The Bralorne and Pioneer group of ore bodies has been one of Canada’s major gold sources, yielding over four million ounces of gold and one million ounces of silver from eight million tons of ore.
The story of Bralorne goes back to a glint of gold in the gravel of Cadwallader
Creek! The shiny, elusive substance was not missed by the sharp-eyed gold prospectors who flooded into the Cariboo river beds in 1859. But a dark forest of Douglas fir hid its secret, and the great Pioneer and Bralorne strike was not made until 1897.
Bralorne takes its name from Bralco Development, the company that acquired the rich Lorne Mine in 1931 and merged the name of the syndicate with that of the mine.
In 1932, Bralorne poured its first gold brick, weighing 393 ounces and valued then at $6,700. In 1943, with ore reserves estimated at over one million tons, averaging over one-half ounce of gold per ton, Bralorne was cited as the greatest lode operation in the world. In 1948 the stock market listed Bralorne’s value at over $10 million.
Vic Zaporozan, foreman at the Bralorne Mine , has witnessed several decades of Bralorne operation. He worked in Bridge River Valley mines beginning in 1943 and at Bralorne itself from 1958 until the 1971 closure. In 1972 he helped open the mine for a number of redevelopment studies, but the price of gold did not warrant production then and the mine was closed again.
Bralorne was a wild place in the Forties. There were more miners at Bralorne than at Pioneer. At it’s peak, there were 400 miners and about 1,000 people lived in the area. Pioneer had about 600 residents. They both had their own schools, theatre, hospital and recreation facilities. Celebrities would appear from time to time, and Mr. Joe E. Brown, Hollywood comic and friend to Bralorne backer Austin Taylor, was always welcome. His visits prompted a holiday and the kids would get the day off from school, and Mr. Brown bought them all ice cream.
From 1931 to 1971 the Bralorne and Pioneer mines yielded $145 million and employed 10,000 miners. Miners , muckers, trammers, timbermen, motormen, brakemen, hoistmen, skiptenders, and pipefitters all made their way through the maze of tunnels at Bralorne. As early as 1943 Bralorne could boast to have paid nearly one-sixth of all dividends earned by all of British Columbia’ s lode mining companies since 1897.
By 1971, increasing production costs and declining gold prices sealed the shafts. Fences fell, windows broke, and buildings decayed. Since 1971, revival schemes have met with only limited success. But now, the tow n stirs again.