#139 Sidney Cole
March 09th, 2016
LOCATION: Bethlehem Copper mine (renamed Highland Valley Copper), at Logan Lake, 27 miles east of Ashcroft, southwest of Kamloops. 50°30’9″N 120°59’35″W.
Even though mining was once the second-most important industry in British Columbia, the number of books related to B.C. mining are miniscule compared to the number of books about logging and fishing. One of the first books to take B.C. mining seriously was Spud’s Dream: The Story of How a Canadian Mountain-Man Helped Create a World Class City (Rand and Sarah Publishing, 1988), self-published by Richmond-based Sidney Cole, at age 74. It recounts the boom years in B.C. mining in general and the formation of Bethlehem Copper in particular, including profiles of prominent investors and mining magnates. The Bethlehem operation evolved into the second largest producer of copper tonnage in the world.
The story of Spud’s Dream begins in a Hastings Street cafe in 1955 when Spud Huestis, having returned from the Highland Valley with a crayoned map, convinced accountant Patrick Reynolds and lumberman Jack McLallen to become his partners in Bethlehem Copper Corporation. The main funding came from Sumitonomo Shoji Corporation.
“We were the first foreign company that Japan put equity money into and took shares in exchange,” claims Cole, who worked for Bethlehem as a pension plan consultant. “Then we were the first Canadian company company to have a directors’ meeting in Tokyo.” Spud Huestis suggested the name Bethlehem. “You know we don’t have much money,” he reportedly said, “so we better have a real powerful name.” Bethlehem Steel in the U.S. had a powerful name, hence the moniker Bethlehem was adopted to impress investors and creditors, etc.
The Bethlehem Copper Corporation finalized the purchase of 141 claims in the area in 1955. Every company that worked on the Highland Valley project, according to Cole, signed an agreement to give back the total ownership of the properties if they didn’t complete their part in helping Bethlehem reach production. By December 1, 1962, when the first load of copper concentrate was dumped on a North Vancouver dock for shipment to Japan, one company alone, American Smelting and Refining, had forfeited over one million dollars of exploration and development on the mine site.
Bethlehem had modest beginnings. The first time Cole made the five-hour drive from Vancouver to the Highland Valley site, he wondered aloud why there was a small outhouse situated in the middle of nowhere. “It was the size of a telephone booth,” he recalled. “[I] found out that was the office.” Cole played an essential role in the creation of Bethlehem Copper by falsifying a list of employees to attain vital insurance coverage for the mine site from Great-West Life Assurance Company.
Although the book is relatively uncritical of the open pit mining operation, and intentionally non-judgmental, Cole tried his best to serve history, providing the first public version of the life story of Dr. David C. Lam. “I admit that by the time I wrote about David Lam I felt I might be sounding sycophantic,” he wrote privately, “so I tried to correct the impression by writing up Trapper Jack. My message was that Jack was just as an important human being as all the other people in the book.”
Spud’s Dream was recorded for the Audio Tape Service of the B.C. Library Services Branch. Subsequent to its publication, Cole attempted to write a commissioned history of Scott Paper Limited.
Copper and molybdenum ore was produced from the open pit mine at Bethlehem Copper from 1963 to 1982. The concentrator was used to process ore from the Valley Copper open pit until 1989. Teck Resources Ltd. has subsequently identified new orebodies in the area, so the future of mining in the Highland Valley has yet to be determined, as of 2015, when the site was under the management of Teck Resources Limited (known as Teck Cominco until late 2008), Canada’s largest diversified resources company. After fifty years of mining, the open pit expanded to become a crater half a mile deep and two miles in diameter.
[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2015] “Mining”
I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR THE WRITE-UP on my book, Spud’s Dream. I meant to get back to you sooner but the days are just flying. It reminds me of when I was kid. Mom used to take me to the silent movies where the proprietor was usually busy sweeping the sidewalk. Then he’d go into his little glassed-in kiosk to sell us the tickets. Then he would come to the door to take our tickets. After a while he would sit at the piano while the projectionist started the film. He was constantly interrupted by his noisy audience, clapping, shouting, complaining that the film was upside down, backwards or just broken. He’d have to run up the aisle, climb the ladder and try to help the projectionist get the film going before the next emergency. As a self-publisher I’ve become like my theatre owner friend -selling copies, doing p.r., arranging Christmas signings, shipping, invoicing, collecting, attending book fairs and writing. Media attention like the article in B.C. BookWorld has contributed greatly to my book’s success.
Sidney K. Cole
[Spring / BCBW 1989] “Letter to the editor”