Famed prospector Don McKinnon, co-disoverer of the Hemlo gold fields north of Lake Superior is fond of an old axiom in the mining business.
He says simply that you look for gold where gold is said to be. This sounds like double talk to the uninitiated but actually the seemingly obvious statement makes a lot of sense.
Short of expensive diamond drilling, the location of gold in commercial quantity is anyone’s guess. So the best places to look for the elusive yellow metal are where it has been found before.
A few years ago, an up and coming Junior mining company with a Scots name, Pentland Firth, announced that it was taking another look at the Munro Croesus property off highway 101 east of Matheson.
Most people in the business will recognize the name of the long dormant property. You see although the Croesus is only distinguished today by a hole in the ground, 75 years ago it was the richest gold mine in the province.
The Croesus was a mining fluke. The rich gold deposit assayed close to six hundred ounces to the ton. To understand that, imagine the family car, which is about a ton in weight, as if it were rock. Now if half the car was solid gold, you get an idea of the riches of this long gone Matheson area mine.
Since a top grade mine often assays half an ounce to the ton, and a low grade mine a fifth of an ounce, then you can see what a bonanza was found in the Croesus. Trouble was that it was almost all in the shaft and by 1918, four years after productions started, the place was played out.
Gold certainly can be found in the most unexpected places. Not far from Madoc, in the Peterborough area is a place called Eldorado. They called it that because one year before Confederation in 1867, gold was found there.
The strike at Eldorado was the first time the elusive metal was found in quantity worth mining and it only lasted a short while. Today that southern fringe of the Canadian Shield country has several small properties but never enough to make a mine.
Actually the first gold found in Ontario was discovered near Bruce Mines, west of Sudbury. The golden stuff was found while copper mining was going on and only in trace form anyway.
One of the two certain things in this life is taxes. As early as 1868, the province enacted the Gold and Silver Act, which added to Ontario coffers by among other things charging fees for claim staking and miner’s licences. This was followed in 1882 by a tax to gain royalties from mining operations.
The bureaucrats at Queen’s Park thought they had a good revenue source when gold was found east of Sault Ste.Marie. The Ophir Mine opened in 1894 and worked on and off until 1909 but only 1,001 ounces were gained in its lifetime.
The place closed when three miners were killed due to gross safety violations. In this case the only people who really found gold were those who received it in cash for goods and services to the mine.
The story of precious metals mining in the north is replete with stories of people who found gold but never gained much from it. William Teddy, found the yellow metal on the shores of Wawa Lake in 1897 but by the time he had a binge in Montreal, was broke and relied on others to pay his way back to Lake Superior.
Larder Lake is a prime example of the presence of gold drawing optimists. Gold was found in the Larder Lake area in 1906 but although thousands of men staked claims and talked grandly of a city being built there, the first viable mine did not occur until thirty years later. This was the Kerr Addison mine, the home of present day Virginiatown.
Many of those gold seekers had walked over the Kerr ground but none found the elusive rich, yellow metal.
But the axiom of Don McKinnon and others that gold is where gold is said to be sure holds up even today.
The Dome Mine in South Porcupine is the oldest operating gold mine in Canada. Not long ago they found a huge low-grade ore body right below the mine town site. So they tore down the buildings and mine shaft and are now open pitting the stuff.
Detour Lake not far from Cochrane, close by the Quebec border had a hard time finding ore for a long time. Now they have found a good ore body and are mining gold in the shadow of the original mine.
Get a prospector’s license and go out and look for gold. After all, history shows that its location is anybody’s guess.
Michael Barnes is a published Canadian author who has written extensively on Northern Ontario. [email protected]