Archive | Canadian Mining History

The Lure of Gold in Alberta’s History: Part I – by Michael Donnelly (Alberta Historic Places – November 27, 2018)

Gold! It was dreams of golden wealth and the promise of adventure that drew thousands of young men west to California and British Columbia in the 1800s. Although never achieving the spectacular wealth in gold of its neighbors to the west, Alberta witnessed its own gold rush in the 1860s, and over the subsequent decades many people passed through the province on their way to other mining frenzies that swept across the northwest. Many prospectors settled in the province and became leading members of Alberta’s burgeoning communities.

The First Gold in Western Canada

The 1849 rush in California brought ‘Forty-Niners’ from the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and Midwest who traveled overland and by sea. Ocean travel also brought Peruvians and Chileans, Mexicans, Australians, Europeans, and Chinese. In the spring of 1858, the easier diggings long since worked out in California, news arrived in San Francisco of discoveries on the Thompson and Fraser Rivers – to the north in British territory.[ii]

By July, it was estimated that 30,000 “half-wild Californians” had passed through the sedate, trading outpost of Fort Victoria on their way to the mouth of the Fraser; 3,000 having arrived in one day.[iii] Continue Reading →

This Week in History: 1858 There’s gold in this collection of early B.C. ephemera – by John Mackie (Vancouver Sun – November 23, 2018)

Legendary collector put together 45 pages of letters, posters, maps and illustrations of B.C.’s gold rush period in the 1850s and 1860s.

In January 1862 somebody in London wrote a letter to James Cooke in the Kootenays. At the time, few people knew anything about B.C., a four-year-old colony in one of the most remote parts of the British Empire.

So they put all their geographical knowledge into the address, which is long and detailed: “Fort Shepherd, near the mouth of the Pend Orielle River, in Vicinity of Colville Mines on Columbia River, British Columbia, North America.” Cooke was the post manager at Fort Shepherd, a small Hudson’s Bay Company trading post just south of today’s Trail. You’ve probably never heard of it, because it closed in 1870.

It’s hard to say if Cooke received the letter, but by March 1862 it made it to Port Townsend, Wash., where it was postmarked. Eventually it found its way into the collection of Gerald Wellburn, a legendary collector of B.C. stamps and ephemera. Continue Reading →

After the fighting, a nation changed – by J.L. Granatstein (MACLEAN’S Magazine – November 2018)

J.L. Granatstein is a former Director and CEO of the Canadian War Museum and author of many books, including Canada’s Army: Waging War and Keeping the Peace.

From party politics to standard of living to national identity, the Great War transformed Canada

The Great War, lasting from August 1914 to November 1918, had a huge effect on Canada. In the hothouse atmosphere created by the conflict, attitudes changed faster, tensions festered more quickly and events forced governments and groups to take new positions at an unheard-of pace. The war changed everything.

First, there was the military aspect. In 1914, Canada had a tiny standing army, a two-ship navy and no air force. By the end of the war, 620,000 men and women had put on a uniform, an extraordinary effort from a population of just eight million.

The army had a corps of four divisions and 100,000 men fighting in France and Flanders and winning laurels, while the casualty toll over four years approached almost a quarter-million killed and wounded. Some 22,000 men served in the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force, and the navy patrolled Canadian waters with some effectiveness. Continue Reading →

Mining warfare in WWI: During the critical battles of World War One, skilled miners – many of them Canadian – made Allied victories possible – by Cecilia Keating (CIM Magazine – November 04, 2016)

In the First World War trenches cleaved Europe from the North Sea to Switzerland. While the battlefield above ground was static, a secret subterranean war raged underground.

The British Army began to form specialist army units of trained tunnellers in 1915, initially recruiting men from poor coal mining communities in Britain. Their job was to create a labyrinth of long underground tunnels that extended under enemy lines and could be packed with explosives, and to dig ‘camouflets’, smaller mines used to collapse enemy tunnels. They were also tasked with building extensive networks of tunnels behind Allied lines, allowing for undetected movement of men and supplies.

Faced with growing demand for skilled miners, the British government appealed to Canada to raise tunnelling units, or ‘companies’, in September 1915. The first was mobilised in Pembroke, Ontario and recruited men from mining centres in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Almost 300 men left Saint John on Jan. 1, 1916. The second, comprised of men from Alberta and British Columbia, left Halifax three weeks later. The third was formed of Canadian miners who had joined the armed forces and were already fighting in Europe. Continue Reading →

Excerpt from “Wealth Woman: Kate Carmack and the Klondike Race for Gold” – by Deb Vanasse (October 29, 2018)

Kate Carmack was recently inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame for her part in discovering the Klondike gold fields. She is the first Aboriginal woman inducted into the Hall of Fame. Deb Vanasse has written the definitive story of Carmack’s fascinating life. Click here to order a copy of “Wealth Woman: Kate Carmack and the Klondike Race for Gold”:

Deb Vanasse is an American writer of seventeen books, many of which are set in Alaska. She first became interested in the story of Kate Carmack when she hiked the “meanest miles” of the Chilkoot Trail, where as a young woman Kate packed for prospectors over the summit. After 36 years in Alaska, she now lives in Oregon, where she continues to write while doing freelance editing, coaching, and writing instruction. She is a co-founder of 49 Writers.

