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The Privateer Mine
The Privateer mine in located in Zeballos, BC, on the west side of Vancouver Island.
Zeballos is named after Lt. Ciriaco Cevallos who was on board one of the early ships of the Spanish explorers from a voyage that was taken in 1792.
Mining first got started in the area in 1924 with the first claims being up the Zeballos River.
In 1934 Albert Bird discovered what would become the Privateer Mine. Albert Bird decided not to keep the claim and sold it to a group of businessmen from Victoria. As Albert Bird was concentrating on developing other claims, the Privateer ended up becoming one of the richest mines in the Zeballos area. It is estimated that 13 million dollars worth of gold came from Zeballos and maybe 7 million of that was from the Privateer mine alone.
The ore from the Privateer was the richest ore ever to be received by the Tacoma Smelters. The outside world soon took notice of the Zeballos "wonder mine," the Privateer, which produced 30 to 40 ounces of gold per ton of ore.
When mining first started the miners had to carry sacks of ore out on their backs down the narrow slippery trails, through the mud and windfalls to the river at Zeballos. From there ore was floated downstream in flat-bottom boats to the mouth of the river where it was again backpacked over land to another beach.
This new gold rush created a little boom town and by 1938 Zeballos had a population of more than 1500 people. There were three hotels, a laundry, a bakery, and a weekly newspaper. Plans were even in the making for a hospital and a school.
The town was built in a narrow channel beside a river. It was just one street with houses and shacks on either side. When the tide came in the main street would be flooded and knee deep in muck. This street became known as "Rotten Row." Because of this the main street had to be built up. But there was really no fill, so high grade ore was used to build the street. The high grade ore used as the street foundation was eventually dug up and refined. Yes, there is a place even on earth where streets are made of gold. This gold rush built an instant town that some say reached a population of 5,000 at its peak.
Then the war came in 1939, and many of the miners left to fight and the mines began to close. By 1942 they were all shut down. After the war ended in 1945, the fixed price of gold was $35.00 an ounce, not enough to keep the mines in operation. By the time the price of gold climbed on the open market two decades later, it was too late for Zeballos and the Privateer Mine.
Today Zeballos remains a small coastal village. Logging, fishing, and ecotourism seem to be the main stay of the day. But not far, in fact just over the ridge there are junior miners prospecting in the hills closer to Port Alice around the Old Merry Widow Mine. Grande Portage Resources GPG is poking around these same hills today.