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  • Writer's pictureShahin Dashtgard

Gold, Serpentinite, and a Rich Geological History in Gold Bridge B.C.

Updated: Jul 11

A trip to the Bralorne and Pioneer Gold Mines from Vancouver means taking either the scenic 6.5 hour route through Lillooet or the 4.5 hour trip across the notorious Hurley River Forestry Service Road. The latter is more fun if you have the right vehicle, but make sure you have enough fuel and a spare tire for the crossing. There’s even a website dedicated to the Hurley (, but don't let that scare you unless you are in a Corolla.

The Bralorne and Pioneer Mines are situated very close to each other near the small town of Gold Bridge. As with many of BC’s old mining towns, the region has a rich history of mining, partying, wealth, and eventual decline. Unlike other regions though, several companies continue to explore restarting Bralorne as the rich gold veins (average of 18 grams per tonne; 1) is too hard to pass up. For the rest of us a trip to Bralorne usually involved collecting blocks of Serpentinite, visiting the Bralorne Mine Museum, and maybe mountain biking or a couple nights stay at the picturesque Tyax Lodge.

BC Abandoned Mines | Bralorne-Pioneer Gold Mine
Gold Bridge area map.

History of gold mining in Gold Bridge

Gold was discovered in the Gold Bridge area during the Fraser River Gold Rush in the late 1800s, although early miners were sluicing along the rivers for loose (placer) gold (2). The golden years for the Bralorne and Pioneer Mines was the 1930s to 1970s, which is when the majority of the 4.2 million ounces of gold were extracted from the region (1,2). That works out to nearly $10 billion of gold at today’s prices. Not too bad in my opinion!

BC Abandoned Mines | Bralorne-Pioneer Gold Mine
Map of old mine works (purple circles) and Serpentinite veins (green polygons). Map position shown on the Gold Bridge area map. (Map source: 4)

If you want to see samples of Bralorne gold, visit the minerals exhibit at the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton.

BC Abandoned Mines | Bralorne-Pioneer Gold Mine
Bralorne Mine Gold Specimens on display at the Royal Alberta Museum.

Geology of the Bralorne-Pioneer Mines

The underground miners were targeting visible gold hosted in quartz veins associated with major faults. The rocks that host the quartz veins are 300–200-million-year-old oceanfloor and volcanoes (3) that were smushed onto the side of North America as the Pacific Ocean seafloor subducted below North America about 150 million years ago. Faults cut through the seafloor rocks after they were added to North America, and hot fluids and low-grade metamorphism altered the seafloor rock into serpentinite, and deposited gold in quartz veins between 90 and 85 million years ago (3).

BC Abandoned Mines | Bralorne-Pioneer Gold Mine
Looking for discard pieces of ore in the mine tailings at Pioneer Gold Mine.
BC Abandoned Mines | Bralorne-Pioneer Gold Mine
My daughter and a friend collecting pieces of green serpentinite.

There are plenty of companies looking for gold in the region still, but for most rockhounders, collecting serpentinite and pieces of ore is a highlight. I have several pieces in my garden and have dreams of one day carving something (I am only limited by my inability to carve anything). A visit to the Bralorne Mine Museum is also worthwhile and I definitely recommend taking in the scenery as it is pretty awesome!

BC Abandoned Mines | Bralorne-Pioneer Gold Mine
Beautiful river and flood plain between Downton and Carpenter Lakes.

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Info Sources:

4) Church, B. N., and Jones, L. D., 1999, Metallogeny of the Bridge River Mining Camp (092J10, 15 & 092O02): British Columbia Geological Survey.

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