The great Alona Bay uranium rush of 1948 (Soo Today – February 2, 2020)

This edition of Remember This also examines rumours of a radioactive deposit in downtown Sault Ste. Marie

From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:

When you consider the history of uranium mining in Northern Ontario, Elliot Lake likely comes to mind. However, there is a radioactive connection further north as well, dating back almost 175 years.

In 1847, a Mr. Stanard, likely an American schooner captain, reported that radioactive material could be found along the shores of Lake Superior, near the area now known as Alona Bay. This information, reported by geologist J.L. LeConte in the American Journal of Science, marked the first recorded instance of radioactive material being discovered in Canada.

LeConte described the radioactive material and identified it as being related to pitchblende, a radioactive ore from which uranium is extracted. He named it coracite, a reference to the raven-black colour of the mineral.

While there was some attention paid to coracite over the following years, interest in the source eventually petered out – mainly because prospectors were unable to find the exact location, due to conflicting reports and lack of sufficient equipment. For over 100 years, the radioactive materials lay dormant.

Enter Robert Campbell, a prospector from Toronto. He had had an interest in mining from the age of seventeen, sparked by an uncle’s career in the field. However, his journey was far from easy: Campbell told the Globe and Mail of how he struggled with his schooling, found himself unable to find success in a logging career, and was viewed as “deadwood” by his family.

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