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The Old Bunker Hill Mine

This is the story about the bunker hill mine. Over it's almost 100 years of operations, this mine eventually grew to become became one of the largest mining and smelting operations in the world. However it also left a legacy of being a very dirty toxic place that would see many suffer from poisoning of lead and other heavy metals.

It was in September 1885 the propsector Phillip O'Rourke staked and filed the Bunker Hill mining claim on the west side of Milo Creek in northern idaho. A few other claims were staked around the same time by another prospector named Noah Kellogg. Another prospector named Cornelius Sullivan, then staked the Sullivan claim on the east side of Milo Creek. Noah eventually ended up selling his claim to Jim Wardner. Jim ended up starting the town of Wardner, Idaho.

However there are versions of this sotry about how it was a jackass that discovered this mine. Noah Kellog had a mule that he used when prospecting and one night the mule broke loose. As the legend goes, the jackass, when found was standing on a mineral outcropping of galena on a hill above Milo Creek. The story has it that the jackass was gazing across the canyon at another outcropping of silver galena.

Once mining got started, the company had to get a mill going to crush the ore down because shipping ore out very expensive and the lack roads made shipping costly and time consuming. Intially crushed ore was shipped out by wagon to Kingston and the loaded onto a steam ship in that would take the concentrates to Coeur d' Alene. then reloaded onto a wagon again and hauled to Rathdrum, Idaho, and finally loaded onto the Northern Pacific Railroad to Spokane.

After a few years they built a railway to connect Coeur d' Alene to the Northern Pacific Railway on the east side of Spokane, Washington, and anpother section of rail from Coeur d' Alene to the town of Burke, Idaho. In 1886, a new mill was built and this mill could crush out 100 tons of ore a day. This refined ore was known to contain upwards of 28 ounces of silver per ton. By 1891 a new section of rail was laid and ore was then being shipped and smelted in Wickes, Montana.

In July of 1887, a man by the name of Simeon Reed bought the mine and milling complex and incorporated the Bunker Hill and Sullivan Mining and Concentrating Company. A 10,000 foot long aerial tramway was constructed to connect the mine adit over in Wardner with the mill complex located in Kellogg. A new concentrator was built at this time also that was capable of punding out 150 ton of ore a day. In 1894 the mine added an electic hoist and and started tunneling to connect the mine with Kellog. Once the tunnel was completed horses that were used in the mines were replaced with electic locomotives.

Like many mines back in those days, labor unrest and striking miners was felt at the Bunker Hill mines. On April 29, 1899, during a union demonstration, some of the miners hijacked a Northern Pacific train in Burke, Idaho and took it to Wardner. After a firefight with the mine security guards, they dynamited the Bunker Hill and Sullivan ore concentrator. Within three months however the mine had a new concentrator up and running again. During this time over 1,500 Federal and state troops were brought in on the side of the mine owners on July 14th. Hundreds of miners were imprisoned without formal charges or trials. Some miners were locked up for over a year. This allowed the mines to keep mining using scab miners. After the unions and mine owners came to agreement of working conditions and wages, work carrried on. Then in March of of 1904, a new ore body was discovered, substantially increasing the mine's reserves.

At it's peak of production, the bunker hill mine reached a depth of 400 feet below sea level. Its mill was producing 3000 tons per day capacity, the smelter produced almost 10,000 tons of lead per month, the zinc plant had a capacity of over 4000 tons of zinc per month, and the cadmium plant was capable of 50,000 pounds per month. By 1982, with the grades becoming lower and the mining costs rising, the mine closed down.