Nov 042015
Exploring a mine

This little hole in the side of a mountain is located near Cranbrook BC. It’s a mine, not a full scale operation but rather test workings to explore the potential of an ore discovery. It’s called a “prospect” and those who worked it way back went would have done as little as possible to evaluate it, before deciding what to do next. Depending, they would become “real” miners (get funding, sell out to a commercial firm), or if it held no promise, cut their losses and run. The latter happened here.

Before we anything, a quick word on mine exploration…leave it to the experts! Even a small operation like this can be super-dangerous.

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This mine does not seem to show up in government records. That in itself is quite an anomaly given the BC Ministry of Mines is and always has been quite meticulous at chronicling any and all mining activity in the province, no matter how big or small the operation.

There is the possibility that these workings are connected with a second prospect mine listed to be located a kilometre or so to the north, but that’s just a hunch. We haven’t gone looking for that one yet.

There is one “lost” small scale mine (exact location NOT known in records) said to be in the area. However, it’s thought to be too far north and worked an ore body that is clearly different in makeup than the Mystery Mine here. I don’t think they could be one and the same.

The conclusion must be it was simply never documented for what ever the reason, probably something money related. We see these now and then, but they are quite rare.

Given we know nothing of this operation, dating it will require some guesswork. Most mines in the area are from the 1890s-1930s, so this one is probably from that time as well.

The metals being mined here include copper (chemical form probably chalcopyrite), that much we know from green staining seen in and around workings. Based on the composition of ores local to and mined the general area, it’s a good bet that gold (likely in pyrites) and perhaps some lead and zinc (galena and sphalerite respectively) and silver (usually an impurity withing galena), or some mix thereof, also make up some of the ore body here.

None of these metals are native meaning they are in an impure non-metallic form and are bonded to other minerals (sulphur for example) and need smelting to be liberated. Visually, you need to be a geologist type to properly identify ores in the ground. We study the field but lack that degree of expertise to even make a guess.

The values at the Mystery Mine appear to be contained within random and widely dispersed quartz veins and thin stringers. Following them they seems to pinch and swell, then pinch again and then end altogether. Not the most promising material from what we know. The miner’s of old had had a lot riding on it here…and lost.

These deposits are called polymetric and form when metallic minerals precipitate out of a liquid carrier and fill cracks, crevices and voids in solid host rock, which is usually otherwise barren.

The mine only goes back several dozen metres, dead ends, back tracks a bit, turns a hard left and quickly stops. They must have planned to continue based on a the drill holes seen in the working face. I guess the last assay told them to stop however. The overall geology here seems quite stable and the mine structure seems very solid with little evidence of rockfall, warning signs of collapse or other issues.

A road of sorts leads up to the Mystery Mine. Even for a prospect, they had to build one. More work and money out out of pocket for nothing. Looking out from adit (opening), situated part way up the steep flanks of a precipitous mountain, affords one a good look to the west. Not a bad view! The Kootenay River can be seen off in the distance. A popular camping area is located nearby and it’s clear some of those people have made it up to the workings. Larches, the only confider to loose needles in the fall are common in the area were at peak colour the day of our visit. Wow!

This is the first hard rock mine we’ve visited in a couple years (lots of prairie assignments recently). We’ve explored many of these places over the years, either, before we got into underground photography (we’re STILL trying to get the knack of it today) or when on assignment, usually for governmental departments or lease holders, which can’t be shared here. We hope to change to that and post more reports like this one in the years to come.

Just because we visit a mine does not mean you should. Even for a small one like this. We know and understand the risks and dangers (they can be nasty places!), do our homework, study plans and geology reports, get permissions, and come prepared with the proper equipment. Lots of it. For larger mines, we usually travel with experienced and highly organized mine exploration groups. It’s safety in numbers.

Mining history…
Protection Mountain Mine.
Mining under Moyie Falls.
One Mine Ridge.

If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date: October, 2015.
Location: Near Cranbrook BC
Article references: BC Mine records.
Mines are dangerous and should not be entered.

Mystery Mine

This “Mystery Mine” shows up in no government records.

Mine East Kootenays

The view from the adit.

Mine East Kootenays BC

It’s a prospect (or test) mine exploring the potential of an ore body.

East Kootenays mine

Itt goes back a few dozen metres, turns hard left and ends shortly after.

East Kootenays BC mine

It’s shallow enough that natural light penetrates all the way in.

Mine exploration

This operation is likely from the 1890s to 1930s period.

Exploring a mine

Go to the light…

Mine ore vien

Those green splotches tell us copper was a component of the ore body.

Copper stain

Copper stained rock in a talus slope right near the mine.

Mine entry

Do we have to go?

Turning Larch

Larches in the area were at peak colour.


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6 Comments on "Mystery Mine"

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Shirley Chamberland
Shirley Chamberland

So cool 😎

Barney Rundle
Barney Rundle

(via Facebook)
Is CP digging a Tunnel?


Very interesting! I didn’t know that there was a mystery mine in that location and I camped several times nearby as a kid. I wonder if the adjacent landowners know much about the history of these workings? So many mining ruins to explore – so little time! As always, thanks for the great article.