Eyeing up the terrain, the prospectors made their best guess. Yanking out scrub plants, shovelling away the soil and then clearing the fine dust with their hands, they examined the bared ground for telltale markings. “This is it! We’ve found it!” The ore was theirs, and the first step to a profitable, if backbreaking, future.
“The evidence that Ontario possesses great mineral wealth is abundant, and is constantly accumulating,” announced the Royal Commission report in 1890. Discoveries were being made across the province — precious minerals of gold and silver, and valuable veins of copper, zinc, galena and iron. Plus, there were rich finds of plumbago (graphite), granite, marble and mica. However, discoveries were often based on innate knowledge of the miners and a dash of good fortune, rather than scientific data.
There was good reason to establish a new provincial agency. A powerful industry was emerging from the very earth under their feet, and the government was preparing to provide assistance.
The Royal Commission suggested opening a School of Mines to educate mining engineers and metallurgists, and also advised training for the people doing the hard work in the field. “Prospectors and explorers are found to be very deficient in the kind of information which would enable them to prosecute their arduous labors to the best advantage,” noted the commissioners.
With unusual haste, legislation was passed to launch the Bureau of Mines on May 4, 1891. One day later, Archibald Blue, head of the Bureau of Industries, was appointed director of the agency. On such short notice, no replacement was available and so Blue operated both divisions for several weeks.
In the First Report of the Bureau of Mines 1891, Blue declared that “one of the chief objects of the Bureau of Mines” was “to collect and publish information and statistics on the mineral resources and the mining industries of the province.” The bureau would also administer the Mining Act and revisions, which included the introduction of royalties, and industry regulation.
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