People have lived in the Similkameen River valley for 7000 years. First Nations people mined and extracted ochre for paint, chert for arrowheads, along with opals, quartz crystals, and gold, for trade and personal use. Hedley Town was built in the middle of Indian land.
Duncan Woods was one of those “hard-luck miners” who struck gold with the discovery of the Mascot Fraction, staked by George Cahill in 1898-1900. Due to a 30-year feud with the General Superintendent of the Daly Reduction Company/Nickel Plate Mine, Gomer P. Jones, the Mascot Fraction only reached its potential when, at the age of 80, Woods sold the Mascot claim and neighbouring claims to a Vancouver business group in 1933.
When the aged hardliner Duncan Woods sold his Mascot Fraction, the small wedge shaped claim sandwiched between the Nickel Plate properties, he received a the sum of $150,000. This was a huge amount of money in the 1930’s, but Woods didn’t live long to enjoy it, he died in 1933.
The new owners, Hedley Mascot Gold Mines Ltd, took over 31 other crown-granted claims adjacent to the fraction in order to have enough room for their tram lines and mill. The property was rich and like the Nickel Plate, also required some novel methods for ore removal. Since the claim was on a cliff face 300 feet above the valley, access was extremely difficult. An aerial tramway was constructed from the mine portal to a mill location on Twenty Mile Creek just upstream of Hedley.
By 1937, a maze of stairs, skips and catwalks would take the mine workers to and from the mine offices, cookhouse, bunkhouse, blacksmith shop, to the tram station, and most importantly, to the mine portal. The Mascot was to become one of the most stunning mining operations built entirely on the side of a mountain. At 5,000 feet above the town of Hedley, the townsfolk were in awe of the construction.
By 1947, after exhausting the ore deposits, the ore grade in the mine dropped from approximately .50 oz. of gold per ton to .39 oz. per ton. Additional richer ore had not been located. The following year in 1948, there was a cave-in on the Nickel Plate mine side or the ore body in the loose ground of the morning workings. This caused some movement in the adjacent Mascot stopes, but since it occurred when the crews were off shift no one was hurt.
By 1949 the known pockets had been cleaned out. The remaining ones were either too expensive to reach or too low in values. After 13 years of operating under difficult conditions the Mascot closed. All the useful equipment was removed. The buildings were abandoned. During its brief history the little Mascot Fraction produced over 682,000 tons of ore. They mined 8 tons of gold were worth $8,000,000. The shareholders had also been rewarded; the company had paid $1,250,000 in dividends.
After nearly fifty years of production, the Nickel Plate mine was running out of ore. Extensive diamond drilling located a few ore deposits, but these were either too small or too far away to be economically mined. Reluctantly, the men of Nickel Plate mine worked their last shift on September 23, 1955.
The total ore removed from the Nickel Plate mine was 3,289,000 tons. The gold value at the time of the mine’s closing was worth $37,000,000. The backers of this mountain top venture, actually saw dividends. A total of $5,283,744 was paid out over the years to those who had gambled on finding gold at Nickel Plate.
In 1995, the Mascot Mine site was officially designated a Provincial Heritage resource and after an extensive restoration process was completed, visitors now can witness for themselves the the tenacity of those early-day miners.