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Mining at Lake Bennett, British Columbia

by Murray Lundberg

An Explorer's Guide to Lake Bennett, BC & Yukon

    The information that follows has been copied from the Annual Reports of the Minister of Mines in the Province of British Columbia (Source: BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Annual Report Catalog).

    Lake Bennett, 26 miles long, straddles the border of British Columbia and the Yukon. We have not yet attempted to include the mining activity in the Yukon section. The vast majority of that activity has been related to mines on Montana Mountain, documented in my book "Fractured Veins & Broken Dreams: Montana Mountain and the Windy Arm Stampede" (currently out of print).

    On the BC side, despite some optimistic reports about two of the properties in particular, the Gridiron Group and the Silver Queen, no appreciable amount of ore was ever shipped out. Lake Bennett does not appear in any of the BC Annual Reports after 1916. The ruins of some structures remain, notably at the Silver Queen, and at MacDonald Creek on the Yukon side. Those with experience can recognize the Gridiron property as a historic mine, but there is little left.

1897: W. J. Rant was Gold Commissioner and Mining Recorder for the Bennett Lake Mining Division, based at Bennett Lake. No report from the Division is included in the Minister's Annual Report, probably because there was no significant activity to report on.

1898: Mr. W. J. Rant was Gold Commissioner at Lake Bennett, the headquarters of both the Atlin and Bennett Lake Mining Divisions.
    On July 31st, 1898, news of the discovery of the Atlin Lake gold fields reached Lake Bennett.

1899: On December 1st, 1898, J. D. Graham was appointed Gold Commissioner for the Atlin and Bennett Lake Mining Divisions of Cassiar District. He arrived at Bennett on December 29th to assume charge.
    "On Taku Arm (west bank) and on Bennett Lake many mineral claims have been located this Fall which show up very well, and are likely to prove valuable in the near future. Assessment work has been done on six of these to date, and no doubt further development work will be done this year.

1900: "The Bennett Lake Mining Division at present includes not only that section of country round Bennett lake, but also the Chilkat District, which last is so isolated by impassable glaciers, etc., that the only means of reaching it from Bennett is by way of the Lynn canal and the Chilkat river. [a lengthy report on the Chilkat District is in this report]
    In the Bennett lake section of the Division, mining, as such, has not yet begun, but there has been considerable prospecting and some promising finds of mineral are reported, the development on which has not, as yet, advanced sufficiently to give any definite results.
    Of the mineral locations, probably the best known is the Bald Peak Group, more usually spoken of as the Bennett Lake Properties. I am indebted to Mr. Chester Lee, M.E., who visited the property in September last, for the following information:-

    This group consists of four claims, situated about 7½ miles north of Bennett on Bald mountain, on the east side of, and at an elevation of 1,600 feet above, Bennett lake. The country rock is quartzose, probably a quartz porphyry.
    On the Bald Peak Claim there are three open cuts, which show up a vein of some 10 to 12 feet wide, much decomposed and not well defined. Samples taken from the lower cuts across 4 feet of quartz gangue gave assays as follows:- Gold, $2; silver, trace; lead, none; antimony, trace.
    A second sample taken from somewhat higher up gave: gold, $2; silver, 2 oz.; antimony, 3.1%.
    About 100 feet further up the gulch, there were exposed some 10 inches of quartz and yellowish material. This was sampled and gave: gold, $5.25; silver, 7.8 oz.; lead, 3.8%; antimony, 0.6%.
    About 300 feet above the first cut, and some 500 feet to the east, in a small cut in what was apparently slide rock, there was exposed some 17 inches of quartz, carrying stibmite, which gave the following assay: gold, $4; silver, 3.2 oz.; lead, 6.7%; antimony, 40%.
    The above assays were made for Mr. Lee at the Government Laboratory.

    Placer mining in the Bennett lake section of the Division has not, as yet, been productive, although a number of claims and leases have been recorded near Otter lake, Tutshi lake, and on Quartz creek, near Bennett.
    It appears, however, that the gravel deposits aree too deep and not sufficiently rich to be profitably worked as placer claims, and while they have possibilities as hydraulic propositions, enough investigation has not, as yet, been made to determine what these possibilities are."

