[Canadian Gold Mining/Exploration During Depression] The Trails of `34 – by Leslie McFarlane (MACLEAN’S Magazine – September 15, 1934)


THE CARIBOO, the Yukon, the Porcupine—these fields have been the scenes of epic Canadian gold rushes. In each case the stage setting was colorful, the action dynamic. Each field had its peak year of raw drama. They were spectacular rushes, with an element of madness and frenzy. They belong to history.

And yet in sheer enormity, in point of men involved, money expended, wealth produced and in sight, not one of them could hold a candle to the great gold rush of ’34.

Men still speak of the Cariboo Trail and the Klondyke Trail. There can be no such convenient designation for the scene of this year’s great gold trek unless one refers in a general way to the ‘Trails of ’34. Because the scene is all Canada, and the trails lead to new fields and old. The effort is not concentrated upon a single area. The stage is so wide, so crowded with effects that the term “rush” may seem at first glance a misnomer. And yet from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, across the whole breadth of the Dominion, one of the greatest gold treks of all time is in full swing.

New mining areas have been discovered, new producing mines have been developed and others are in sight, abandoned properties and fields have been reopened, the lives of established mines have been lengthened and their profits increased. Hundreds of new companies, syndicates and promotions have been launched. Capital is pouring into the mining fields in a steady stream. Ten million dollars, the largest amount on record for mining purposes in the province for any one year, is the estimated amount of capital coming into Ontario during 1934. Three times that amount will be returned to shareholders in Canadian gold mines during the year. The dollar value of the Canadian gold output increased from $71,479,373 in 1932 to $84,301,875 last year, and it will increase to an approximate estimate of $105,000,000 in 1934.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, beyond a shadow of doubt it is a gold rush on a mammoth scale. British Columbia is witnessing a great revival of its gold mining industry, with ghost towns humming again and intensive development of lode and placer deposits once more under way. In Northern Manitoba a new gold field is being torn open. New finds in Central Manitoba are being developed. Up in the Patricia district of Ontario they are conquering transportation problems and opening up another land of promise. In the Lake of the Woods district, in the Red Lake area, in the Long Lac field, in Michipicoten, Matachewan, Timagami, Duparquet, Chibougamau – all across the northern shield of Ontario and Quebec the pre-Cambrian rocks are being staked by the high-booted army of ’34.

Crooks In the Business

It’s a bright picture, a gaudy picture. But it has its dark side. In offices in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal, honest and capable mining men are tossing blue chips into the jackpot, taking chances as all men must in this game of rich rewards, but minimizing the risks as far as possible. In the same cities the racketeers, the chisellers and highbinders are cashing in on the new’ gold rush, just as racketeers and chisellers and highbinders have cashed in on every gold rush since the world began.

The gold mining industry is enjoying great prosperity. There is money to be made by investing in that industry. Thirty million dollars of dividends in 1934 should be sufficient proof of that. But listen:

An old friend, a man who has spent years in the mining country, who knows the mines, whose judgment is sound and solid, a man who now sees Bay Street from the inside, said to me in August:

“Believe it or not, right now the city of Toronto is the centre of one of the biggest organized rackets on the North American continent.”

“But I thought the authorities kicked a lot of those crooked promoters and salesmen out of the country a few weeks ago?”

“There are plenty left. And all the crooks don’t come from the United States. We have grown a few’ of our own.”

“It’s a difficult problem,” I agreed. “These fellows are hard to handle. They are usually smart enough to stay within the letter of the law, and if the regulations are made more stringent they will cramp honest and crooked promotions alike.”

“Of course,” he answered. “It’s almost impossible to protect suckers against themselves. But I don’t like the hysteria that’s developing. The North Country and the mining industry are too big to be seriously damaged by this sort of stuff, but when the bubble breaks I’m afraid the suckers will have a lot of headaches and the North will have a black eye.”

He was speaking from a Northerner’s viewpoint. Northerners have faith in their country and know that the goldmining industry is enjoying swift and legitimate progress, greater prosperity than the most optimistic Northerner expected a few years ago. They know it doesn’t need pumped-up enthusiasm and ballyhoo from stock racketeers. So don’t let this article tempt you to believe every word of the colorful promotion literature you probably received in your mail this morning, urging you to sell your stock in a dividend-paying, producing mine and buy shares in a wildcat.

Gold Still Paramount

GOLD mining is the only great industry in the world that has not felt the hammer of depression. Ostensibly the world has been trying to get away from gold; actually it has never sought the yellow metal with more feverish intensity. There is a paradox for economists to explain. Country after country has tumbled off the gold standard and yet the demand for gold has never been greater. And with feverish demand has come increased price. Britain slips off the gold standard, up goes the international price of gold.

