Turn-of-the-century mine lets visitors dig in.....

Most geologists make money taking rocks out of the ground. But at Grand Forks' Rock Candy Mountain located in southeast British Columbia near the United states border, one entrepreneurial geologist has turned that theory on its head.

Geologist Bob Jackson purchased Rock Candy Mine, an abandoned, turn-of-the-century mine from Cominco, a large Canadian mining company. Operational from 1916 to 1929, Rock Candy was named for the colourful fluorite, barite and quartz crystals miners found there while producing fluorite ore for industrial processes. The mine provided fluorite for flux used in Cominco's smelter to separate desirable metals from waste products. In the 1920's, miners threw away the pretty, but worthless, crystals they found after every blast.

When the mine closed down, the property featured a sponge-like network of holes laden with golden barite, green and purple fluorite and sparkling quartz crystals. Fast forward 89 years. Today, fluorite and barite crystals are highly prized by collectors, making the mine's former waste product more valuable than the fluorite ore ever was. In the late 1990s, Jackson worked with the M.Y. Williams Museum at the University of British columbia to create a small-scale mining plan which included filling in the scars in the landscape left over from the original mining. Today, all collecting is done outside the original mine, which is being filled in as the collecting progresses. Where miners once toiled, tourists now discover treasures of the earth.

"We took what was an eyesore in the 1980s, and turned it into a tourism destination," says Jackson.

Rock Candy Safaris opened in May 2000. Visitors start the tour with an escorted 30-kilometre drive from downtown Grand Forks, exploring local history and geology along the way. Once on the rock Candy property, hammers and safety glasses are distributed and the place soon sounds like an industrial strength popcorn popper. Kids especially enjoy whacking rocks apart to find the hidden treasures within. Everyone is welcome to keep everything they find.

In 2001, Tourism British Columbia chose Rock Candy Safaris for its prestigious Outside The Box award, which is presented annually to the province's most innovative tourism project. In 2004, Rock Candy added an evening tour called Moonlight Rocks, so visitors can find minerals that glow in the dark when illuminated by an ultraviolet light. Tours for both safaris are held several times a week throughout the summer season.

The information was submitted by Loretta Robinson, Manager, Chamber of Commerce for the article that was printed in the BC Canada Times - Torino 2006 under the section of Play in BC.