Just 10 kilomteres northwest of Duncan is the twin summits of Mount Sicker: Big Sicker Mountain is 714 metres while Little Sicker Mountain is 660 metres. Althought here is nothing significant about its height, it is its history which goes back over 100 years that makes it interesting when prospectors were roaming the mountains on Vancouver Island hoping to strike it rich. Today, to reach the site of the old mines and the ghost town of Lenora, turn onto Mount Prevost Road off Somenos Road or Mount Sicker Road off Westholme Road and follow them up and around to the west side of the mountain but don't be surprised if you can't find any trace of them.
In the autumn of 1895, three American prospectors: F.L. Sullivan, T. McKay and Henry Buzzard, discovered traces of copper, gold and silver on Mount Sicker and staked their claims. The following spring, they began prospecting and digging a shaft until August, when a forest fire devastated the western face of Mount Sicker. The prospectors fled the site, but their cabin and gear were destroyed in the fire. The fire was, however, a mixed blessing. When Harry Smith, their new partner, returned in the spring of 1897, the burned area revealed a thirty foot wide outcropping of copper at the mountain's 1,400 foot level. The new strike was named Lenora, after Smith's daughter.
When news of the discovery became public, a staking rush ensued and within weeks the entire mountain, base to summit, was staked. By 1900, the townsite of Lenora was established and lots were sold: $75 for corner lots and $50 for inside lots, with 1/3 payable in cash and the remainder payable in three and six months. At its peak, Lenora had a population of 400 and the community enjoyed such facilities as an inter-denominational church, a school, and an opera house.
Two more mines were constructed on the mountain with the Tyee Mine opening in 1901 and the Richard III Mine opening in 1903. These mines were both profitable but not nearly to the same extent as the lower Lenora Mine which was now owned by a man named Henry Croft. Australian-born Henry Croft, a lumber and mining magnate, saw the potential of all three mines and in an attempt to counteract the falling price of copper he built a narrow gauge railway to the nearest harbour and established a smelter there in order to export highly refined metals around the world rather than just the ore. Though the smelter would only run for a few years, it gave the town of Crofton its start. One mine used an aerial tramway to ship the ore over the mountain to Stratford's Crossing on the E & N Railway. The other mine was served by the Leonora and Mount Sicker Railway to Crofton. When the smelter closed in 1908, the mountain lost its importance to the economy.
The Lenora Mine operated between 1898 and 1903 (when it became embroiled in litigation) and in 1907. The Tyee Mine was worked intermittently between 1901 and 1909, while the Richard III Mine operated between 1903 and 1907. During this time, the three mines reportedly produced 1,107 kilograms of gold, 22,955 kilograms of silver and 9,180 tonnes of copper from 229,000 tonnes of ore extracted largely by hand. The sites have been operated intermittently since 1909.
and exploration work was undertaken by Ladysmith Tidewater Smelters Ltd.
in 1926 - 1929 and by Sheep Creek Mines Ltd. in 1939 - 1940. From 1943
- 1947 Twin J Mines produced copper and zinc concentrates from the consolidated
group. In 1949 - 1952 Vancouver Island Base Metals rehabilitated the mine,
with some production. Some surface mining was done by the original principals
of Mt. Sicker Mines Ltd. in 1964, and the company was formed shortly thereafter.
From that time until 1974 various operations explored the property, doing
surface work and diamond drilling. In 1967 an attempt was made to extract
copper from dump material by heap leaching but it did not prove feasible.
With no economic base, the town of Lenora disappeared quickly. Many of the houses were salvaged and moved to nearby Duncan and the Cowichan Valley, while others were simply burned. The narrow gauge railway was torn out to make way for other roads as time went on and by the 1970s very little remained at the townsite. A subsequent logging lease on the land cleared anything that was left and today there are virtually no traces of the once prosperous mines that occupied Mount Sicker.