Archive | Northern Ontario History

[Ontario Gold mining history] The Red Lake Marines – by Leslie Roberts (MACLEAN’S Magazine – November 15, 1937)

Freighting that ties up the air lanes with ice and water routes is a big job

BILL COOK, transportation executive at the Red Lake base, said, “If you’re all set, let’s get going.” The mechanic cast off from the dock. The pilot gunned the motor. The ship taxied out into clear water, nosed into the wind, raced over the choppy surface, stepped into the air.

Behind us the town of Red Lake faded toward the northern horizon a town of 900 people who live in virtually the same circumstances of creature comfort as may be found in Aurora or Orillia, excepting the absence of railroads or motor highways. Back in Red Lake, nattily uniformed waitresses were spreading white damask and spotless silver on the tables in the hotel dining room; guests were debating politics and the stock market in deep armchairs in the lobby.

Around the streets youngsters were wondering if this Infantry Paralelasis, or whatever it is, would mean longer holidays, the way it did in Toronto. Their mothers were plugging electric-iron cords into wall sockets, buying steaks down at the shops along the Main Street sidewalk, talking bridge, tennis, plans for the coming badminton season with their neighbors. Continue Reading →

Throwback Thursday: A tribute to the Superstack – by Callam Rodya (Sudbury Northern Life – January 26, 2017)

Earlier this week, mining giant Vale made headlines when it announced that, beginning in the year 2020, it will decommission and dismantle the Superstack and replace it with two smaller stacks.

The 381-metre smokestack, the second tallest in the world, has been an iconic symbol of Sudbury since the 1970s and, on our website, many readers expressed their sadness that the towering chimney may soon vanish from the landscape. Continue Reading →

The story of nickel is industrial romance writ by man in metal – by Charles Vincent (MACLEAN’S MAGAZINE – December 15, 1936)

THE CONSTRUCTION gang foreman looked down the cut where his crew was tackling the tough rock with heavy picks, getting ready to blast. The track layers were right on his heels, pushing the new Canadian Pacific Railway westward to bridge the continent. The foreman’s eye fell on one man.

“Hey, you !” he roared, “what’re ye standin’ there gapin’ at? Get busy with that pick.”

“Well, take a look at this slab of rock, boss; it’s kind of queer.” And so in 1883 nickel was uncovered at Sudbury.

It was a product that nobody wanted. When the first smelting yielded a metal which was curiously pale instead of copper red, and when analysis showed that this fault was due to the presence of nickel, men cursed it as a plague which they neither knew how to get rid of nor how to use in such large quantities. It was the copper content of the Sudbury ore on which they had set their hopes. Continue Reading →

[Gold mining tradition] F.W. Schumacher’s Christmas generosity crossing generations – by Sarah Moore (Timmins Daily Press – December 21, 2016)

TIMMINS – A holiday tradition more than a century old continued on Tuesday as elementary school children received Christmas gifts courtesy of the late Frederick W. Schumacher.

Nearly 200 students with Schumacher addresses were greeted by members of the Schumacher Volunteer Fire Department inside the McIntyre Ballroom that evening, eager to tear into a beautifully wrapped present that was just for them.

Schumacher, a business man and well-known philanthropist, was a Danish native who eventually settled in the United States. He was a pharmacist by trade who would eventually get into the gold mining industry and acquire a number of properties in the Porcupine Gold Camp. Continue Reading →

High-grading: Timmins’ worst-kept secret? – by Frank Giorno (Timmins Today – November 25, 2016)

Author Kevin Vincent launches his new book — a dramatic telling of the 1986 Aquarius Gold Robbery

Kevin Vincent, Timmins author and chronicler of the city’s second largest industry, gold high-grading, launched his second volume of stories dealing with the thefts of gold from the city’s gold mines, this volume dealing with the brazen Aquarius Gold mine theft of 1986.

The launch of Bootleg Gold Vol.2 was held at the Timmins Public Library Tembec room, last night, to a packed room of guests that included Timmins Mayor Steve Black, and Gregory Reynolds, former editor of the Timmins Daily Press and someone who also has many stories on the topic.

Vincent has been working for 30 years at collecting and telling the stories of more than 100 years of high-grading or gold thefts from Timmins gold mines since the very early days of the Porcupine gold rush and the founding of Timmins in 1912. Continue Reading →

Remember This? Bruce Mines was kind of a big deal (Soo Today – December 11, 2016)

Driving along Highway 17 East you pass through the town of Bruce Mines, but many people may not realize that it is a town with a long history.

