Teck announced yesterday that they will not be reopening the Rossland Museum’s biggest attraction – the mine tours – due to safety reasons.
While this could have been a huge blow to the City of Rossland and the Rossland Historical Museum and Archives Association, they also announced that there will be a feasibility study into an interactive tourist attraction.
Mayor Greg Granstrom said that it’s an exciting time for the City of Rossland with the prospect of a feasibility study into new venues.
“It will be a very big tourism draw, economic driver and I think it’s a positive thing for the city of Rossland,” Granstrom said. “I think that Teck Metals Limited has stepped up to the plate and they are being a very good corporate citizen and more than co-operative in this process.”
Granstrom said that they will now be able to develop something “extremely valuable” to the City of Rossland.
He added that Teck recognized the importance of Rossland’s mining history and has moved to help in creating a tourism facility that Rossland can be proud of.
Teck, the City and the museum have been in talks over the fate of the mine tour, but in the end it was deemed unsafe by Teck.
“This decision was not made easily, nor was it made lightly,” Carol Vanelli Worosz, Teck communication manager, said. “We didn’t want to make the decision… but because the safety issues remain unresolved despite some very good effort, the company decided not to reopen the adit. It means a lot to Rossland and it
means a lot to Teck as well, because our roots are in that adit.”
Teck has had a relationship with the museum for 30 years.
The City, Teck and the museum will be working together to develop a conceptual plan for an interactive tourist attraction. The hope is that this attraction can showcase Rossland’s rich mining history alongside the present day adventure tourism activities, such as skiing and mountain biking.
The tourist attraction feasibility study will offer tourists a unique gateway to the Lower Columbia and West Kootenay region as well as provide a way for local residents to celebrate the area’s past and present culture.
The proposed facility would be located on the museum grounds and operated and managed by the Museum Association with the support of the City.
The overall project also include improvements to the main museum building and enhancements to the Rossland visitor centre. The development of this plan is intended, in part, to replace the underground tour of the Black Bear adit, a tour previously provided by the Museum Association. Teck originally closed the mine temporarily to the tours in 2009, after a geotechnical firm was brought two years earlier to assess the potential hazards of the adit.
In 2008, Teck completed what it deemed as “short-term emergency work” at the cost of $165,000, while timber work identified near the entrance was to be completed by the City.
“Although we’re not reopening the mine we’re committed to our long-term relationship with the museum,” Worosz said. “We’re looking forward to this effort to develop an attraction that will showcase that history as well as modern day tourism aspects.”
Teck will facilitate an engineered closure of the adit, which it says will retain the historic aesthetic nature and attractiveness of the entrance portal, will be initiated by year-end.
Libby Martin, president of the Rossland Museum and Archives, said that while there is disappointment, there is renewed hope.
“We’re really happy to finally have a decision made,” Martin said. “Because it’s been two years now. We kept saying to the (museum) board that we’re moving forward regardless of what the decision is.”
Martin said the museum had been putting together alternative plan.
“Now I’m quite excited with our future,” she said. “We did realize that with or without the tunnel we did need to provide some kind of draw to bring people in.”
Martin said there had been talk earlier in 2011 of a virtual mine tour.
“That’s what that study would be, whether these ideas that we have are feasible,” she said.