Archive | Canadian Mining History

We built this city with coal mining (Lethbridge Herald – June 26, 2018)

It is accurate to say that without coal, Lethbridge might not be here today. The Blackfoot and other First Nations knew about the coal. A Blackfoot name for the place that would become Lethbridge was sik-ooh-ko-toki or place of the black rocks.

The First Nations had little use for the coal as it could not be burned safely in a teepee, and other fuel sources were readily available. Nicholas Sheran heard about the coal of southern Alberta. Recognizing the need for such a purposeful resource, in 1874 Sheran developed the first commercial coal mine in Alberta.

The location of this mine was on the west bank of the Oldman River, just off the north side of Whoop-Up Drive. Sheran managed a mine there until his death (by drowning) in 1882. Continue Reading →

Weddings of the gold rush era – by Laurel Downing Bill ( – June 18, 2018)

June was a popular month for weddings long before the Klondike gold rush. People of medieval times often took their annual baths in May, which meant a bride would still smell fresh in June. To be safe, she carried a bouquet of flowers to hide any body odor. That’s where the custom of carrying a bouquet down the aisle comes from.

Many miners who came north in search of riches may have chosen brides at the beginning of summer for practical reasons. Once the ground thawed, and a miner found a plot that showed promise, he drove stakes into the ground to lay claim to mining rights. By 1897, only one claim per person was allowed in a district.

But a loophole in the mining laws allowed married couples the right to register a separate claim in the wife’s name, thus doubling the amount of land for prospecting. So taking a wife could mean untold riches from the ground. Continue Reading →

1995 PDAC Bill Dennis Prospector of the Year Award for the Voisey Bay Nickel Deposit – Albert E. Chislett and Chris L. Verbiski – by Stan Sudol

Chris Verbiski & Al Chislett (Wiki Source)

This excerpt is from the 2007 PDAC 75th anniversary publication.

Originally looking for diamonds in 1993, Albert Chislett and Chris Verbiski instead discovered one of the world’s major nickel sulphide deposits near Nain, Labrador. The Voisey’s Bay deposit was eventually bought and developed by Inco Limited. Most experts agree that the deposit will be a major source of nickel and regional prosperity for generations to come.

Chislett was born in Islington, Trinity Bay Nfld. in 1949. After studying business administration at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto and working in the accounting department at Swift Premium in Ontario for five years, he established a successful construction company in St. John’s Nfld., and operated it for fifteen years.

His interest in geology and mineral exploration began in the late 1980s, stemming in part from his love of the outdoors. In 1988 he started operating an independent mineral exploration company and began prospecting full time. He was soon one of the most active prospectors in the province and was the first to receive a provincial prospector’s assistant grant. Continue Reading →

Why Peter Munk is the Top Mining Man in Canadian History – by Stan Sudol (March 28, 2018)

Melanie and Peter Munk

Melanie and Peter Munk

With great sadness, Barrick Gold founder Peter Munk passed away today. Last Spring I wrote a lengthy essay on who should be included in a historic Top Ten List of Canadian Mining Men. Peter Munk made the number one spot. Here is why. – Stan Sudol

1) Peter Munk – Canada’s Godfather of Gold (Barrick Gold)

In November 2005, Peter Munk launched a takeover bid of historic Canadian gold miner Placer Dome agreeing to sell certain assets to Goldcorp. By the following spring, the takeover was complete and in less than 25 years, this upstart junior miner with two small gold operations – an Alaskan placer mine and a half interest in a small northern Ontario gold operation called Renabie – had created the largest gold mining empire in the world.

Barrick had no dual class share system like Teck to prevent a takeover – as did Goldcorp when it was launched in 1994 until 2004 – or a sympathetic Premier like Brad Wall in Saskatchewan who stopped the BHP Billiton buyout of Potash Corp. Ontario Premier McGuinty was absolutely silent when historic Ontario base-metal producers were bought by foreigners! It was a prey or predator scenario and Peter Munk came out on top.

For that reason alone, Munk deserves the top spot, as 2006 witnessed the foreign takeovers of legendary base-metal miners like Inco by Vale, Falconbridge/Noranda by Xstrata (subsequently taken over by Glencore) and Alcan swallowed by Rio Tinto in 2007. And let’s not forget the foreign takeovers of Canada’s three major steelmakers, Algoma, Dofasco and Stelco, a hollowing out of the Toronto Stock Exchange that we have yet to recover from!

Canada’s corporate elite – shell shocked at the frenzy of foreign takeovers in the middle of the last decade –could thank Munk – Hungarian born to a Jewish family – for saving at least one globally significant Canadian mining corporation that is still based in Toronto! Continue Reading →

Noah Timmins: The Grand Old Man of Canadian mining (Quebec Heritage News – November 2004)

(L to R) Noranda CEO James Murdoch and Hollinger Mines CEO Noah Timmins – 1932.

The Timmins family was among the many Montreal families who chose to holiday in Ste. Agathe in the early part of the 20th Century. Henry and Noah Timmins, two inseparable brothers who had married two sisters, purchased a part of the farm of Adolphe Marier in 1915, on what was then called Chemin du Roi, but is now Tour du Lac.

They were a wealthy mining family whose influence extended to mining regions all over the world, but they had not always been in mining. They had started their lives in the simple northern town of Mattawa, Ontario, in the early 1860s.

Henry and Noah Timmins had inherited a general store in Mattawa from their parents. The community at the confluence of the Mattawa and Ottawa rivers, was predominantly French-speaking and Catholic, and the Timmins family lived in both languages.

Their sister, Josephine, had gone to school at the convent of Ste. Anne in Lachine, where she befriended the daughters of Louis Paré, the lockkeeper of the Lachine Canal. By 1878, she had married his son, Dr. Louis Paré, and introduced his sisters to her brothers, leading to the binding of the families through three marriages.

Their mining careers began in September, 1903 when a blacksmith named Fred Larose dropped in to their general store on his way home to Hull. Continue Reading →

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 →