Photo - Premier's early power house
The property of Silbak Premier Mines aggregates 86 Crown-granted claims and includes an area of about 5.3 square miles on the west slope of Bear River Ridge immediately north of the Alaska-British Columbia border.
It is presently reached from Stewart by the Granduc road, a distance of 14 miles. The property represents the consolidation of the former Premier, B.C. Silver, Sebakwe, and Premier Border claim groups and is currently controlled by the Selukwe Mining Company of London.
The Cascade Falls No. 4 (Lot 3590) and Cascade Falls No. 8 (Lot 3591)claims, now known to cover the principal orebodies, were part of an eight-claim group discovered and staked by William Dillworth and the Bunting brothers in June, 1910.
They probably were attracted by an oxidized capping which still forms a bare ridge west of the main glory-hole. Claims Cascade Nos. 4 and 8 along with an adjoining group were taken over by 0. B. Bush, who organized the Salmon-Bear River Mining Co. in 1910/1911 to develop them.
During the next two seasons, short tunnels (Nos. 1 and 2) and surface cuts were put in on low-grade showings, but nothing was done on adjacent quartz-pyrite-native silver mineralization.
In 1914, surface work directed by W. J. Rolfe traced the silver showing 800 feet downhill to the west and discovered good grades in gold and silver along this length. Possibly as a result of the 1914 war, work was discontinued until H. R. Plate, representing a New York syndicate, commenced work on the Nos. 1, 2, and 4 tunnels.
In 1918, R. K. Neill, of Spokane, bonded the property from Pat Daly and commenced work on the No. 1 tunnel, where Plate had stopped in apparently barren quartz. Within a few rounds Neill exposed ore which showed native and ruby silver, and high-grade ore was then shipped to Tacoma.
In the fall of 1919 the American Smelting and Refining Company acquired a 52-per-cent interest in the property from Neill and his associates, R. W. Wood, A. B. Trites, and W. R. Wilson, of Fernie, for one million dollars cash.
Crude ore shipped during 1919 and 1920 from Premier averaged 4.24 ounces gold and 141 ounces silver per ton, and milling began in 1921 at 200 tons per day. This was increased in 1926 to 400 tons and an average 430 tons per day was actually handled.
B.C. Silver Mines Ltd., which held two claim groups adjoining the Premier, was incorporated in 1919, began exploration in 1922 'and after considerable exploration, in 1925 intersected ore 1,500 feet east of the Premier ore zone in the 3 level area. Sebakwe and District Mines Ltd., which gained control of the adjacent Bush property in 1926, started a tunnel from the east fork of Cascade Creek (now Cooper Creek) and intersected the mineralized zone at about 1,050 feet.
Independent operation of the various mining companies and syndicates continued on the zone until 1936, when the Premier Gold Mining Co. Ltd., B.C. Silver Mines Ltd., and Sebakwe and District Mines Ltd. were consolidated to form Silbak Premier Mines Limited. The latter two groups were controlled by Selukwe Mining Company of London, which, upon merger, received a substantial interest in Silbak Premier Mines.
After many years of continuous profitable operation, low base-metal prices forced Silbak Premier to close in 1953. Development work was resumed in 1955 under the direction of Henry L. Hill and Associates and in 1956 the property was rehabilitated, but fire destroyed the mill and surface buildings at the No. 4 level portal after only a few months' operation. At this time, underground work was concentrated on the 790, 940, and 1060 levels.
Low metal prices in 1957 again forced closure of the property except for geologicalstudies.
In 1959, Silbak Premier granted a one-year lease on the upper levels of the mine to Blermah Mines Ltd. The lessees mined the upper part of a small high-grade ore lens found on the south side of the abandoned glory-hole. This oreshoot was discovered
after waste rock had sloughed from the pit wall and exposed silver-gold mineralization.
At the termination of the one-year lease, Silbak Premier commenced mining the lower part of the high-grade sulphide lens during parts of 1960, 1961, and 1962. Production from this one lens amounted to roughly 2,736 tons of ore containing 18,595 ounces
of gold, 394,933 ounces of silver, 16,258 pounds of copper, 215,999 pounds of lead, and 322,118 pounds of zinc.
Stimulated by this plum of bonanza ore, the company reviewed the potential of the property, but work at the mine was severely hampered when in November, 1961, the Salmon River section of the Stewart-Premier road was washed out by overflow of water from Summit Lake. The washed-out section of the road, entirely within Alaska, was largely rebuilt by Silbak Premier.
In 1963 work was initiated on a loading-trestle and ore-bin at the open pit and on the excavation of a mill-site at No. 6 level portal. A new camp was also erected at No. 6 level.
Loading facilities at the open pit were completed and a new 75-ton mill and cyanide plant constructed and put into operation in 1964 to handle broken ore from the open pit.
In 1965, Bralorne Pioneer Mines Limited undertook a management agreement with Silbak Premier for the operation of the mine.
During construction, mineralization was exposed along the new Granduc road north of the No. 6 portal, consisting of massive, crudely banded pyrite and sphalerite with interstitial galena and scattered microscopic tetrahedrite.
The mineralization, which was not completely outlined, appears to consist of a 10- to 12-foot-wide, north-trending, steeply plunging lens confined to schistose volcanic breccia which lies as a small pendant within intrusive hornblende potash feldspar porphyry.
Bralorne Pioneer Mines Limited continued management of the property until November, 1967, and since then the property has been idle. In December, 1969, a new five-year option was signed with The Granby Mining Company Limited.
During the period from 1918 to 1953 when continuous operations ceased, Premier Gold Mining Co. Ltd., B.C. Silver Mines Ltd., and the successor company, Silbak Premier Mines Limited, as well as the Premier Border group purchased in 1958, produced about 4,700,000 tons of ore from the deposit with gross earnings about $30,000,000. Of this, approximately $22,000,000 was paid out in dividends.
Since 1953, the Silbak Premier Mines Limited glory-hole has produced another 26,000 tons of good ore.