Mr. Roosevelt deliberately cheapens the United States dollar, up goes the United States price for gold. The Canadian dollar does a toboggan-slide on the international exchange market—in other words, becomes cheaper—and up goes the Canadian price for gold. As most people know, the result is that gold is now selling between $34 and $35 an ounce as compared with the old standard price of $20.67.

Some people predict that the price will go still higher but that’s pure speculation. The fact is that gold already has had a remarkable rise in price; that the new price level seems to be more or less stable. Hence the gold rush of ’34.

Higher prices mean that lowgrade ore bodies, known but neglected a few years ago, can now be mined profitably. Old areas that on the basis of the old price were worked out can now be reopened for more intensive mining. And the life of all gold mining operations in the country has been lengthened for the big producers instead of using up all their high-grade ore are now drawing part of their profits from low-grade ore that a few years ago they would have considered useless.

High price is the biggest single factor in the rush of ’34, but back of that is the important fact that the captains of the new army of gold seekers are mining men of the new generation, capable of handling new developments with vigor, intelligence and experience. Canada has bred a new school of gold seekers within the past quartercentury—prospectors who know more, in general, about rock than their predecessors of the nineteen hundreds, engineers raised in Canada and trained to handle Canadian mining problems, metallurgists who have made important contributions to mining science and who have steadily devised ways of reducing costs and overcoming technical difficulties, experts in a hundred separate divisions of the industry, leaders whose faith and courage have moved mountains.

In the vernacular—when the break came the country was ready for it.

Leaders of the Canadian mining industry have long contended that the sensational discoveries in Porcupine and Kirkland Lake were but forerunners of other great camps. Canada possesses nearly two million square miles of the oldest rocks in the world, known as the pre-Cambrian Shield. Ore bodies in Canadian pre-Cambrian rocks are primary. Most other ore bodies on this continent are secondary, that is they are the result of enrichment from other rock during the erosion period, and it is rare for them to continue below a depth of 1,000 feet. Mines in secondary ore bodies are frequently rich but usually short-lived. Practically all ore bodies outside Canada, India, South Africa and Brazil are secondary.

The pre-Cambrian Shield is the happy hunting ground of the gold seeker because when the good mines are found, they go deep and their longevity repays substantial investment. Kirkland Lake Gold, deepest in Canada, is finding ore at more than 6,000 feet below the surface. The McIntyre, in the Porcupine field, is going to 7,000 feet depth.

Mining in British Columbia

Although British Columbia is the oldest gold-producing province of the Dominion, wnn a total production value of $225,000,000 since 1858, Ontario is far in the lead and bids fair to hold the leadership for many years to come. She has produced gold to the value of half a billion dollars in Canadian money since 1911. This amounts to more than half the total gold production of the Dominion, and more than $200,000,000 was produced in the recent depression years. But although Ontario actually decreased its output slightly in 1933 while at the same time increasing its production value, British Columbia boosted its output by nineteen per cent over 1932 figures.

One of the most romantic features of the gold rush of ’34 has been the revival of gold-mining in British Columbia, where ghost camps have taken a new lease on life and where this year’s gold output will amount to $12,000,000 as against a little more than $3,000,000 five years ago.

Away back in 1857, before British Columbia was a province, miners from California stampeded into the Fraser River Valley. They were placer miners and they followed the river and its tributaries. Ten thousand men worked the bars between Hope and Yale. In the Cariboo, centring about the famous town of Barkerville, it is said that more than $72,000,000 worth of placer gold was recovered in less than five years. In ’58 they were panning gold from the bed and banks of the Bridge River and near-by streams.

The white men skimmed the cream from the rich deposits and went away. Claims were staked, lapsed and restaked in the Cariboo and Bridge River districts over a long period of years. There was a brief revival in the days of the Klondyke rush, but during the nineteen hundreds the placer areas were virtually abandoned. Up in the Bridge River country a handful of men stayed on after the source of placer gold had been located in 1896 and a short boom had developed.

There was a mine called the Pioneer. It was staked during the years of the second rush and it had a long and struggle for existence. In 1915 it actually had a twenty-ton mill. In 1924 it was leased to a syndicate for a cash investment of $8,000.

Two years ago the men who had faith in the Pioneer property saw their reward when bonanza ore was struck. The finds have been so sensational that today the Pioneer is the highest grade per ton mine of size on the continent, with an average gold recovery value of $27.42 per ton. At today’s market value of the shares, that $8,000 investment has grown to $21,000,000.

The Pioneer had a neighbor, the old Lorne Mine, now known as the Bralorne. It has shared in the spectacular career of Pioneer on the stock exchange: it also is now a producing mine. The whole Bridge River country, much of it open two years ago, has been staked solid and towns have sprung up overnight. The attention of the mining world has been focused on Bridge River to such an extent as to overshadow the great forward strides made in other parts of the province.

