South Wellington is a small community South of Nanaimo with a real community spirit that one can only find in rural areas. Almost every year the community of South Wellington organizes a heritage day event at the Cranberry Firehall which is very well attended.It has a rich coal mining heritage going back more than 100 years as there were several producing coal mines in this area. One can still find some structures on private property that are reminders of a thriving industry that started many communities in the area between Extension and Lantzville, now for the most part amalgamated into the City of Nanaimo.
The most impressive structures are the concrete tipples and headframe remains of the Morden Mine, a provincial heritage park, easily accessible from the main highway. I make one or more sketches of this structure every year, starting in 1995. That sketch is still used by the Friends of the Morden Mine Society for promotional purposes. The headframe is in need of some major rehabilitation to prevent it from collapsing on its own. Unfortunately it is all but abandoned by the owner, our provincial government. It operated from 1914 to 1920 or so, towards the end of the coal mining era when oil was discovered and found to be more efficient as a fuel. The use of concrete was somewhat unique for this type of structure as the abundance of wood on Vancouver Island was the prevailing building material. It is also the reason that it is still standing up in spite of the obvious and visible deterioration of the concrete and the rusting of the reinforcing steel bars.
Every time I go there I notice other visitors that followed the signage from the highway to explore this magnificent historic monument and take a walk around the site on the “Miners Trail”, a self interpretive walk through the forest along several foundations and a concrete arch that once formed part of this mine site. A website www.morden mine.com with a wealth of information on this site can be found on the internet.