After working nearly 40 years at Gibraltar Mine a local retiree is setting his sights on spending time at his cabin on Quesnel Lake and woodworking at home.
“I had a goal to finish work by the time I was 62 years old,” said Harold Karcher of Williams Lake.
“I kept that goal. I gave them lots of notice and they treated me really well I must say.”
It was 1979 when Gibraltar Mine visited the trade school in Burnaby where Karcher was studying to become an electrical engineering technologist.
“The people from Gibraltar were recruiting, but they weren’t recruiting for technologists, they were recruiting more for industrial electricians.”
Twenty-two at the time, he came up to the mine for an interview and a tour.
“I didn’t really know what I was getting into at the time and I did not really know what the industry was all about,” he said. “They hired four of us right out of tech school and we all served an apprenticeship and were put on shift work.”
The mine went through “massive” layoffs in 1982 when metal prices plummeted, he recalled.
“I think they must have laid off 300 people, but I stayed because I was the lead hand and I was looking after the pit.”
He was also there during a strike in 1988.
“I worked in all areas of the mine,” Karcher said.
“I worked in the pit, in the shop, on the mill side and instrumentation. We went through different ownerships and finally in 1999, the people that bought us shut it down because metal prices were poor. We were put on care and maintenance”
During four and a half years of being shut down he and a handful of people looked after the site.
The handful of people worked shift work looking after the place until spring time 2004 when Taseko Mines Ltd. purchased it.
“We got the OK to get it running and we restructured,” Karcher said.
In 2006, operations expanded, a new SAG mill [grinding mill] was installed in 2008 and another concentrator in 2013.
Karcher is originally from Victoria and in 1982 married Nellie Ten-Have, who he had been dating for a few years and was also from Victoria.
Their twin boys — Matthew and Michael — were born in 1985.
As the boys were growing up, the Karchers became involved quite heavily in scouting for close to a decade.
“I was a scout leader in Williams Lake and became the district president for many years.”
Harold departed from scouting when Gibraltar started up again in 2004 and the mine required his “total focus.”
Nellie trained as a licensed practical nurse in Victoria.
When she moved to Williams Lake she worked in the lab at Cariboo Memorial Hospital and then left working there and did insurance medicals for multiple insurance companies.
“She worked out of the house when the kids were at the age where we did not want to get a babysitter. She went back to the lab for a short period after that.”
When asked if he likes fishing, he replied, “oh yah.”
“Our whole family enjoys the outdoors. We did a lot of camping and we do a lot of fishing. We kind of made Quesnel Lake our place to go, although we’ve gone to an awful lot of lakes around here ice fishing.”
Quesnel Lake, however, is their “love and joy,” he added.
“We’ve been going out there for over 25 years and broke down a couple of years ago and bought a couple of fixer-upper cabins out there.”
The plan now, he divulged, is to putter, fix things, go boating and fish.