Wilds to Riches has a second broadcast! Saturday, August 3rd at 7:00 PM on CBC Television’s Absolutely Vancouver…
A small crew huddles at the bottom of a pit they have been digging since the spring thaw. Above them: 50 metres of worthless gravel. Below—they hope—is the reason they’re there. Using maps and mining reports from one hundred years before, the men are looking for the famed Heron Channel, part of an ancient creek bed they think the Gold Rush miners of the 1860s never reached.
There’s a reason this creek bed has been sought for generations. In 1862, a crew hauled a tonne and a half of gold from just 400 feet of the channel, an amount worth $49-million dollars today. They would have kept going, but the channel flooded, drowning the gold until someone had a way to remove the water.
Now, the Hard-Up Mining Company is digging for what remains: a vein they believe still holds a billion dollars in gold.
Today, they’ve struck something, which brought one of the company owners down for a look. It’s not bedrock, but one of the original Heron Company tunnels, stretching who knows how far into the earth. It was carved by pick and shovel, by men who shared these prospectors’ gold fever. You can see where their axes cut the timbers holding up the shaft. The tunnel has been locked underground and underwater for 150 years, and still smells like fresh spruce.
“Look at how far those guys dug to get down here,” said Pete Wright, eyeing his own million-dollar equipment. “By hand….”
The old mining shaft shows they’re on the right track, but it makes the modern explorers nervous. Every month they dig costs $100,000. Is there enough gold left for this gamble to pay off?
British Columbia’s most recent gold rush isn’t all that different from the one that built the Province 150 years ago. T hey may strike it rich—or, like most gold miners before them and since—lose everything feeding their fever.
Which will it be?