Aug 202012
Exploring Pay Roll Mine

The PayRoll mine is a property in the Moyie River area. Clearly never more than a small producer, there are at least eight adits at the site that we documented. Only one was suitable for us to enter, the others being too short to bother with, or too dangerous. There are also two fairly substantial fallen down cabins on the property that are worth a look.

Not much history is known of the PayRoll (also known as Pay Roll or PayMaster in some reports), understandable given the small scale of the operation. The official records say it was worked only in 1907 but I have a hunch it was mined at other times as well. Unofficially anyway. The PayRoll was a gold and silver property with some minor copper and lead. Small scale miners are mostly interested in the noble metals, the gold and silver, and often care little for any associated lower valued minerals which they may see as a nuisance.

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The workings can be reached by following the old mine trail for a couple kilometres from the parking spot on a logging road. It skirts a hillside overlooking some lovely ponds. In spite of the age the trail is top notch condition and is very well engineered.

On entering the property the first things we find are two cabins, side by side and both totally collapsed. They sit in flat area overlooking one of the ponds. The undergrowth here is very heavy.

Just beyond the cabins the first adit appears. Most, like this one, are small and of an exploratory nature. However, a few like the one we went in, are larger. Even that one though was modest sized and ended after some hundred metres or so. The veins here must pinch out quickly. None the less, making this tunnel must have been a lot of work and expensive. I guess those working here had high hopes of striking it rich (as miners often do). As with small mines they did the least amount of work possible and each tunnel was narrow and low and snaked as it followed the veins, sometimes heading up in a shaft.

The tunnel we explored is about middle of the workings, and a couple of obviously longer ones exist a little further east – we can tell they are longer due to the size of the mine dump. We choose not explore them due to a variety of unsafe conditions (collapsed parts, slumping, etc). Mines are super dangerous and even though we have proper helmets, safety equipment and the knowledge, everything we do inside is carefully calculated. We never take excessive risks. One opening looked safe but was unreachable unless one happened to have had a ladder.

As with all mines it was nice and cool inside and it sure was good to escape the searing 30+ heat that day. It made it hard to leave. We saw the nests of pack rats that live inside the mine.

This trip we were joined by Eric, the son of some good friends of mine who live in the Cranbrook area. On the way back he spotted an old tin can buried under some debris and inside was a geocache. What an amazing coincidence finding it.

Seen at the site was a number of bit of old machinery and the like, the largest piece being an old air compressor. This would be used to power the air drills inside the mine.

While this is a hard rock mine most in the immediate area are actually placers – meaning the gold has been liberated and exists in native form intermixed with river gravels. This ground is then worked by mechanical methods (examples: a gold pan or sluice box) in order to separate the values from the worthless bits. In the case of the mines we visited however the gold would more likely be in an oxide or sulphide form not easily recognizable.

The nearby Moyie River is a well known placer producer and in the 1980s I was allowed to search for gold on the river on a claim held by the neighbours of a friend. I recall getting perhaps a 1/4 oz after a very long and hard days work. Valued at about $60 then, it would be worth several hundred today. The Moyie and other rivers and streams in the area have been worked and reworked for eons and were known as good producers.

A nearby placer claim post hints at the activity that once took place in the area. The date on it was the early 1990s, but the post itself appeared to be much older and the large number of nail holes on it makes one think it’s been used for this purpose for quite some time.

I am not entirely certain the total number of adits on the property but it’s possible there were others beyond the eight we documented. I’d seem to think, in the 1980s, we found another down near one of those ponds but I did not make an attempt to seek it out this day. I do hope to return as the PayRoll Mine invites further exploration.

In 2013, we visited the nearby Moyie Falls mine and to see that report, click this link…
Mining under Moyie Falls.

To see a nearby ghost town, go here…
Lumberton ghost town.

If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!

Date of adventure: August 2012.
Location: Moyie river area near Cranbrook BC.
Warning: Mines are dangerous!!

Moyie River area

The trail hugs a hillside overlooking many ponds.

Claim post BC

An old claim post.

Pond near Moyie River

Another pond below.

PayRoll Mine trail

The mine trail is well built and in fine shape given its age.

PayRoll Mine adit

One of many small adits on the property, many very short like this one.

Exploring PayRoll Mine

Eric on a large outcropping.

Pond near PayRoll Mine

Looking down from Eric’s position.

Cabin PayRoll Mine

An old cabin, one of two on the property.

Old cabin Pay Roll Mine

The second cabin.

Cabins Pay Roll Mine

They sit side by side. Note the lush undergrowth.

Exploring Pay Roll Mine

Eric and I enter one of the adits.

Pay Roll Mine adit

Heading in, we are well prepared to explore these dangerous places.

Inside PayRoll Mine

Looking out.

Tunnel PayRol/Paymaster Mine

This tunnel goes back perhaps 50-100m.

Stope PayRoll Mine

Eric in a stoped area of the mine.

Shaft PayRoll Mine

A shaft heading up – they followed the veins wherever they went.

Puffball Moyie River area

A large puffball mushroom.

Collapsed adit PayRoll Mine

A dangerous entrance.

Pay Roll Mine exploration

Heading up to another adit, this one collapsed.

Old air compressor

A derelict air compressor.

Entry PayRoll Mine

This adit looked fairly safe but was unreachable.

PayMaster Mine adit

This opening was badly slumped.

Geocache PayRoll Mine

A geocache found by Eric.

Pond Moyie River area

The first pond at the start of the trail (or the end in this case).


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2 Comments on "The PayRoll Mine"

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Monica J
Monica J

Do you think you’re encouraging potentially dangerous behavior by posting these types of reports?

My family are miners and there is not a more hazardous place on this planet than these old workings. Rockfalls, chutes, ventilation problems, shafts and winzes, old explosives – all of these are very real hazards. Remember the original miners did everything on the cheap and as quickly as possible doing the very minimum needed to get the paying ore out. This fact means there were lots of corners cut and chances taken, which today translates into unimaginable dangers.

I see that you clearly take these expeditions seriously and are suitably prepared but what others who are no were near as experienced as you who now think it’s safe to enter these places?

You do some amazing adventures! I really love those mountains you’ve climbed.