It was during the Gold Rush years 1858-1860s that the Squamish and Cheakamus valleys were first visited and explored by white people (with aboriginal guides) – in search of gold, and a more convenient route to the Interior gold fields.
Several reports of Squamish River gold discoveries began to appear during this period. In the earlier accounts, the gold is brought by Squamish Chiefs to the attention of trusted trading contacts in the Hudson’s Bay Company, or at New Westminster.
The later Cassiar and Klondike stampedes bypassed Squamish, although some who did well in these places came to settle here, including William Mashiter and ‘Gold Nugget Charlie’ Masson (who sold movie rights to his life story as gold prospector).
The Ashlu gold mine was in production during the 1930s, and again in the 1980s. Northair Mines in the Callaghan was established in the 1970s, while the Maggie Mine was being worked just east of Squamish.
Ashlu Gold Mine
The history of the Ashlu area begins with the discovery of the Ashlu quartz veins by F.Pykett and associates in 1923. Since then, the history of the area has been dominated by exploration and development on those veins or by workers targeting similar deposits nearby. Production at the Ashlu mine began in 1932 and by the time it closed in 1939, underground workings of the mine totaled several thousand feet (hundreds of meters) in length joined by a 25 ton (22.7 tonne) mill established in 1936. Production over that period amounted to 15,047 tons (13,650 tonnes), and yielded 6,396 oz. (199 kilograms) of gold, 7,154 oz. (222 kilograms) of silver and 66,187 lbs. (30,022 kilograms) of copper.
Don McLeod’s story is the stuff of British Columbia mining legend. A tramp miner who, through gritty determination, unflagging optimism and a good helping of luck, fulfilled every prospector’s dream when he struck it big and brought three rich gold mines to production. Don grew up in Stewart, B.C., a frontier mining community in the province’s farthest northwest corner. He started Northair Mines in 1967. It was a struggle until 1972, when promising drilling results from a copper-gold property near Kamloops sent the company’s stock wild.
Don took a promising property near Squamish from grassroots to full production in three years. During its seven-year life, the Brandywine Mine produced more than $70-million worth of gold, silver, lead and zinc. Other mines followed as Don built his Northair Group of companies into one of Vancouver’s leading juniors.
The Britannia-Indian River District has been explored since the late 1800’s. Claims in the area were owned by the Britannia Mining and Smelting Company until 1962, when the Britannia Mine and the surrounding claim group were acquired by the Anaconda Company. In 1984, Corporation Falconbridge Copper optioned the Indian River-Furry Creek claim group (which includes the present day Roy claim group) from Anaconda. Fleck Resources purchased the claim group and Falconbridge option from Anaconda late in 1985.
The historic Maggie Property (which includes the present day Maggie claim) occurring adjacent to and north of the Indian River claims was staked by Maggie Mines Ltd. between 1876 and 1978, and subsequently transferred to International Maggie Mines Ltd. in 1985. The Property was then acquired by Minnova Inc. (Falconbridge) in 1987. In 1982, the Slumach Zone was discovered within present day Maggie Property by Maggie Mines Ltd.
Early in 1987, Maggie Mines reported an inferred resource estimate of 8,145 tonnes grading between 13.7 to 17.1 g/t Au (3,254 to 4,062 ounces gold).
The Britannia Mine, located 10 km west of the present Maggie and Roy claims operated between the years 1905 and 1977, yielding approximately 47.8 million tonnes of ore grading 1.1% Cu, 0.65% Zn, 6.8 g/t Ag and 0.6 g/t Au (1.1 billion pounds copper, 276 million pounds zinc, 5.8 million ounces silver, and 493,000 ounces gold.
Gold seekers work the Upper Squamish and its tributaries still today. It is perhaps quite likely another gold mine will one day be developed in the Squamish area.