The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper. Terence Corcoran’s editorial opinion was originally published in the Financial Post Magazine’s April, 2010 issue.
For an extensive list of articles on this mineral discovery, please go to: Ontario’s Ring of Fire Mineral Discovery
Canada’s mining history is full of characters. But a modern award for promotional ingenuity goes to Richard Nemis, the veteran prospecting whiz who came up with “Ring of Fire” as the name for the latest Ontario mining rush. (Terence Corcoran – April, 2010)
Through the summer of 1967, while my hometown, Montreal, hosted Expo ’67, I was elsewhere. Most of the time I was 4,200 feet underground working as an “apprentice miner” at the famed Kerr Addison gold mine in Northern Ontario. Even at that time, the Kerr Addison, while a legendary gold producer, was considered a has-been. Located in Virginiatown, about 50 kilometres east of the great gold centre at Kirkland Lake, the Kerr Addison was a hard-rock stope operation. We would board the cage at ground level for the long and rickety descent, then take a battery-powered ore mover through black tunnels to our stopes where, lit only by our head lamps, we drilled and blasted grey-green rock faces. The next shift we’d return to muck the rock away and drag in heavy six-foot timbers to build supports and prevent cave-ins. Then we’d drill and blast again.
I wasn’t much of miner, but I could lift and move stuff around, which is what apprentice miners do. The first gold was mined at Kerr Addison in 1913, and over its spectacular life it produced 11 million ounces. Since the first gold rush in 1906, the Kirkland Lake gold mining area — of which Kerr Addison was part — produced almost 37-million ounces of gold, worth more than $37 billion at today’s prices.
Will Ontario, or any part of Canada, ever see such mining-sector productivity and wealth creation again? The test will be the Ring of Fire.
Canada’s mining history is full of characters. But a modern award for promotional ingenuity goes to Richard Nemis, the veteran prospecting whiz who came up with “Ring of Fire” as the name for the latest Ontario mining rush. Beneath barren water-logged terrain at a place called McFaulds Lake, somewhere between James Bay and Thunder Bay, the Ring of Fire mineral deposits are said to contain vast reserves of nickel, copper, some gold and a massive repository of chromite. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has adopted Ring of Fire as a personal project. His government describes it as “the most promising mining opportunity in Canada in a century.” A century is a long time in mining history. This is 2010, not 1910. The Ring of Fire is in many ways as inaccessible from Thunder Bay as Kirkland Lake once seemed from Toronto. But Kirkland Lake was producing gold within a few years of discovery. First Nations political power was negligible, the Wildlands League non-existent, and the role of government handouts and political interference was limited and unwanted. They found gold in Kirkland Lake in 1906 and were mining by 1913 — even though there were no roads to Kirkland Lake, just a rail line that passed through.
Today, the highway to Virginiatown and the old Kerr Addison mine passes through vast tracks of slag — almost a century’s worth of waste produced by the gold smelting process. In 1967, you could still see the slag from the road. Today, it’s all overgrown with trees and brush; even the mine shaft is gone, as if it had never existed. In today’s political environment, The Ring of Fire may never exist either.