Gold I Bring – Excerpt from Chapter One

The Roanoke is loaded with gold. Bags, cans, boxes, and crates cram its lower deck, jammed with a whopping ten tons of the precious metal panned and sluiced by lucky devils in the northern wilderness. Only a year ago, few had heard of the patch of low mountains and dense northern spruce now known as the Klondike. But these days, like an incantation of magic, the very word Klondike invokes abundance, the vindication of the American dream and the triumph of the individual in its most measurable manifestation: wealth.1 Continue Reading →

[Bill James] Former Falconbridge CEO was ‘a miner’s miner’ – by Niall McGee (Globe and Mail – October 19, 2018)

In 1982, Mr. James joined Falconbridge Ltd. as CEO at a time when the great
nickel company was in deep trouble….Not surprisingly, the layoffs garnered
resentment from some quarters.

According to Sudbury native Stan Sudol, owner and editor of,
a joke making rounds at the time was,  “Bill James dies and goes to hell, but the
devil kicked him out, because he kept shutting down his furnaces.” But eventually it
was Mr. James who had the last laugh – by 1984, Falconbridge was back in the black.

Canadian mining company Falconbridge Inc. had a big problem in the early 1980s. Its operations in war-torn Zimbabwe were in chaos. Rebels opposing leader Robert Mugabe were firing at Falconbridge’s Blanket gold mine security force with rocket-propelled grenades. Workers there were also getting hungry, with food provisions running low due to blockades. Thirteen-thousand kilometres away in Toronto, Falconbridge’s chief executive didn’t mess around. Bill James flew 24 hours to Zimbabwe and went straight to the dictator’s office.

“Bill wasn’t a wallflower. He’d barge into anyone’s office,” said Bill McNamara, a longtime friend of Mr. James and a lawyer with Torys LLP. Mr. James’s demands, delivered in his signature loud, gravelly baritone, were simple: He wanted food for his employees and assault rifles for their protection.

“Mugabe’s looking like someone’s hit him on the head with a two-by-four,” Mr. McNamara said. “[Thinking,] ‘Who the hell is this guy?’ ” But here’s the thing. Mr. Mugabe knew that without that mine in operation, Zimbabwe would suffer economically. The next morning, five truckloads of maize showed up at the mine, along with a dozen AK-47s. Continue Reading →

Kate Carmack will be joining nation’s mining hall of fame (Whitehorse Star – October 11, 2018)

The Canadian Mining Hall of Fame (CMHF) will welcome five individuals who have made lasting contributions to Canada’s mining industry – including a Yukon legend.

Kate Carmack is included in the inductees. She will be joining the Klondike Discoverers, who were originally inducted as a group in 1999. The group included George Carmack, Robert Henderson, Skookum Jim Mason and Dawson Charlie.

Each have traditionally been credited with the discovery that led to the Klondike Gold Rush, which would essentially establish the Yukon. New information has been uncovered that Kate Carmack also played an integral role in the discovery. Continue Reading →

Odds ‘n’ Sods: My three ‘Eureka!’ moments as a Canadian explorer – by James Wade (Northern Miner – October 2, 2018)

The excitement of a mineral discovery is a “Eureka!” moment, and this is the story of my three Eureka moments. I’m 77 years old now, so some of the details may be misted by time, but the big picture is correct.

For the first six years of my life I lived in Copper Cliff in Ontario where my dad worked for Inco in the smelter. In 1946 we moved to Joeburke, Ont., which was a whistle stop along the CNR main line between Gogama and Foleyet.

The developing Joeburke Gold Mines gold mine was a mile or so into the bush from the rail line, and my family moved to the area to be part of the developing gold mining community. It didn’t work out that way, but that’s another story. Continue Reading →

Vale issues update on momentous year in Thompson mining history – by Ian Graham (Thompson Citizen – September 27, 2018)

Vale Manitoba Operations’ 2017-18 update entitled “A New Era” comes at a time when the mining company has ceased smelting and refining operations in Thompson after nearly 60 years of integrated nickel production.

The first Bessemer nickel matte was produced in the smelter on Sept. 10, 1960 and the first official production of nickel cathodes from the refinery occurred on March 25, 1961. The last anodes were poured in the smelter on July 8 of this year and the last nickel cathode was pulled on July 16. By that time, the new concentrate load-out facility was already complete, with the first shipment of concentrate having been loaded onto a truck bound for Sudbury June 24.

Over their lifetimes, the smelter and refinery produced nearly than 2.5 million tonnes of electro-nickel. “The decision in 2010 to decommission the smelter and refinery gave plenty of time for our people, the company and
the City of Thompson to prepare,” said a message from North Atlantic and Asia refineries director Ricus Grimbeek in the report. Continue Reading →

SASKATCHEWAN’S FIRST COLD WAR URANIUM MINE – by Dr. Laurie Schramm (Saskatchewan Research Council – September 18, 2018)

This blog post is based on the book, “The Nicholson Mine. Saskatchewan’s First Cold War Uranium Mine” co-written by Dr. Laurier Schramm and Patty Ogilvie-Evans.

