HISTORY: A look back at the Hollinger Mine – by Karen Bachmann (Timmins Daily Press – March 14, 2015)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

Karen Bachmann is the director/curator of the Timmins Museum and a local author.

TIMMINS – If you live in Timmins (or you’ve just driven through), you’ve passed by this complex, for lack of a better word, many, many times. It is a local landmark, a symbol of the Porcupine then and now. It is a monument to the thousands of miners and their families who have called this community home; indirectly, it has helped countless others set up businesses and make a home in this community. Its contribution to the social fabric of Timmins cannot be diminished – the people involved saw fit to start a hospital, a school, a train station, hotels, homes, sports facilities and clubs. The history of Timmins, like it or not, is intimately attached to the Hollinger Consolidated Gold Mines – even today.

The Daily Press published a brilliant supplement to their paper in July 1960, that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Hollinger Gold Mine. As part of that celebration, Jules Timmins, president and chairman of the company (at 72 years young), was called upon to pour the 18,490th gold bullion bar, marking the Hollinger’s total production (to that date – July 22, to be exact) at a half-billion dollars, the largest output record of its kind in Canada. At that time, the Hollinger was the largest gold mine in Timmins and the second largest in Canada (it had just been surpassed by Kerr-Addison, in annual production).

A.F. Brigham, a former mine manager, predicted, back in the early 1920s, that the Hollinger would achieve this milestone by the end of the century. He did not count on the addition of the Schumacher property, which raised the reserves at the mine from 4 million tons (give or take) to a very healthy 6.3 million tons – allowing for the aforementioned feat to be achieved in half the time.

More numbers? Been to the Empire State Building in New York City? Travel to the top? Well, that trek represents only one third of the way that miners working at the No.19 shaft of the Hollinger, covered everyday. The vertical highway the men travelled was 4,000ft deep – and was rated to be safer than commuting to work on a highway! On the subject of distances, the mine workings of the Hollinger were estimated to be about 400 miles in length (about 644 kilometres), which is equivalent (give or take) to the driving distance between Timmins and Barrie Ontario; the deepest level at the time was at 5,400 feet.

According to underground superintendent George Webber, the Hollinger Mine had (in 1960), among other pieces of modern-day mining equipment, 10 air and electric slusher hoists; 12 mechanical loaders, 37 five-ton trolley motors, two Tramaires and about 300 air-powered drilling machines (mostly stoppers and jacklegs). Air-powered chutes were also in use; they were more efficient than the older types as they could be maneuvered by one man. All of this equipment was used by about 1,050 men of whom 950 were hourly-rated employees (miners). They succeeded in hoisting over 1 million tons of ore to the surface every year. (By comparison, back in 1928, there were 1,526 miners working at the Hollinger, moving about 1.7 million tons of ore per year, using less sophisticated equipment (i.e. more shovels). In order to get out the tonnage required, on a yearly basis, the miners were required to drill over 3.5 million feet into the rock; every 24 hours, two and a half tons of powder was used and 2,000 fuses were ignited. At the time, the mine operated with three shifts – two were geared to production, one starting at 7 a.m. and running to 3 p.m., the other from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. The night shift was used to send down equipment and supplies for the next day’s work.

Going back to the 50th anniversary of the mine, and to put things into perspective, C. Bruce Ross, in his book on the Hollinger Mine, states the following: “The bullion produced by the Hollinger Mine from 1910 to 1960 would make a single bar measuring 17½ feet by 9 feet by 8½ feet. The gold could pave Third Avenue from Pine to Cedar Streets to a depth of 1 inch. The silver produced would be sufficient to pave the sidewalks one inch thick along both sides of Pine Street.”

That gold brick pour that took place on July 22, 1960 was especially sweet for Jules Timmins. He had been present when the very first gold bar was poured at the mine in 1910. He and his wife stayed at the Hollinger Lodge and entertained senior staff at a dinner; a reception for civic leaders and representatives from the other ten working mines in the Porcupine was also organized. A field day was held at the Hollinger Park for all employees and members of their families. In the Annual Report for 1960, Mr. Timmins noted: “It was a great pleasure to us to hear from the Prime Minister of Canada, the Premier of Ontario, The Mayor of Timmins, the mining companies of the Porcupine area and all other companies and persons who extended their best wishes and congratulations to us on the occasion of the 50th anniversary”.

The last word goes to Ted Perry, general manager for the Hollinger, who published the following in the Hollinger Miner magazine:

“The history of Hollinger is a story of cooperation between discoverer, investor and the workman, but it is the latter to whom must go the major share of the credit for the town that was created, for it was they who not only built houses, but made homes of these houses. It was the men and their wives who created a community of good neighbours, where men came to know the comradeship of toil and by their understanding and tolerance established a common bond with their fellow man. No story of the accomplishment of Hollinger would be complete without mention of the men who have made up the organization – the men who yesterday and today have helped make the company what it is.”

For the original version of this article, click here: http://www.timminspress.com/2015/03/14/history-all-look-back-at-the-hollinger-mine