Atlin and Cariboo Gold: British Columbia

The Cariboo Mining District is located in south-central British Colombia, and for a time attracted much attention. It was British Columbia’s top gold producer in its heyday.

It is estimated that the amount of gold from the mining activity there in the first fifteen years of activity resulted in roughly 4 million ounces of gold. Roughly half of this gold was mined in placer deposits in rivers and streams within the district, while the other half came from a few exceptionally rich lode sources.

Gold is not the only mineral that has been mined profitably within the Cariboo district. While many base metals were also mined from the lode sources, it is the occurrence of platinum that can be found in many placer areas that is especially unique. One early report states that 1,800 ounces of platinum were mined from a placer deposit in addition to 175,000 ounces of gold, indicating that the occurrence of platinum was a relatively high amount. Placers in the Frank Creek area also contain small platinum deposits in addition to the gold.

Mining activity has taken place throughout the Cariboo region since the early discovery, and the area still gets plenty of attention today. Commercial mining operations are very active throughout British Columbia, and many of them are still extracting gold from sources within this district. Many of the largest mining companies in the world are Canada based businesses.

The area around the community of Likely is very active with lots of mining. Several lode mines are active in this area. Today, the majority of the production comes from these underground lode mines rather than placers. Since placer deposits are more easily exhausted, it is more profitable today to target the hard rock sources.

Most of these mines are producing gold, copper, silver, and a variety of metals from the rich ores.

There were a few different important discoveries made in southern British Columbia. The first placer discoveries were made at the Nicournen River, and an influx of miners came into the region in search of new placer deposits. Even more important discoveries were made on the Fraser River, and also on the Quesnel River. Through the 1860s there was very high activity throughout this region.

As miners ventured north further into British Columbia, new discoveries were made. But these discoveries came slowly, as the harsh winters provided a very short window of time to allow the miners to prospect.

New discoveries were made in the far northern parts of British Columbia. First were the deposits at Dease and Thibert Creeks, and then at Sayyea Creek.

Most discoveries after Cariboo were fairly limited in scope, but many years later in 1898 a new gold strike in far northern British Columbia caused quite a stir, and was in fact one of the last major gold strikes in history.

Also Read: Gold Mining in Alaska

It was in August of 1898 that gold was found at Pine Creek in Atlin. Exceptionally rich placers were uncovered from many surrounding areas at Atlin, and exceptional large gold nuggets were found.

But the mining was not easy. The depth to bedrock was quite a challenge, and the frost conditions and harsh winter conditions were difficult to contend with.

Hydraulic mining helped to work many of these areas. Aided by the water from Pine Creek, hydraulics washed away overburden and allowed much of the ground to be mined that was exceedingly difficult to work otherwise.

Hydraulic mining continued in Atlin for many seasons. Placer mines that used this high pressured mining method accounted for a significant portion of the total gold take.

A bucket line dredge also worked the gravels of Pine Creek. While it was not a cost effective operation it still accounted for many thousands of ounces of gold recovered.

As with all mining districts, there was eventually a decline in mining activity in Atlin as the shallow easier to work grounds were exhausted. Some larger operations remained and continued working the rich areas with deeper overburden and continued to find good gold.

The Atlin Mining District has produced many exceptionally gold nuggets. It is not unheard of for miners to find large nuggets weighing many ounces. Metal detecting in old tailing piles can be a productive method, although large amounts of iron rubbish makes it exceptionally challenging in some areas.

The Cariboo, Atlin, Fraser River, and other documented gold areas in British Columbia still produce good gold to this day. The success of modern mining operations is highly dependent on overall operating costs. Even with the high price that gold is currently at, it can be a challenge to work these grounds today. The richest areas have already been worked over, and a miner must work hard to unearth the yet-to-be-discovered gold deposits.