In the early 1930s, prospectors discovered mineable deposits of Canadian uranium minerals in the Beaverlodge region near Lake Athabasca in northern Saskatchewan. Uranium wasn’t much more than a curiosity at that time, but it became instantly valuable when the 1939 discovery of nuclear fission and its massive energy-producing potential led to an international atomic energy race.

The worldwide search for uranium caused a resurgence in northern Canadian mineral exploration through the 1940s. In the early 1950s, many uranium mines were developed in northern Saskatchewan.

This era is rich in stories, involving a high-stakes treasure hunt in a remote, northern wilderness, and the secrecy, intrigue, and urgency of the Cold War, plus adventures and hardships of all kinds. Although there were many failures, a few remarkable successes were born out of a combination of hard work, good fortune, creativity, and dogged persistence. The results made Canada one of the world’s largest sources of uranium. Continue Reading →

Canadian mining industry says goodbye to ‘turnaround man’ Bill James – by Robin de Angelis (CBC News Sudbury – September 17, 2018)

The man credited with making mining company Falconbridge Ltd. a success in the 1980s has passed away. William “Bill” James died on September 4, at the age of 89.

James took the helm of Falconbridge at a time when the company was losing millions of dollars each week due to flagging metal prices. He cut jobs and corporate spending, eventually making the company an attractive target for a takeover for Noranda.

Ed Thompson, a board member with the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame, remembers working with James for almost 50 years. “He was a very forthright, honest man,” Thompson recalled. Continue Reading →

Last man out after 1958 Springhill mine disaster dead at 95 – by Anjuli Patil (CBC News Nova Scotia – September 9, 2018)

Herbert Pepperdine spent more than 8 days underground after deadly 1958 bump

The last man to emerge from the ground after the 1958 Springhill mining disaster has died at age 95. An obituary posted Sunday for Herbert Pepperdine stated the former coal miner died Friday in hospital in Springhill, N.S.

“He was just a treasure to the community. He started working in the mines when he was 14 years old and even after ’58, after he was trapped eight-and-a-half days, he works 10 more years in the last working mine that was in Springhill,” said Tony Somers, a tour guide at the Springhill Miners Museum.

The disaster, known as the bump (like an underground earthquake), occurred Oct. 23, 1958. There were 175 men in the mine at the time; 75 of them were killed. While Pepperdine would occasionally talk about the 1958 disaster, Somers said it wasn’t something he enjoyed. Continue Reading →

Editorial: Margaret “Peggy” Kent, Peter Munk shared debt regrets – by John Cumming (Northern Miner – August 30, 2018)

Listen to the three-part podcast series at:

At The Northern Miner, we like to think of ourselves as more than reporters of the latest news and commentaries about Canadian mining and mineral exploration.

As an institution dating back to 1915 and as co-founder of the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame, we also have a unique position in business media as chroniclers of the rich history of the Canadian mining industry and its colourful characters.

In that spirit, we are presenting on our Northern Miner Podcast in August a three-part interview series by senior staff writer Trish Saywell carried out on the sidelines of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada convention in Toronto in March 2018 with legendary mining executive Margaret “Peggy” Kent, who let us know “there are a few of us still left around the industry who have seen it all and done it all.” Continue Reading →

Silver Islet 150: Former mining village near Thunder Bay, Ont., celebrates milestone year – by Matt Prokopchuk (CBC News Thunder Bay – August 20, 2018)

Silver Islet, east of Thunder Bay, once home to hundreds of miners, now a seasonal cottage community

A small, now largely seasonal cottage community east of Thunder Bay, Ont., is celebrating a big milestone this year.

Residents and property owners in Silver Islet are celebrating 150 years since the precious metal was discovered in the area, which led to the construction of the now-long-abandoned mine in Lake Superior that gave rise to the settlement.

“We have a lot of history here,” said Halina Gooder, the former president of the Silver Islet Campers Association, who just ended her most recent term, adding that many original families still have property there. Continue Reading →

Yukon safe, possibly filled with treasure, unearthed in Gold Rush capital – by Tristin Hopper (National Post – August 15, 2018)

A crew in Dawson City, Yukon, was digging what is delicately termed a “lifting station” — essentially, a pumping facility designed to move the community’s human waste from one place to another.

Until, an excavator struck something with a clang. “Two metres deep, they hit something hard and metallic,” said Mark Dauphinee, the town’s public works superintendent.

Digging up strange things is relatively common for Dawson City work crews. The community owes its existence to buried gold, of course, but the region is also home to a rich trove of Ice Age fossils. A uniquely pungent aroma wafting over a work site is often all that’s needed for crews to realize that they stumbled upon the long-buried carcass of a prehistoric horse. Continue Reading →