Archive | Canadian Mining History

Graphite’s sterling history in eastern Ontario – by Jen Glanville (CIM Magazine – December 20, 2017)

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. Continue Reading →

[Viola MacMillan] IF YOU WANT TO BE POOR . . . (Fat Cat – February 11, 2018)

[An Excerpt from Flim Flam: Canada’s Greatest Frauds, Scams, and Con Artists, Bourrie, Mark. Dundurn.]

Viola’s campaign made Canada the prospecting centre of the world and set
the stage for the huge increase in Canadian mining in the 1950s, which in turn, turned Toronto from a financial backwater into a major investment market.

The Viola MacMillan mineral gallery at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa is one of those new – style museum displays that drive people bananas. It’s set up so that people don’t linger. The audio – video equipment is often broken, so many visitors don’t get to see snippets of the National Film Board movie about Viola’s life.

Photos are not labelled. Fat security guards whisper into walkie – talkies and try not to make eye contact with the public. There’s virtually no explanation about the minerals themselves. Some are displayed by colour: blue crystals, green crystals. For the serious mineralogist, the display is an exercise in frustration; for the casual tourist, it’s a display of pretty rocks.

The MacMillan Gallery takes up a tiny portion of the museum’s second floor; the rest of the wing is devoted to a fake Nova Scotia beach, a fake mine, and a fake cave that has been so worn by children’s play that pieces of foam rubber are exposed. Yet the MacMillan Gallery is worth seeing, especially at a time of day when few people are around. Continue Reading →

The Lost Town of Pine Point (Northwest Territories) – by Katie Weaver (Up Here Magazine – November 2, 2015)

A road runs through the bush in the NWT, and it tells a story of tragedy, hard truths and the circle of life

A poplar sapling has broken through the pavement in the middle of the street, reaching toward a violet twilit sky. The smell of the bush clashes with the feel of cement underfoot as I walk on the sidewalk past the tree. There are crosswalks but no traffic.

Roads but no buildings. The only thing that stands is a sign back where I turned left off Highway 6 to enter the old townsite. “Pine Point” is painted proudly upon it, with stuffed animals arranged around it on the ground and in trees. It’s a memorial. It ties my stomach in a knot, as if something terrible happened here.

Without that sign, the site would be a mystery. But with it, every memory, death, birth and anniversary held in this town still hangs in thin air. But this sadness and nostalgia was foretold from the town’s very beginnings. It was never permanent, after all. It only existed from 1964 until 1988. And now it’s gone. All I see is an eerie blend of forest and concrete. But then I look a little closer. Continue Reading →

The 1903 Cobalt Silver Boom and its Extraordinary Economic Impact on Toronto and Ontario – by Douglas Baldwin (December 2017)

Douglas Baldwin is a retired history professor from Acadia University, Nova Scotia. This piece has been adapted from his new book, Cobalt: Canada’s Forgotten Silver Boom Town.

To order the book, click here:

Speaking to the Empire Cub in Toronto in 1909, Rev. Canon Tucker told the story of a widely-travelled American who was asked where Toronto was. He thought for a moment, scratched his head and said, “Oh, yes, that is the place where you change cars for Cobalt.”

Although the value of the silver discovered in Cobalt far surpassed the riches uncovered during the Klondike rush only two decades earlier, few people today know of Cobalt’s history, or even of its existence.

Concentrated in an area less than thirteen square kilometres, about 400 kilometres north-east of Toronto near the Quebec border, Cobalt mines became the fourth-largest silver producer ever discovered.

When production peaked in 1911, Cobalt was providing roughly one-eighth of the world’s silver. During the First World War, the British government considered Canada’s silver supply so important to the war effort that it convinced Canadian Prime Minister Robert Borden to use his influence to prevent a planned strike in the Cobalt mining camp. Continue Reading →

How J.P. Bickell helped shape Toronto, from Famous Players to the Maple Leafs – by Sammy Hudes (Toronto Star – December 7, 2017)

John Paris Bickell’s life began with loss. But it would never hold him back. Born in Molesworth, Ont., and raised in Toronto, Bickell, most commonly known as J.P. or Jack, would grow up to run his own brokerage firm by 23, become a millionaire before 30, serve as an owner and director of the Toronto Maple Leafs — spearheading the construction of Maple Leaf Gardens — and contribute significantly to the war effort.

His influence touched the mining, banking and movie industries in Canada and his philanthropy profoundly impacted medical research and children’s health for years to come. Yet for Bickell, household name status never quite came, even in death.

“If anybody in Canada has owned gold, silver, flown in a plane, been in a sporting event, been in a hospital or benefited from medical research, been in a movie theatre, you have been touched by J.P. Bickell,” says Graham MacLachlan, who co-authored a book published in September titled J.P. Bickell: The Life, the Leafs and the Legacy. Continue Reading →

[Sudbury’s Creighton Mine] The Greatest Nickel Mine in the World (MACLEAN’S MAGAZINE – January 1, 1910)

Creighton Mine, Sudbury Ontario. The mine which started operation in 1901 and is still in production. It is the deepest mine in the Sudbury Basin and among the four deepest in the country. (Wiki Photo)

A description of what is claimed to be the greatest nickel mine in the world appears in East and West. The mine is located at Creighton, about twelve miles west of Sudbury. Creighton Mine is very widely famed, being, indeed, the greatest nickel ore deposit known in the world. It is claimed that about two-thirds of the whole world’s supply of nickel is mined there.

