long. Little interest was taken in any of the deposits when the post war depression hit and the demand for manganese dropped. According to the records of the B.C. Department of Mines no ore was shipped after 1920.
It wasn’t until 1938 when the Crown granted claims of Hill 60, which had reverted to the Crown, were acquired by W.R. Wylie of Vancouver. A year later, in 1939, ten young men, trainees of the Dominion Provincial Mining Training Project cleaned out and extended trenches on the known veins and found several others which they explored by trenching and stripping. Since then there has been no further mining.
In 1954 none of the deposits was staked. Rock hounds discovered the abandoned open pit mine as a source for rhodonite, the pink rock prized as gem quality for jewelry and much in demand. Re-staked and mined by a private enterprise interested in rhodonite, the area was mined out but in adjacent claims the gem rock is still found.
Although its history was brief, Hill 60 remains a landmark.