    "During this season the placer deposits in the vicinity of Otter lake did not yield the results anticipated, the depth to bed-rock being a deterrent to prospectors. On Tutshi lake a stampede took place, but very few claims were located, as the ground was not considered sufficiently rich to pay for working as ordinary placer claims.
    A few leases have been applied for on Quartz creek, a small stream in the vicinity of Bennett lake, and it will be fully demonstrated next season whether the ground can be profitably worked."

    On August 15th, 1900, Provincial Mineralogist William Fleet Robertson left Victoria on the steamship S.S. Danube for the Atlin District, to make an inspection of the placer mines there. His report on that trip provides an interesting look at various places along the route.

1901: On April 12, 1901, the Chilkat Mining Division was created to cover the section of the Bennett Lake Mining Division to the west of Lake Bennett, to make it easier for prospectors and miners in the very active Porcupine region north of Haines, Alaska (see the papers that created and defined the Chilkat Mining Division - pdf, 340 Kb).

    "The assessment work on the Gridiron Group, owned by Messrs. Whitfield and Hildebrand, has been completed and it is intended to apply for a Crown grant. This ore has assayed high and the owners are satisfied with their success."

1902: "In the Bennett Division there are no placer claims, and little progress has been made on the mineral locations, with the exception of those on the Big Horn river."
    Total revenue for the Bennett office was $1,620.20. The Mining Recorder was T. Des Brisay.

1903: "Considerable activity has obtained in the Bennett Lake Mining Division in the development of quartz claims, and the indications are that some of the properties will develop into valuable mines. Although the various mine or prospect owners were asked for information regarding their properties, but few have responded, so that I am unable to report in detail.
    I find that 13 locations and 26 certificates of work were recorded at Bennett."

    Total revenue for the Bennett office was $657.00. The office was closed on December 1st, 1903, when the Bennett Lake Mining Division was amalgamated into the Atlin Mining Division.

1904 - pages 55-56: "The Atlin District formerly included the Atlin, Bennett and Chilkat Mining Divisions, but, by an Order in Council approved October 16th, 1903, which came into force January 1st, 1904, the Bennett and Chilkat Mining Divisions were done away with, and the territory formerly embraced in these Divisions has been included in the Atlin Mining Division, of which extended Division the Recording Office, with that of the Gold Commissioner, is at Atlin. The Atlin Mining Division, as at present constituted, may therefore be described as all that portion of British Columbia lying to the north and west of the divide between the watersheds of the Taku river, on the south and east, at that of Atlin lake on the north and west.
    In the former Bennett Division no placer ground has been found. A number of mineral locations, however, were recorded near the shores of Bennett lake, but as yet none have shipped any ore, other than as sample lots.
    Mr. Whitfield, one of the owners of the property, has supplied the following information with reference to the Gridiron Group, one of the properties being actively prospected in this section:-
    The Gridiron Group consists of four unsurveyed mineral claims, situated on the west side of Bennett lake, about six miles from the town of Bennett, and is owned by Whitfield and Hildebrand. A tunnel has been driven in, 30 feet above the lake, for 110 feet, on a talcose crushed zone or slip, about 16 feet wide, having a strike E. and W., with a dip to the north of 45 degrees. This zone consists of alternating bands of quartz and talcose matter; the quartz contains iron sulphides carrying values in gold and silver, which some lead and antimony is present in places. The talc also contains some crushed ore which can be saved by concentration. The country rock is said to be porphyry. A short distance from the mouth of this tunnel there is a clearly defined vein, about 8 inches wide, carrying iron pyrites, from which high assays have been obtained. The trend of this vein should make it cross the line of the tunnel abut 180 feet beyond its present face, to which point of intersection it is intended to push the tunnel with all dispatch. One the property there has been erected a wharf 18 feet by 24 feet; also a shack and blacksmith shop, while an arrastra, 9 feet in diameter, driven by a windmill, has been constructed, to test the ore.
    On Canyon creek, about 2½ miles north of the Gridiron Group, R. Peden et al have been doing work on some 8 claims, and have driven in 4 tunnels about 25 to 30 feet each.
    Dr. Runnells has been doing development work on a group of claims in this vicinity, of which no definite information was obtained, but it is understood the work has been chiefly confined to surface prospecting, from which encouraging assays have been obtained."

    "Some promising properties are also being developed in the vicinity of Lake Bennett and Otter lake, on the former of which, particularly, large deposits of good ore are represented as existing, from which shipments may be undertaken at almost any time."

    At Bennett in 1904, there was 1 Mineral Record and 14 Certificates of Work issued, and 1 notice filed under the Minerals Act.

