Mounties have arrested three people accused of trying to steal copper wire from a now-defunct paper mill north of Campbell River, causing $100,000 worth of damage.

On Tuesday, police attended the former Catalyst Paper mill at Elk Falls, which has fallen into a state of disrepair after being unused for seven years.

The mill has recently been targeted by copper and metal thieves, and surveillance equipment tipped officers to the fact that thieves were present at the site once again.

Mounties searched around the 380-acre site until a police services dog eventually led them to a large abandoned building.

"It's like an abandoned mall, and it's quite dilapidated, there's pools of water everywhere, there's holes in the floor, there's jagged metal. It literally looks like something out of a movie," said Const. Chris Mousseau of North Island Traffic Services.

The dog, Gator, and his handler traced the intruders' scent to a room where thieves had locked themselves in using copper wiring.

"Several minutes of searching that small room, we located an access panel in the floor and we lowered the dog and a few members down," said Mousseau.

The trail led directly to the hiding suspects, two men and a woman who used bear spray on the dog and officers in an attempt to escape.

The trio were from the Lower Mainland and were the subject of numerous warrants, police say.

"Needless to say the investigators on the Lower Mainland are tickled pink that these individuals are in custody," said Mousseau.

The mill's project manager was thrilled that police were able to make arrests after a string of thefts in recent months.

"IN particular over the last probably six months, there has been quite the escalation of theft, vandalism, intrusion, that kind of activity," said Discovery Park Project Manager Troy Whittle. "[Police] have shown due diligence above and beyond what you'd expect from the normal RCMP, you know, even donating some of their time off to help monitor the situation out here."

Police believe the suspects are responsible for stealing around $30,000 worth of copper and doing more than $100,000 in damage to the site.

Whittle said security measures will be increased even further to discourage any would-be thieves.