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The Last Shift

By Carolyn Grant - Bulletin Editor

Friday, December 21, 2001; a day that many in Kimberley thought would never arrive.
The great Sullivan Mine, its orebody finally played out, closed its doors on Friday.

miners leaving Sullivan mine

The mood at the Mine and Concentrator on Friday was bitter-sweet. There were a lot of hugs, and handshakes, and best wishes, and underneath, a realization that a lot of these people were not going to see each other again. Some were moving into retirement, some to other jobs in the area, and others will be leaving for another mining camp.

"A few people are sentimental," said Mine Manager John Egan. "Everyone is reconciled to it; not happy but they understand it. It's gone as long as it could have gone, and we've done about as good as you can do when something's winding down. I'm especially pleased that we managed to get so many to retirement. There's 147 workers going to pension."

Millwright Calvin Golbeck, who has worked for Teck Cominco for 25 years, said it was hard to explain how he was feeling. "The end is here. I never thought it would come," he said. "It was always something you could count on."

Rod Downey, who is retiring after 30 years, said he felt "weird, but good." The most difficult thing for him was saying goodbye to the people. "There's a lot of them you won't see again," he said. "You may bump into them in the mall, but it's not the same."

"Everyone is reconciled to it, not happy but they understand. It's gone as long as it could have gone."

"I'm sad to see it go down," said Dale Gairdner, a 24 year employee. "It's a sad day for Kimberley, but there's no ore left." Gairdner says he will probably leave Kimberley and head to Fort McMurray to work.

"I'm going to become a Mom again, if they'll accept me," said Judy Dove11, who confessed to feeling, "kind of sad."

Up at the top mine, the last shift was piped out of the portal at noon by the Kimberley Pipe Band. They were greeted by a large crowd of Kimberley residents who broke into applause as the crews left the mine for the last time.

"It's a fitting way to put the old girl to bed," said Wynn Balcon, who is retiring after 33 years underground. "It's sad, it's been here a long time."

Bill Muir, who is part of four generations of his family to work at the mine, found the pipes to be just the right touch. "You hear the pipes at funerals, and this is the end of the Sullivan."

John Banks who now lives in Vancouver, worked at the Sullivan during the war years for $1.30 per day. He and his wife came to Kimberley for the closing. "I just thought we should be here," he said. "You look around Kimberley, all the cars, the houses, the ski hill; it all came from this hole in the ground."

And that was it. With very little fanfare the last shift was over. Workers said their goodbyes, checked out, many taking their underground tags as souvenirs, and drifted off to private parties and gatherings. "There's really only three things to miss," said Balcon, "The guys, the shower and the pay cheque."

last concentrator crew

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