Clements strikes a mission at Silver Queen

Porphyry found on Clements' Silver Queen property which might bring new business to Houston

Ellen Clements is president and CEO of New Nadina

Ellen Clements is president and CEO of New Nadina

In 1966, after a day of diamond drilling at the Silver Queen site south of Houston, George Stewart wrote in his diary:

“I’m so close to porphyry I can taste it.”

As a young geologist fresh out of Dalhousie University, Stewart was drawn to B.C.—the whole province is an enticing series of land belts that drifted over the Pacific and smashed together.

He joined Kenco Exploration as it reviewed several promising sites in the northwest.

That’s how he came to work at Silver Queen, a site east of Owen Lake and about 40 km south of Houston, just along the edge of the Buck Basin calderra.

First staked by prospectors in 1912, Silver Queen is laced with mineral veins.

But Kennco wanted to find a porphyry—a much larger body that makes for bigger, longer-life mines.

On the day he wrote his diary entry, Stewart hit Kennco’s limit.

If he drilled deeper than 250 feet, Stewart was told, he’d get fired—250 was the breaking point for an economic mine.

Stewart hit 277, then stopped.

Later, having missed the porphyry at Silver Queen, Kenco moved on.

Three years and some 80 km south, the team did find another porphyry—the copper-moly-gold deposit that led to Huckleberry Mine.


Ellen Clements, Stewart’s wife of 30 years, was raised in a mining family.

“I threw away dolls at five and got a rock hammer,” she says, laughing.

Growing up in Greenwood B.C., where her father was a prospector and leasehold miner, Clements lived the financial highs and lows of a mineral explorer.

“At some point, everything you have goes back into the ground,” she said.

“There’s always a bigger and better discovery.”

In her own career, Clements banked on a steadier venture—accounting.

She worked at local sawmills, a bank, then launched her own business. It grew to 12 staff and gave her the kind of big-picture managing role she enjoys.

But in falling for Gordon Stewart, who she met while came to Greenwood to explore the old Anatonia mine, Clements struck a love that was right in her element.

The two prospected together, often back at Silver Queen. Stewart kept an interest there with New Nadina—a company named for the great view of Nadina Mountain from Silver Queen camp.

Clements remembers hammering out rocks with promising minerals and showing them to George.

“They don’t run,” he would tell her after taking a closer look and explaining the rocks’ geology.

Still, along with several other mining ventures, including some in the Northwest Territories and Kettle River, Stewart and Clements kept looking back to Silver Queen.

Bradina, a joint venture, actually mined a vein from 1970 to 1973. In the 1980s, Houston Metals Corp. led a flurry of exploration, pushing further south along that vein and finding higher gold grades before going bankrupt in 1989.So did several other exploration companies.

By the mid-1990s, Stewart was president of New Nadina and had got the company ready to seriously revisit Kenco’s “Dream project” of 1969—finding the Silver Queen porphyry.

But in the spring of 2005, Stewart’s efforts were suddenly cut short.

Just after arriving home in Greenwood from Toronto, where he presented Silver Queen’s latest geophysics studies, Stewart died of a heart attack.

“I don’t know how I functioned,” Clement says. She found her husband collapsed on the driveway, less than an hour since they’d spoken on the phone.

Today, Clement can’t remember a lot of the things she did in the next three months.

But she does remember the smell of fresh-cut flowers when she finally got into the house that night—a bouquet her husband had left on the table.

She also remembers the “literally hundreds of calls” from friends of hers and Stewart’s, many of them mining people.

If she stayed in the industry, they told her, she could count on their help.


In 2007, Clement drove to Terrace to see  Bill McCrae, a former president of New Nadina, for advice.

She’d done well in the Territories and at Kettle River. But the Silver Queen property, with its now 400 drill holes, still had one big question overhead—was the porphyry even there?

“Bill said to me, ‘You don’t need to do it. You should just find yourself a boyfriend, go off into the sunset, and enjoy your life,” she said.

Clement told McCrae she’d decide on the drive home.

“Well, I was 10 minutes down the road and I phoned him back and said, ‘Bill, I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to do it.'”

Clement played to her strengths.

Accountant-style, she sifted through a half century of Silver Queen geology reports, ran their findings through a spreadsheet, and came up with a long list of to-do’s.

But even with a good plan, drilling could be frustrating. In 2009, 26 holes only turned up more veins.

“You find me another vein,” she told a friend on site, “And I’m going to give you a higher-pitched voice.”

Other times, things just fell into place.

At a 2010 mining workshop, Clement sat by a prospector who nudged her while geologists with B.C.’s Quest West survey flashed airborne imaging from the Silver Queen site.

“Isn’t that your property?” he asked.

Clement realized it was, and given how the discussion was going, she realized it had to be bigger.

Still in the room, she sent her long-time assistant a BlackBerry message—go online and stake claims north, south and east of the property.

And in the spring 2011, after relentlessly badgering the people at Geotech over a disputed bill from her diamond site up north, Clement got a deal on some new airborne imaging that totally changed the Silver Queen ground program.

Finally, in late September, they drilled a hole that struck porphyry—just 20 feet below the hole Stewart drilled in 1966.

Clement called the discovery ITSIT, in honour of a very excited phone call.

“I always had a gut feeling that George in 1966 and Kenco couldn’t be wrong,” she says. “They had the best people.”

Even now, Silver Queen faces long odds—only 20 of every 4,000 discoveries actually becomes a mine.

But whatever happens, Clement says, “I had no choice.”

“It’s not about me. It’s the mission I’ve been destined to do.”


Just Posted

Jill Mackenzie carefully replaces books on the shelves at the Houston Public Library. (Angelique Houlihan photo)
District approves annual library grant

Craft kits featured for summer reading club

The tradition of Houston Christian School grads giving Bibles to incoming kindergarten students will take place this year, but outdoors and in a modified fashion. (File photo)
Houston Christian School grad day is June 24

Grads themselves have set tone for the day, says teacher

Scott Richmond will be starting as the new vice principal for HSS and TSE. (Submitted/Houston Today)
Houston gets a new vice principal

Scott Richmond takes over from Dwayne Anderson who moved to Smithers

A Pacific Salmon Foundation grant of $3,000 is going towards the tree plantations. (Cindy Verbeek photo/Houston Today)
550 trees planted in Houston through A Rocha

Houston Christian School students and volunteers help with the tree planting

Currently the Houston station has 16 paramedics, two ambulances and one community paramedic vehicle. (File photo)
Retirement of longtime paramedics worries Houston community

“No loss of service,” assures BC Emergency Health Services

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

Most Read