A successful Ontario graphite mine is forever submerged under Black Donald Lake
Before the 1867 construction of the road that led deep into the Black Donald Mountains, located about 120 kilometres west of Ottawa, the untamed region was considered wild by settler society. Eventually the growth of immigrant populations in the Ottawa area forced a westward expansion of Opeongo Road and soon Irish, Poles and Germans settled the region.
John Moore was one of the first European settlers of the mountainous frontier. He was offered a plot of land near Whitefish Lake. One day in 1889, while strolling on his property, he slipped on a rocky outcrop and made a life-changing discovery. A sampling of the brittle dark rock confirmed Moore had uncovered a graphite deposit.
Graphite was much needed in the industrialized 19th century. The mineral is heat-resistant, making it an ideal lubricant for motors and a good liner in crucibles containing molten steel.
The demand for graphite, combined with the purity of the deposit on Moore’s property, made the discovery incredibly valuable. The nearest graphite deposit was five to six per cent pure, whereas Moore’s discovery was 65 to 84 per cent pure.
In 1895, a group of men who later formed the Ontario Graphite Company bought the land and the mineral and surface rights for $42,000. They sunk shafts under Whitefish Lake, following a massive vein. Although the deposit was rich, producing 100 tonnes of refined graphite and 200 tonnes of crude graphite in the first year alone, there was no mill on site. The modest operation required only 15 miners, and the ore was processed in Ottawa.
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