There is no doubt that the finds in the Bridge River field led the way and gave stimulus to the revival. There are said to be at least 15,000 prosectors in the province this summer. In the Cariboo area the Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine discovered in 1932 that its veins went to depth and much development is being done in this field.

Much of British Columbia, it must be remembered, has never been prospected, much of it is unexplored. Boats and airplanes took hundreds of prospectors into Northern British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska this summer. An expedition penetrated the famed Nahanni Valley and is said to have discovered the long-lost McLeod Mine. Another expedition is seeking a big placer operation in the Upper Liard country. The Fraser River is being attacked by huge dredges that will handle as much dirt in a day as an old-time hand rocker could in twenty years. Shovel operations are proceeding on abandoned creeks. Bridge River, Cariboo, Vancouver Island, Queen Charlotte Island, 600 miles of coastline, the Atlin, Omineca, Kamloops, Stump Lake, Boundary, Greenwood and Sheep Creek areas— these are all districts where new properties are in operation and old properties revived.

Manitoba Becomes Gold Minded

Although three-quarters of the area of Manitoba consists of pre-Cambrian rocks and although the occasional gold discovery was made as long as fifty years ago, it has been only in the past six years that the prairie province has come actively into the picture as a gold producer. A Mounted Policeman found gold at Rice Lake at about the time of the Porcupine rush in Ontario and now the Rice Lake area is a flourishing gold camp, but years of activity intervened.

Development of the great base-metal deposits on the northern Saskatchewan-Manitoba boundary and establishment of the Sherritt Gordon Mine and the great Flin Flon Mine of the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company stimulated Manitoba interest in mining and there was a considerable staking rush in 1927 and 1928. Last year the finds at God’s Lake in the northeastern area and successful mining operations in the Central Manitoba field made the province “gold minded” as it had never been before. It is now playing a big part in the rush of ’34.

San Antonio, with a half million-dollar production record and the distinction of being the first dividend-paying gold mine in Manitoba, leads the activity in the Central area, where Central Manitoba Mines, now seven years old, was the province’s first producing gold mine. Up in Northern Manitoba, with various points along the line of the Hudson Bay Railway as jumping-off places, the prospecting and development activity is mindful of the old Porcupine days.

The new school of mining men showed how difficulties of transportation are met in the modern way when Bob Jowsey moved 1,000 tons of supplies, machinery and construction material into God’s Lake early this year. He did it by using a train of twenty tractors over 130 miles of new winter road, across lakes and portages from God’s Lake to the steel. It dramatized the rush of ’34 to the people of Manitoba.

Perhaps the Hudson Bay Railway hasn’t been a howling success as a wheat outlet, but it is getting plenty of business from the gold industry this year. The T. & N. O. Railway was built to serve an agricultural area in Northern Ontario, and now taps gold fields unknown when the steel was laid. Who knows hut what the H. B. line may find its ultimate destiny in gold instead of wheat?

Ontario Leads

Ontario, of course, leads the Dominion in gold production. At the end of 1933 it had produced gold to the value of nearly half a billion dollars in Canadian money, nearly all of it since 1911 and over $200,000,000 of it produced in the years of the depression. When you discuss the gold mining industry in Ontario you talk casually in terms of millions. The payroll in the Porcupine camp is $10,000.000 a year. Mines of Sudbury, Porcupine and Kirkland Lake will use timber products to the value of $2,500,000 in 1934, to cite only one example of the purchasing power of the industry. It is impossible to estimate the money value of the Northern Ontario mining field market to the rest of Canada in general and Southern Ontario in particular.

It is an odd fact but true that practically every major gold find in Canada has been made in country already prospected and overlooked. Just as the feverish activity in Bridge River has routed the ghosts of old-time prospectors who originally staked claims on ground subsequently worth fortunes, so were the great mines of the Porcupine and Kirkland Lake staked in fields scratched and abandoned by forgotten men. The stories of the Dome, Hollinger, Mclntyre, Lake Shore, Teck-Hughes, Wright-Hargreaves and other producers of the major Northern Ontario camps have been told and retold.

They are flourishing now, their lives extended because of the high gold price and because of good values at depth. Lake Shore and Hollinger are the two greatest producers of gold on the continent. Neither Timmins nor Kirkland Lake would have known the existence of a depression but for one inevitable factor— the presence of hundreds of unemployed from all parts of Canada in the bad years. The relief bill for Teck Township Kirkland Lakeran as high as $1,000 a week at one time.

But there is no unemployment among experienced miners and prospectors this year. Payrolls have increased in the old mines, new producers are coming in regularly, prospectors could pick and choose their grubstakes this spring and the development and assessment work in a score of fields all the way from the Manitoba to the Quebec border has enlisted a small army.
When a claim is staked and recorded, the Ontario mining law requires that thirty days work be done within three months, with an exempted period from November to April. The average block of nine claims would thus employ at least three men for the full three months. Most of the small syndicates and companies that have sprung up this year to develop prospects employ a crew of at least half a dozen men — and every issue of the daily paper announces a new promotion. It has been much easier in 1934 to raise money for development of unproved ground, as many promoters can testify.