The town’s roots can be traced back to the industry of copper mining. Samuel de Champlain recorded the existence of copper mines on his map of 1632 during the early exploration of this area. Etienne Brule is believed to have spent one winter in the area of Bruce Mines investigating the existence of the copper deposits.

Members of the First Nations tribes in the area had discovered the importance of copper as a valuable item to trade with the white men who had begun arriving in the New World. The actual site of Bruce Mines was established as a settlement in 1842 when the first settlers came from Cornwall, England. Continue Reading →

Barrick’s Munk Heads Top Ten Most Important Mining Men in Canadian History – by Stan Sudol

Melanie and Peter Munk

Melanie and Peter Munk

Four Americans Made the List!

A few months ago, my dear colleague Joe Martin, who is the Director of the Canadian Business & Financial History Initiative at Rotman and President Emeritus of Canada’s History Society, asked me a very simple question: who would be considered the most important individual in Canadian mining?

Considering Canada’s lengthy and exceptional expertise in the mineral sector, it was not an easy answer and I decided to research and create a top ten list of the most important mining men in Canadian history.

The lack of women on this list simply reflects the fact that for much of our history most women were not given the educational or social opportunities to excel in business, especially in a rough and male-dominated sector like mining. Times have changed, women are playing key roles in mining today and will definitely be included on this list in the future.

However, a few qualifiers need to be established. This is basically a list of mine builders not mine finders.  Building a company through takeovers and discoveries is one way but I am also focusing on individuals who have built corporate empires and/or who have developed isolated regions of the country with the necessary infrastructure for mines to flourish and create multi-generational jobs, shareholder wealth and great economic impact. Continue Reading →

[Cobalt Silver Boom] The hammer and the fox – by Charlie Angus and Brit Griffin (Northern Miner – January 27, 2003)

There’s a story about the discovery of silver in northern Ontario, and this is how it goes: When the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway (T&NO) line from North Bay to Haileybury and New Liskeard was being completed, it had to pass through a rugged section of the Canadian Shield around the area known as Long Lake. Fred LaRose was a blacksmith hired to work this section. One day in late August 1903, he was working at his forge and a fox suddenly appeared.

Startled, LaRose threw a hammer at the creature. The hammer missed and bounced off an outcropping rock. When LaRose went to retrieve the hammer, he realized that the rock was a vein of metal that turned out to be pure silver.

In all probability, LaRose didn’t throw a hammer and there wasn’t a fox, and although he did discover a massive vein of silver, at the time, he thought it was copper. Nor was LaRose the first to make this discovery. Two other railway workers, James McKinley and Ernest Darragh, had discovered silver just south of the same spot a month before. Continue Reading →

HISTORY: Timmins mines, industries supplied war effort – by Karen Bachmann (Timmins Daily Press – November 12, 2016)

TIMMINS – When the Americans officially joined the war effort after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Canadians had already been at war for a little almost three years.

Both the troops and the people they left behind at home were battle hardened and used to the drill, so to speak. Every corner of the then British Empire was affected by the conflict – and that means we here in Timmins were not any different.

The early days of 1942 saw some tragic news for the community. Sgt. Pilot B. O’Neill, the first airman from Timmins to receive his “wings” in the Royal Canadian Air Force (from this area, that is), was reported missing in action after being on a bombing flight “somewhere in Europe”. Continue Reading →

HISTORY: Letters offer colourful insights into Timmins history – by Karen Bachmann (Timmins Daily Press – October 22, 2016)

TIMMINS – A few years back, the museum was given selected files and what-not from the Hollinger archives. The seven banker boxes contained the minutes from the meetings of the Board of Directors of the Hollinger Mine dating back to 1916 – a real find for those interested in the history of what once was North America’s biggest gold mine.

The files also included a number of old maps and town layouts going back to 1912, the very beginnings of the future City of Timmins. While all of that stuff makes for great reading (and invaluable research opportunities), I hit upon a small file of correspondence that humanizes that big corporation and demonstrates the mine’s impact on the new community.

The first letter in the file (on “Hotel Goldfields” stationary, no less) was from the hotel manager, Mr. McLean, and dated May 20, 1912. What we learn from the handwritten (one good reason to keep teaching cursive in schools) letter is just how big a role Noah Timmins and the Hollinger Mine played in the new town. Continue Reading →

Prospecting for … cobalt – by Staff (Mining Journal – October 2, 2016)

Believers in an impending cobalt shortage, higher prices, and the need for supply sources that are disengaged from primary copper or nickel production – and “unethical supply chains” – don’t see many new cobalt mines on the horizon. Prospecting is certainly on the rise, but when place-names such as Cobalt (Ontario) and Mt Cobalt (Queensland) don’t help, you know the job ain’t easy!

