1961/62 Pacific Western Airlines replenishment mission, Granduc copper mine

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This rare footage represents an obscure bit of BC’s mining and transportation history that some viewers will recollect from 60 years ago…

Overlooking the Salmon Glacier, the Granduc Mine is a large copper mine which is situated on a rock ridge between a glacier and a cliff, some 22 miles (35 km) north of Stewart, BC at the north end of Summit Lake. It was an active mine from 1964 to 1984, having closed due to low copper prices. In 1961/62 Pacific Western Airlines was hired to supply the then under construction mine with fuel and supplies. The specific details are lost to history, but this footage shows the logistical challenges faced by these air crew. Incorporated in 1945, Central British Columbia Airlines would become Pacific Western Airlines in 1953, in these early days it served as a cargo airline. In 1959 PWA began flying passengers on regularly scheduled routes, eventually becoming the largest airline in Western Canada. PWA purchased Canadian Pacific Airlines in 1986 and became Canadian Airlines. In December 1999, Air Canada took over Canadian Airlines.

The remarkable snow runways carved out of the slopes at the base of the steep valleys are not for the faint-hearted, reminiscent of remote air strips in the Himalayas and Andes, with the mine shut down, the rudimentary airstrips likely no longer exist. The aircraft, some dating to wartime, were perfectly suited for this job. Look for little details such as the Shell oil windsock, of the caterpillar tractors moving supplies. Perhaps someone will help fill in the gaps.

This 8mm reel was found and rescued a year ago in a second hand store in Vancouver by a colleague and is now part of my growing collection of vintage amateur reels, numbering over 2000 reels. Enjoy!

Perry Cook
Author: Perry Cook

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