Intensive Prospecting

Although the old camps are expanding downward and sideways, and prospering – as witness the streets of Kirkland Lake or Timmins on pay day — it is in the new fields that the “rush” impression is uppermost. In all these areas gold has been reported for years. A provincial geologist reported gold in the Long Lac district in 1915. The Lake of the Woods field was the first gold area in Ontario. An old Government report tipped prospectors off to the mineral possibilities of Patricia. Down in Timagami the other day, where a dozen new companies have been formed this year to develop prospects, claims were staked as long as fifty years ago. The Matachewan district was explored by prospectors in the old days of Gowganda.

The fact is that prospecting nowadays is intensive as against the extensive prospering of a past decade. Claims once casually scratched over are now getting a thorough investigation.

If you want to see the intense activity of a gold rush, 1934 model, go to Hardrock station, on the C.N.R., in the Long Lac country. The Beardmore-Jellicoe-Long Lac area contains seventy miles of gold-bearing formation, one of the longest belts in Ontario. More than 500 men are employed by more than two score companies in the Little Long Lac field, aside from private prospecting outfits. One mine is coming into production this autumn and other producers are in sight. Easy access to rail and water transportation as well as availability of lowcost Hydro power from the Nipigon system, have facilitated development of this new camp.

A reporter for a mining paper was in the district in June and heard one mining man remark that all that was needed to complete the camp was a bank, a church, a school and an airplane service. The next train to Hardrock brought a Royal Bank representative and a priest. The bank man established a branch. The priest went to Geraldton, a few miles west, and secured lots for a church and a school on the townsite being surveyed there. Later in the day came word that Canadian Airways were to establish regular connections with Little Long Lac.

The Patricia field is just getting into its stride and with improved transportation facilities should see noteworthy development. With the revival in the Lake of the Woods area, expansion of the Red Lake field and exploration of the whole Patricia area, a new camp in the making east of Port Arthur, gold mining is becoming an industry representative of all Northern Ontario, instead of the northeastern part of the province. It is not too much to say that the high gold price and reliable aviation service have, between them, advanced the progress of the North Country by decades.

New Gold Fields

Over in Quebec the tale is the same. The great Noranda Mine, richest copper-gold mine on earth, is the focal point of a mining country that has made amazing strides in the past two years. Twelve years ago Northwestern Quebec was absolute wilderness. Today the towns of Noranda and Rouyn are served by two railways, half a dozen new producing mines have entered the picture in the past two years, and other producers are in sight.

Development extends from Rouyn eastward to the Siscoe area and on into the Chibougamau country. Gold production for the province amounted to nearly $11,000,000 last year. Twelve years back Quebec didn’t produce an ounce of the yellow metal. This year, with production in full swing across a wide area, prospecting and development campaigns are being carried out on an unprecedented scale. The airplane is accepted as casually in Northern Quebec nowadays as the automobile in the settled South.

Quebec’s mining progress has been remarkably swift. Noranda bore the brunt of the scepticism and discouragement that marked the early struggle. When Noranda came through, Quebec was convinced. The obstacles of prejudice and hostility that held back pioneer mining development in Northern Ontario were not in evidence.

There was a ready-made school of mining men on hand to explore and develop the gold resources, there was capital, there was faith based on the successful records of Porcupine and Kirkland Lake — and there was the airplane to hustle men, supplies and machinery into the most remote areas and speed up progress. Now in the Rouyn and Siscoe areas new properties are being brought to the production stage. Quebec will have eleven gold producers by the end of this year as against half a dozen in 1933, and it should produce $15,000,000 worth of gold in 1934.

And it isn’t all confined to the Northern Quebec field, from the Ontario border to Chibougamau. Down on the Chaudière they are again working placer deposits discovered 100 years ago.

From coast to coast the search for gold proceeds. Gold mining has taken a new lease on life in Nova Scotia, with three producing mines and development operations going on in Brookfield, Stormont, Goldboro, Moose River, Guysboro, Cariboo and other districts.

All the prospects won’t be successful. All the hopes of honest promoters and mining men won’t be realized. After all, it takes nearly a million dollars to bring a big mine into production. Crooks and racketeers in the “mining business” are actually in the business of mining the credulous public. There will be many disappointments and financial headaches, inevitable when the boom angle of legitimate progress is overstressed. Flamboyant literature, ballyhoo and tub-thumping are unnecessary. The plain facts speak for themselves. The goldmining industry of Canada is enjoying its greatest single year of prosperity and expansion.

For the orginal source of this article: https://archive.macleans.ca/search?QueryTerm=gold+mining+trail+of+34&DocType=Article&sort=