Left: View of the town of Moyie and the St. Eugene Mine from the No.2 Tunnel dump of the Aurora  Mine. Right: Modern day view of the remains of the Aurora Mine workings. – Dave Ward 2013

Left: View of the town of Moyie and the St. Eugene Mine from the No.2 Tunnel dump of the Aurora Mine. Right: Modern day view of the remains of the Aurora Mine workings. – Dave Ward 2013

The almost zinciferous Aurora

It's always been about mining. It's always been about investing in mining.

Jim Cameron

Note: As of March 10, 2014, there are 2,449 active mineral, placer and coal mining tenures within the Regional District of the East Kootenay.

“It is but fair to hope that this undertaking will prove an exception to the general rule, that a mine is not without honor except its own country, and that local men, having a reliable property that will stand up to the test of any practical examination, will not need to go to strangers for the sinews of war.”

Okay, you might want to read through that once more but, if not, it is simply a rather melodramatic plea for money, printed in the Cranbrook Herald newspaper in 1908, and likely written by a publisher who held interests, directly or indirectly, in the affair.

Specifically, it is a plea for funds for the proposed Aurora mining project. Mining projects are always in need of money, the deal being that should the mine pan out the investors will make money in return, which is great when it happens but if not, well, there’s always more hills out there. Such is the gamble of mining.

Cranbrook, in many ways, was built on mining, or at least the speculative side of the enterprise. From the Wild Horse to Perry Creek and Palmer Bar, from the Sullivan Mine at Kimberley to the St. Eugene Mine at Moyie, the prospect of wealth was always winking seductively and there were always someone waiting to be seduced.

The Aurora is just one of many claims surrounding Moyie Lake. From the time that local native Pierre showed the goose egg lump of glittering mineral to Father Coccola of the St. Eugene Mission and the Father in turn showed it to mining engineer James Cronin, who in turn showed it to people who invested a great deal of money in the Moyie St. Eugene mine and made a great deal of money in return, Moyie Lake was viewed as a possible goldmine, or perhaps a silver mine, or at least something reasonably zinciferous.

Of the numerous flanking claims — the Horse Shoe, Portland, Etna, Alice and Guindon — the Aurora showed the most promise for the simple reason that the rich St. Eugene vein on the east side of the lake was thought to course under the lake and theoretically come up on the western shore where the Aurora was located. It seemed plausible enough that, in 1907, the Cambrian Mining Co. formed with the sole purpose of excavating their mineral claims on the bottom of the lake. They sank a shaft in the lake about 150 feet from the eastern shore near the township, with the intention of creating a caisson (a watertight retaining structure) in which they might descend to work the bedrock. They went down about 100 feet and hit bottom about the same time as the company. Having incurred expenses in the area of $60,000 (a huge amount at the time) the project was abandoned due to a lack of capital. The company collapsed into obscurity, the structure collapsed into the lake.

Local Cranbrook realtors Beale and Elwell sold shares in the Aurora Mine in March 1909, at a cost of 25 cents each. Investors were hopeful because the more money raised the more digging could be done. The No. 1 tunnel went in a distance of about 180 feet near the summit of the hill. The No. 2 shaft lower down the mountainside eventually reached a distance of 450 feet into the hillside. The No.1, 50 feet above the lake, went in some 370 feet.

Information was received in Sept. that “high grade ore has been struck in the lower tunnel and that the outlook for the mine never looked brighter.” The reports appear to have been premature. In December, Beale and Elwell arranged an excursion to the mine via a boat across the lake, allowing prospective investors to view the “now famous” Aurora mine workings. The fame appears to have been premature; the excursion appears to have left some investors cold.

Mining continued throughout the summer of 1910, demonstrating how “cleverly means are adapted to the ends in view at every turn, but this might be expected since a considerable amount of the development has been done by practical miners who, instead of taking cash for their work, were glad to accept stock in the company.”

In short, underequipped men earning no money.  A final editorial plea in December, 1911, entreated “let those who have fought so long and so successfully on the deep of the great financial waters but stay, loyally, together a little longer and the mounting wave will move them shoreward soon.”

It was upon that wave that the Aurora’s ship sailed in 1912 (with the exception of the years 1926-27, when it was mined once more with similar results).

The remains of the mining are still plainly visible across the waters from the town of Moyie. The St. Eugene, about 1,000 yards eastward of the Aurora, produced over a million tons of silver/lead ore in a period of some 20 years and made its investors a great deal of money. The Aurora turned out less than 4,000 tons all told. As Jane Austen (though not much of a miner herself) inquired in Pride and Prejudice: “What are men to rocks and mountains?”

With thanks to “Moyie Reflections: Recollections of a Kootenay Mining Town.” and Kevin Franck, GIS Analyst, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

Item no 22, De-Kieviet Kindergarten class - Highlands, Starting Bid: $20
Christmas Village 2020 school auction items

The annual Christmas Village has gone virtual, here are the auction items from local schools

1913
It happened in 1913

Nov. 22 - 28: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the newspapers at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

2020
Urban wildlife Part VI: The East Kootenay birds of autumn

The work of local photographers printed in the pages of the East Kootenay Advertiser throughout 2020. Part VI.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 65 new cases of COVID-19

Province-wide, there are 887 new cases of the virus

The bids for the 2020 Christmas Village are open as of noon on Thursday, November 26. Please scroll through this album to see auction items available for bidding.
Christmas Village 2020 auction items

The Christmas Village has gone virtual, here are all the details

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Most Read