The better part of Engineer mine has been under water since 1928.
Over the years, multiple miners have come to try their hand at finding its sunken treasure. None have been successful, until now.
BC Gold Corp., a Vancouver-based junior, is the first to successfully drain the majority of the historic 200-metre-deep mine shaft that was left on the eastern shore of southern Tagish Lake, a 65-kilometre boat ride from the village of Tagish.
But Brian Fowler, president and CEO of BC Gold, doesn’t liken the project to Atlantis or searching for pirate loot. Instead, he compares it to a bowl of cereal.
“The nature of the distribution of gold at Engineer is highly, highly nuggety – it’s like raisins in a box of Raisin Bran,” he said. “Not every scoop is going to have raisins in it, but if you take the whole box, you’ve got a bunch of raisins.”
The problem for miners in the past is that the scoops they were taking had very few raisins in them, said Fowler.
“That’s the game,” he said. “That’s how it is in exploration. It’s like the casino. Ninety-eight times out of 100 in this, you lose. But we’re benefitting from the work and the results that they’ve done. We know where they were in most cases, where not to look and where to look.”
The other advantage BC Gold has is the modern technology to help drain the old mine.
Before the company had drained seven levels of the shaft that’s burrowed into the side of a mountain, BC Gold collected enough gold to sell for US$107,000, from 250 tonnes of rock.
It’s “not a heck of a lot,” said Fowler. But it speaks to the unique opportunity Engineer offers. Because of infrastructure that still exists – and remarkably still works – like the 30-tonne per day mill, BC Gold is able to explore and mine at the same time.
This helps with exploration costs, but it isn’t quite enough, said Fowler.
The company needs about $500,000 to build an elevator at the mine so it can really start digging.
But it has been a challenge to find investors, despite the rare and “huge” opportunity Engineer offers, said Fowler.
“It’s what keeps me up at night,” he said. “The lending institutions that we’ve talked to, they come back and they say it’s too small. I’ve never had to work so hard for a million bucks in my life. This is one of the most difficult times that I can ever remember in the junior resource sector. The whole resource sector is really sucking air.
“There’s the European financial meltdown, the States – all they’re doing is printing dollars, and any capital that was available for high-risk ventures is totally eaten up. People are sitting on their money and they’re looking for much more conservative ways to invest their dollars.”
But Fowler and his team are putting their own money on Engineer.
This past season the company spent $1.1 million to explore the entire 16-square-kilometre property. Results are expected in November.
Fowler predicts good news – the company has already found two shoots of a gold vein partway down the shaft. Those shoots are expected to produce 18,000 ounces over two years.
Over the next five to 10 years, Fowler predicts about 100,000 ounces and “there’s good reason to believe there’s even more, higher grade, further down,” he said.
Engineer will always stay small-scale, processing about 5,000 to 8,000 tonnes per year, said Fowler.
“But there’s no shame in that,” he added.
His crew this past season was only seven men, but the plan is to stick around for a long time.
The company is even looking to auction off a lot of its other holdings to help support Engineer, said Fowler.
BC Gold Corp. has 16 copper claims near the Minto mine and the Carmacks Copper project, a number of others in B.C. and what it call its “off white” property on the Klondike Highway near the Stewart River. It successfully auctioned one property near Minto this past year, Fowler added.
Everything the company makes is going back into Engineer, he said.
“A lot of people look at this and think, ‘This is a ma and pop mining operation, it’s not real,’” he said. “But we’re unique. There are not very many other junior companies out there that can do what we’ve got. They don’t have the means to mill on site and mine. We’re permitted to do this. We’re not messin’ with cyanide – there’s no nasties. And the bigger bulk is there.”
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at