The Lost Lemon Mine, the site of murder and mayhem after a gold strike there in 1870, may contain a $7 billion gold bonanza if an Alberta geologist is correct in his calculations.

The mine in the picturesque mountain region of the Crowsnest Pass became the stuff of legends when a Montana prospector named Lemon murdered his partner Blackjack shortly after the pair unearthed the mother lode.Lemon then fled back to Montana where he confessed his crime to a priest before losing his mind.

Now, the Lost Lemon Mine has been rediscovered by geologist Ron Stewart, who believes the site may hold a $7 billion treasure.

"It turns out there is a basis of truth for a 120-year-old legend," Stewart said in an interview. "I'm still in a state of shock."

For more than a century, prospectors have been trying to find the Lost Lemon Mine in southwestern Alberta. Geologists discarded tales of rich reserves on the basis there was only limestone rock in the area that could not possibly contain gold.

Stewart, a geological technician for the University of Alberta in Edmonton, pinpointed the mine's location last year while researching a book on the many legends it sparked.

Based on dozens of gold samples, Stewart estimates there are 17 million or more ounces of gold in a 150-square-mile area near the town of Coleman in the Crowsnest Pass.

The estimate is based on the lowest value of gold found in the samples, he said in an interview, adding geophysical work and drilling will begin this spring to determine actual gold reserves and the best drilling sites.

It took Stewart 18 months to determine the mine's precise location. He said there was mention in the various stories and diaries he read of the Crowsnest Pass Lake, located near the site of the Lost Lemon Mine. Across the mine's upper limit is the Racehorse Creek, which was also mentioned in early accounts of the mine.

An account of the prospectors' trip written in an 1870 edition of the Rocky Mountain Daily Gazette provided Stewart with additional information, suggesting to him the mine was located in the Crowsnest Pass near the town of Coleman.

The bonanza discovered by Blackjack and Lemon was said to exist in acidic, volcanic rock, much like the gold formations in the state of Nevada.

According to Stewart, geological maps revealed there was only one area in the Crowsnest Pass with volcanic rock.

Last September, Stewart collected a number of samples from a six mile area near Coleman that were later found to contain "significant gold values," including some very rich samples taken from along the highway that runs past the town.

"I was completely taken by surprise," Stewart said. "The gold was precisely where you would expect to find it. It was much too easy."

Stewart said he has taken a lot of ribbing about looking for lost mines, but figures he and partners Bob Cantin, an Edmonton businessman, and T. Gilbert Cook, owner of a lumber company, are "right on the money."

Late last year, the three formed a private company called Crowsnest Metals which staked a 25-square-mile claim near Coleman. An adjacent claim has been filed by Ventana Equities, a public company that lists Los Angeles Kings hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky as a director.