So that, when we consider that by far the greater part of nickel used at the present time is utilized in making armor-plating for the great battleships, we begin to understand how dependent the little population of Creighton is upon the aggressive naval policies of the powers of Europe, and the other ambitious nations of the present day.

Electrical power is used in mining, transmitted from the High Falls, about twenty miles west. The power house, with its motors, powerful apparatus, is an interesting spot for anyone who likes machinery. The warehouse and office building is of red brick and is spacious and well lighted. Continue Reading →

Mining has been a core catalyst to Canadian economy – by Peter Caulfield (Journal of Commerce – November 13, 2017)

Unlike such relatively recent economic activity as software development, mining has been an important contributor to the Canadian economy for hundreds of years. t has made some entrepreneurs and their investors very rich, and has created well-paying jobs for miners, as well as the people who build the mines that produce the pay-dirt.

Too few Canadians, however, know the history of mineral exploration and mining and their importance to the Canadian economy. Herewith a very brief and partial history.

According to the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame’s History of Mining in Canada, the 17th century French explorer Samuel de Champlain wrote of copper mineralization in what is now Quebec’s Gaspé peninsula. Continue Reading →

TURNING POINTS: 1958 Springhill mining disaster was a bump heard around the world – by Paul W. Bennett (Halifax Chronicle Herald – November 12, 2017)

On Thursday, Oct. 23, 1958, coal mine No. 2 in Springhill experienced a tremendous bump. At around 8:05 p.m. families in the wooden houses around town were huddled around their new TV sets watching I Love Lucy and laughing at the antics of the show’s star, Lucille Ball. Then, all of a sudden, it hit without warning, and for a 15-mile radius the ground shook and the mine caved in, trapping 174 miners far below the surface.

The only working mine left in Springhill, No. 2, was reputed to be the deepest coal mine in operation in North America. From the pit head to the bottom of the mine was a distance of 4,262 metres, or 2.7 miles, straight down. Having first opened in 1873, the mine was old and that meant that mining operations were carried on at great depth below ground.

Pressure had built up on the mine shafts in No. 2 as coal was removed; gas was being released underground and bumps or violent lurches were becoming increasingly common. Some 525 bumps had occurred before this one. Continue Reading →

Xstrata Zinc Brunswick Mine, Bathurst,New Brunswick-“End of an Era” documentary by Glen Ferguson (April 2013)

“End of an Era” Brunswick Mine. Shot and edited by Glen Ferguson.

A historical look at Northern New Brunswick’s, Brunswick Mine.
Once the world largest zinc mine, this long time economic staple our the region has recently closed.

Over 50 years of unique history that changed the provinces Northern communities for ever and Over 7500 employees, thousands of contractors, students etc. worked the mine over its life span.

B.C. miner Donald McLeod fulfilled every prospector’s dream – by Catherine McLeod-Seltzer (Globe and Mail – October 19, 2017)

Catherine McLeod-Seltzer is Don’s daughter.

Miner. Mentor. Husband. Father. Born Oct. 21, 1928, in Stewart, B.C.; died May 27, 2017, in Vancouver; of complications from a fall; aged 88.

Don McLeod’s story is the stuff of British Columbia mining legend: A tramp miner who, through gritty determination, unflagging optimism and a good helping of luck, fulfilled every prospector’s dream when he struck it big and brought three rich gold mines to production.

Don grew up in Stewart, B.C., a frontier mining community in the province’s farthest northwest corner. When Don’s mother, Catherine, arrived there from Scotland in 1926, she thought it was the end of the world. But for a young boy, it was paradise to grow up in a close-knit town in the middle of the wilderness; where else could you have a grizzly bear for a pet or play with blasting caps (even if he almost blew himself up)? Continue Reading →

Klondike Silver – The Silvery Slocan May Rise Again (Geology For Investors – October 13, 2017)

There is a thing about old mining camps. A certain resonance in the atmosphere. It comes from the hundreds or thousands that once toiled, in dark, dirty and dangerous conditions searching for fortune and fame.

Perhaps it’s the psychic energy of a million broken dreams or the electric shock when just 10 feet more breaks into a whole new vein or the whack of a hammer reveals a boulder of pure silver. Sandon, in the heart of what was known as the “Silvery Slocan” is one such place. Boulders of solid galena (lead sulfide) fell from the mountains, spawning the wildest city in BC, Canada and the beating heart of British Columbia’s last great mining rush.

