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Rare intact slag pot pulled from Pacific Abrasives site

Piece of Grand Forks' mining history recovered from slag pile remediation operation

A rare piece of Grand Forks’ mining history was pulled from the debris of the slag piles being remediated just north of the city.


Workers at Pacific Abrasives, Inc., made and exciting discovery while excavating one of the last large slag piles on Wednesday morning: an intact slag pot buried in the decades-old piles of smelter castoff. An excavator hit the solid iron structure, which is estimated to weigh around a ton and is the size of a small car. 


Once some of the debris was cleared away, everyone realized what they found wasn’t mere scrap, but a critical piece of the mine’s history, said manager Dale Bryant. 


“There’s a lot of scrap steel and wood in this slag, which we feel as a solid object when we did into the slag,” he said. “He (the operator) hit it and it was pretty solid. We’ve found a lot of broken pots, scrap steel and wood, but this is the first intact one we’ve found and it’s pretty cool to see this up close.”


He explained a lot of the mine’s broken and unwanted equipment was often thrown into the slag piles as garbage, with new infrastructure built on top of it. Once the mine shut down for good after the WWI, most of the mine’s equipment suffered the same fate: broken down and tossed into the piles. This causes problems for the operation, he said, as pieces rip up conveyor belts and damage digging equipment. 


The slag pot was pulled out of the pile and brought to the flat ground for inspection and to everyone’s excitement, it was still intact, including the drain hole on the bottom, Bryant said. He called the Boundary Museum and Archives to see if they wanted it, which they did.


“We find pots every now and again, but never in this good a shape,” he said. “THe layer where we found it is pretty far down and mostly rock-like. Most of the sandy slag is gone, so we think they dumped this thing and continued to pour slag over it.”


Aside from logistics issues getting the slag pot to the museum grounds, president Christopher Stevenson said the recovery of the slag pot is a boon to the museum and the region’s history, adding finding intact mining equipment from this time period is extraordinary.


“There is so little left from this enterprise, the most important operation that has existed in the Boundary,” he said. “It was the second-largest smelter in the Empire and by far the biggest in B.C., with two railways coming in and out of here. Artifacts from it are irreplaceable and we don’t have any. They are so rare, that an opportunity to take care of something from it and showcase it is one we are happy to take on.”


Danial Koochin, director of the museum, pointed out the museum doesn’t have any artifacts or equipment from the smelter, so getting a slag pot is “an outstanding find.” The closest the museum has is a tabletop-sized scale model of what the smelter layout looked like.


“This is great because there are a lot of people that don’t know we had one of the largest smelting operations in the British Empire at the time, and this is one of the main pieces of the smelter,” he said. 


Slag is material used to capture waste in metal mining. A slag pot collects this waste, where it is often transported by rail or crane and dumped into piles where it cools and becomes a solid, glass or metal-like material. This material is often repurposed for other uses like rail bed construction, roofing material and abrasive blasting material.


Pacific Abrasives, Inc., has been collecting this material for decades from the old Granby Mine site to repurpose and sell to customers who use it to clean ship hulls and for non-slip surfaces, Bryant explained. 


About the Author: Karen McKinley

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