Overshadowed by the huge and famous St Eugene Mine across Moyie Lake, the Aurora Mine is in caparison an insignificant and little known operation. Much smaller and shorter lived than it’s counterpart on the opposite side of the lake, the Aurora worked what was a continuation of the same ore body or vein system as the St. Eugene. Although separated by a kilometre or so, it’s clear the two operations were mining sections of the same deposit – the many workings on the east side line up perfectly with the Aurora workings on the west side.
The Aurora property was discovered at the turn of the twentieth century and was worked intermittently for close to thirty years. In that time some 3700 tonnes of ore was removed, most of the work happening in 1900 and again in 1926-27.
Over the years the property has been revisited and reevaluated by a number of mining companies in the hopes that more ore would be discovered. There has been test drilling for example, but in each case a workable ore body was not discovered.
The metals mined here include Silver, Lead and Zinc in varying proportions. The ore was comprised of Galena (Lead component, likely containing the Silver as an impurity) and Sphalerite (Zinc component). The trending of the ore body confirms it was a continuation of the St Eugene structure across the lake. The small quantity of ore discovered however, suggests that the Aurora is near the western edge of that extensive deposit.
There were originally four adits (horizontal opening) on the property along with one shaft. In total there was about 600-700m worth of tunnels underground.
Starting at lake level, each entry was located every thirty to fifty metres up the steep slopes above. Over time, these entries for the most part had collapsed but in the late 1990s, a program was undertaken to seal them off completely. With a number of cabins being located nearby, it was feared that someone could potentially be injured while trying to venture inside.
The entries were sealed using rip-rap rock, or by blasting them shut. In one case a foam seal was used, which was later covered by rock and soil. At this time slopes and dumps were stabilized and much of the site reseeded. Some of the dumps extending into the lake were left untouched however as disturbing them could potentially release toxic metals into the water.
Certainly the place is safer and now people have no real reason to venture on to the property. It’s still a dangerous place though and the steep slopes and mine dumps still pose many hazards.
On our visit we entered the site from a road above. I was surprised to find a well used trail which traversed the slopes overlooking the mine site, and this allowed us easy access. From this trail, we could see a number of mine dumps below (each dump represents one adit or shaft). Four dumps in total were found and explored, out of the five entries that exist on the property. We missed just one of them as it turned out.
Getting down to the workings was still a challenge though, on account of the very steep and sometimes loose slopes and lots of brush and dead fall in places. One trip and you’d be in trouble.
One mine dump was located almost right at the water level, another was not far above, and a third (with the largest amount of material) still further up the slope. For each of these, the waste dump extended into the lake. One more dump was found but it was high enough that the waste material did not reach the lake. This material by the way is easily recognized by it’s yellow and brown colours, its angular shape, and that nothing seems to grow on it. It’s barren rock not suitable for plants.
No evidence of the adits could be found, but recall they were sealed up tight and covered up with rocks and earth. Some wood debris at one spot suggests the site of a structure of some sort. In other places odd wooden bits here and there are found, but otherwise the site is mostly devoid of mining remains. Outside of the dumps of course.
Located nearby but not explored by us this trip is the Guindon Mine, a property working the same ore body as the Aurora, but located higher again up the slopes above the lake. Speaking of the lake, I wonder how far the ore body extends below the water line. I think on the St. Eugene side they did go below lake level at one time, so is there lots of ore at those same depths on the Aurora side? Hmmm…
While we could see Moyie and the St Eugene from this side of the lake, variously, an island and/or morning haze blocked the view. From the Moyie side however, the Aurora dumps could be easily seen, the haze having dissipated by that point.
To see our report on the town of Moyie and the St Eugene mine across Moyie Lake, follow this link…
Moyie BC and the St Eugene Mine.
This same weekend, we checked another mining related operation and to see that report, click this link…
Kootenay King Mine concentrator.
If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: October, 2013.
Location: Moyie, BC.