So confident in their future that they boxed up the creek and put their main street on it, 100 years later it’s piles of rotting timber beside a very free running Carpenter creek. It’s easy to imagine that the mines are as dead as those long ago ghosts. Continue Reading →

Some Highlights of 150 years of Canadian Mining – by Stan Sudol (Canadian Business History Association Conference – September 12, 2017)

British Columbia Gold Rush – Wiki Photo

This speech was given at the Canadian Business History Association Conference at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto on September 12, 2017.

Good morning everyone.

For over 150 years the strategic mining sector has played a major role in the economic development of Canada as well as opening up many parts of the country’s isolated north for settlement. It also helped solidify our western and northern borders during the first few decades of Canada’s existence at a time of threatening American expansion.

British Columbia Gold Rush

In 1848, placer gold – which refers to the metal found in rivers and streams – was discovered in California. This was the first of a series of gold rushes throughout the world over the next 80 years.

Miners at the Mucho Oro (Much Gold) gold mine near Barkerville – Wiki Photo

Fortunately, when these placer gold deposits started to decline by 1858, a similar discovery was made hundreds of miles to the north at the mouth of the Fraser River, in a territory known as New Caledonia.

At that time, this region was controlled by the Hudson Bay Company and the colony of Vancouver Island was ruled by Governor James Douglas who was based in Victoria. He was fearful that an influx of about 30,000 miners, many from California, would cause the territory to be annexed by the Americans. Continue Reading →

Threatened B.C. mining heritage site gets a new lease on life – by Greg Klein (Resource Clips – October 10, 2017)

A structure vital to Vancouver Island mining history might not be doomed for destruction after all. The Morden mine headframe and tipple date to 1913 but remain the last significant signs of the Nanaimo region’s coal industry, where British Columbia’s first successful mining began in 1852.

Located on a provincial park in an NDP-voting region, the site had been neglected by B.C.’s previous Liberal government. But on October 6 the new NDP government announced a $25,000 conservation grant.

While encouraging to the volunteer Friends of Morden Mine Society, the money falls far short of the $2.7 million that a previous engineering study estimated necessary for the structure’s preservation. That amount included $500,000 for emergency repairs. Continue Reading →

Ontario Mining History: The Elliot Lake story – by Dit Holt (Northern Miner – January 8, 2001)

Global mining news

The evolution of Elliot Lake, Ont. — from a logging and fur-trapping centre in the early 1900s to the uranium capital of the world in the 1950s and 1960s, and then to its present status as one of most successful retirement communities in Canada — is unique. And few people know that history better than M.E. (Dit) Holt, a mining engineer who began his career by taking part in the staking rush that transformed a remote wilderness north of Lake Huron into a mining boom town.

In the next few months, Holt will bring that history back to life through a series of columns featuring the men (in those days, mining was a man’s game) who found, financed and developed a total of 11 mines in the district.

To set the stage, we’ll go back to 1948, when Aim Breton and Karl Gunterman discovered radioactive rock in Long Twp., east of Blind River. However, significant deposits of the radioactive element were not found, and Breton and Gunterman let their claims lapse. In 1952, prospector Franc Joubin (1911-1997), backed by financier Joseph Hirshhorn (1900-1981), restaked the lapsed claims and set out to determine exactly what was exciting his geiger counter. Continue Reading →

Excerpt from J.P. BICKELL: The Life, the Leafs, and the Legacy – by Jason Wilson, Kevin Shea and Graham MacLachlan

To order a copy of “J.P. BICKELL: The Life, the Leafs, and the Legacy”:

Jason Wilson is a bestselling Canadian author, a two-time Juno Awards Nominee, and an Adjunct Professor of History at the University of Guelph. He has performed and recorded with UB40, Ron Sexsmith, Pee Wee Ellis, and Dave Swarbrick. Jason lives in Stouffville, Ontario.

Kevin Shea is a renowned hockey historian and bestselling author of fourteen hockey books. He is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame, a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs Historical Committee, and a founding member of Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer. Kevin lives in Toronto.

Graham MacLachlan is a relative of J.P. Bickell who has an extensive business background in international trade that is equalled by his involvement in hockey in the IIHF, the WHL, Hockey Canada, Hockey Alberta, and Hockey Calgary. Graham lives in Calgary, Alberta.


He stayed out of the spotlight, but Leafs fans know J.P. Bickell cast a long shadow.

A self-made mining magnate and the man who kept the Maple Leafs in Toronto and financed Maple Leaf Gardens, J.P. Bickell lived an extraordinary and purposeful life. As one of the most important industrialists in Canadian history, Bickell left his mark on communities across the nation. He was a cornerstone of the Toronto Maple Leafs, which awards the J.P. Bickell Memorial Award to recognize outstanding service to the organization.

Bickell’s story is also tied up with some of the most famous Canadians of his day, including Mitchell Hepburn, Roy Thomson, and Conn Smythe. Through his charitable foundation, he has been a key benefactor of the Hospital for Sick Children, and his legacy continues to transform Toronto. Yet, though Bickell was so important both to Toronto and the Maple Leafs, the story of his incredible life is today largely obscure. This book sets the record straight, presenting the definitive story of his rise to prominence and his lasting legacy — on the ice and off. Continue Reading →