Cobalt has been called Canada’s forgotten mining town, but the records show the focus of an unprecedented silver prospecting and mining boom in the early 1900s delivered a fortune that “far surpassed the Klondike in terms of profits, production, and long-term impact”, wrote one historian.

“The early history of hard rock mining in Ontario is essentially the story of the discovery of silver in Cobalt in 1903. It wasn’t long before the Cobalt mines became the third-largest producer of silver in the world and by the time the boom petered out in the 1920s, the camp had become the fourth-largest silver producer ever discovered,” he continued. Continue Reading →

BNN’s Andrew Bell interviews Scott Hand on Inco, 10 years later (Business Network News – September 29, 2016)

Scott Hand, chairman of RNC Minerals, was CEO of nickel giant Inco when the Canadian miner was taken over by Vale in 2006. Inco’s failure to merge with rival Falconbridge had already shattered dreams of creating a Canadian mining colossus. The former Inco chief recalls the lack of government support for that made-in-Canada solution, and contrasts the case to the blocking of a PotashCorp takeover in 2010.

We were joined on our Commodities show today by former Inco CEO Scott Hand, who looked back 10 years to 2006 when the nickel miner agreed to a takeover by Brazil’s Vale. That came just weeks after Falconbridge, Inco’s fellow Canadian nickel giant, was taken over by Xstrata.

Yes, Hand told us, many Canadians were worried to see control of the lavishly endowed Sudbury, Ontario mineral basin go into foreign hands. Continue Reading →

Losing Inco and Falconbridge: Ontario could have acted – BNN Andrew Bell Interviews Mining Analyst Ray Goldie (BNN News – September 23, 2016)

Ten years ago, Canadian mining giants Inco and Falconbridge went into foreign hands. Independent mining analyst Ray Goldie, author of the book Inco Comes to Labrador, says Ontario could have done more to keep the head offices in this country.

Inco’s Sudbury Nickel Mines Were Critical During World War Two – by Stan Sudol

Inco World War Two Poster

Inco World War Two Poster

Nickel Was the Most Strategic Metal

By anyone’s estimation, the highlight of Sudbury’s social calendar in 1939 was the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on June 5th, accompanied by Prime Minister Mackenzie King and a host of local dignitaries. This was the first time a reigning British monarch had ever visited Canada, let alone Sudbury, a testimony to the growing importance of the region’s vital nickel mines. The nickel operations in the Sudbury Basin were booming due to growing global tensions and increased spending on military budgets. Sudbury and the northeastern Ontario gold mining centres of Timmins and Kirkland Lake were among the few economic bright spots in a country devastated by the Great Depression.

In an April 15, 1938 article, Maclean’s Magazine journalist Leslie McFarlane described the three mining communities as, “Northern Ontario’s glittering triangle….No communities in all of Canada are busier, none more prosperous. The same golden light shines on each.”

During the royal visit, precedence was broken by allowing Queen Elizabeth the first female ever to go underground at the Frood Mine. Traditionally miners thought women would bring bad luck if they were permitted underground. There were probably many who thought the beginning of the Second World War on September 1, 1939 was the result of her subterranean visit. Continue Reading →

Dipping into the silver stream: Thanks to high grades and loose enforcement ore theft a booming industry in Cobalt – by Douglas Baldwin (CIM Magazine – September/October 2016)

This is an excerpt from Douglas Baldwin’s new book, “Cobalt: Canada’s Forgotten Silver Boom Town”. Click here to order book:!shop/vu6uk

During the first few years of the silver mining rush in Cobalt, Ontario, mine owners had a laid-back approach to loss prevention. With claim to so much high-grade ore, they freely gave samples of silver to visitors. Mine workers were also not searched at the end of the day and it was easy for the men to slip pieces of silver into their pockets.

The local newspaper, the Nugget, estimated that $1 million worth of high-grade silver had been stolen in the first five years of the Cobalt mining camp. Although several arrests were made at the time, it was almost impossible to obtain a conviction. A mine manager had to swear the stolen ore came from his mine, but since high-grade silver was consistently pure at each project it was impossible to identify what ore came from which mine.

The thieves had to be caught red-handed to be successfully prosecuted. Most “high-graders,” as they were called, were either acquitted or given light sentences. Continue Reading →