    The photo above and to the right shows the Gridiron property in 2003 - click on the photo to enlarge it in a new window.

1905: "The porphyritic rock separating the two seroes of clastic rocks [on Windy Arm] constitutes the principal metalliferous formation of the district. It crosses from Windy Arm to Bennett lake in a band about four miles in width and also extends some distance east of Windy Arm. It has not been studied in detail, but is evidently somewhat complex in character. A fine-grained, somewhat altered specimen collected near the Montana vein has the character of a porphyrite, while one from Red Deer mountain proved to be a gabbro. The two types may represent portions of the same magma cooled at different depths. The principal structural feature of the porphyrite-gabbro area is the system or systems of strong jointage planes that intersect it everywhere. The joints, like the veins, show little parallelism in either dip or strike in different parts of the area. The porphyrite in many places is heavily charged with iron and weathers to a rusty colour.
    A granite area about three miles in width occurs on Lake Bennett north of the porphyrites and associated rocks. The granite is separated from the latter on the lake shore by a narrow band of slates and limestones, but, further inland, comes in contact with them. It is a medium grained, gray rock similar to the Coast Range granites and probably belonging to the same period of igneous activity."

    At Bennett in 1905, there were 51 Mineral Records and 22 Certificates of Work issued.

1906: "Atlin Mining Division, Cassiar District - this division now includes what were formerly the Chilkat, Bennett and Teslin Mining Divisions, and covers the north-west portion of the Province from the height of land between the Teslin and Stikine rivers on the south and east to the Yukon and Alaska boundaries on the north and west.
    Altogether, there is good justification for the belief that the whole north-west portion of the district, from the International and Yukon boundaries through to Bennett, Tutshi and Atlin will be the scene of active mineral development and operation at no very distant date. At Bennett in 1906, there were 117 Mineral Records and 29 Certificates of Work issued, and 15 notices filed under the Minerals Act."

1908: "On Tutshi lake the principal properties are being developed this winter, and along Lake Bennett the several properties held there are represented as being sufficiently advanced for shipping purposes; in fact, some of the owners talked of rawhiding the ore to the railroad, but I have not heard that this has actually been undertaken."

1910: "Some quartz properties located between Bennett lake and the head of Tutchi lake were being developed throughout the summer, and, I expect, will be throughout the winter, also, the intention of the owners being to prospect for that period and then install such plant as the results of the development work suggest or warrant. High assays had been obtained from the ore and the operators were sanguine when last heard from."

1911: "On the Oppenhof group, situated on Crooked creek, between Bennett lake and Tutchi lake, work was suspended pending the results of certain experiments made with a view of determining the best system of treatment for this ore, there being a large percentage of antimony in it.
    I have reason to believe that the assay values are high, the ore-body large, the facilities for operation, water-power, etc., excellent; all encouraging the belief that there will be a producing mine at that point in the near future."

1913: "On Lake Bennett Fred Storey and others are developing a group of claims within a mile of the railway and near Bennett Station, from which great things are expected."

1915: "Not much was done in the way of development of quartz claims throughout the district, beyond the assessment-work necessary to keep them in good standing, except in the Big Horn valley, upon the Engineer mine and the Silver Queen and Ruby Silver properties near Pavey station (White Pass and Yukon route) on Lake Bennett,
    On the Silver Queen and Ruby Silver properties, above mentioned, considerable development has been prosecuted under the management of Fred H. Storey, and a prospecting and shipping tunnel is this winter being run in at a level calculated to intersect the main ledge at a considerable depth from the surface outcropping, and if the surface values and quantities are found at that depth it is expected that arrangements for shipping ore will at once be consummated, and the property is so conveniently situated as to make this a very simple matter, apart from the cost of constructing aerial tram and bunkers.
    There are deposits of antimony on Lake Bennett and Taku arm of Lake Tagish which have received some attention during the past season, but whether capital has become sufficiently interested to undertake development I have not learned.
    A deposit of molybdenum has been discovered between Lakes Bennett and Tutchi not far from Pavey Station, but I am not in possession of sufficient information to be able to say much about it, except that the locators believe they have it in quantities and values sufficient to ender it commercially valuable."

1916: "On the Silver Queen and Ruby Silver property at Pavey, Lake Bennett, development-work has been in progress throughout the year, but no report, or reply to the request for one, has been obtained, so that I am unable to report progress."