Ontario’s Gold Mining History

Gold has influenced Ontario’s economy for over a century. Gold has been responsible for the creation of many communities of this province such as Eldorado, Kirkland Lake, Redlake, etc.

Since the discovery of Redlake in 1926 it has now grew as the gold mining capital of Ontario. Having survived recessions, this community, due to the high volume and grade level has successfully become the richest and largest deposit of gold in Canada.

Gold has brought prosperity in Ontario, and will continue to do so into a far future.

Early picture of the town Swastika

Ontario may not the first place which pops into mind at the mention of gold mining. While Ontario is not a leader in gold production, it has a rich history of gold mining and prospecting. The first official prospect of gold was in 1866 by a man named Marcus Herbert Powell1. One year later the Richardson Mine was created and the small community of Eldorado was formed (located between Peterborough and Kingston). The mine soon proved unprofitable and was abandoned, but spurred the exploration of more gold deposits in the area. Soon a number of mines were developed including; Deloro, Gilmour, Cordova, Feigle, Bannockburn and Golden Fleece.

Deloro mine was developed in 1868, shortly after the Richardson mine and in the same general area. The town of Deloro, Ontario was constructed to supply the mine and shelter the workers. Mining of gold continued until 1903 when poor recoveries and falling prices caused the mill to close. Shortly after the mill and refinery were converted to produce stellite, arsenic, silver and cobalt. These minerals were not mined in Deloro, but instead were shipped from other mines in the area via the railway. This continued until 1961 when the plant was dismantled due to a fall in the market. Tonnes of arsenic were buried in the area to limit the exposure for local citizens. Current environmental science now tells us that buried arsenic can be extremely damaging to the local plants and animals, efforts continue to minimize the risk2.

Macassa #2 Headframe in Kirkland Lake

Gold prospecting was active in the early 1900’s for Northern Ontario in locations such as Swastika and Kirkland Lake. Swastika was one of the first gold mines active in the Temiskaming area, and caused an immediate rise in the population of the small railway community it was named after. Mining began in 1911 and continued until 1947, when the lack of ore grade material caused the entire property to shut down1. Swastika is still a thriving community but now relies on the railroad and tourism to support its citizens. Gold is no longer mined here, but only 8 kilometres to the east lies the Kirkland Lake gold fields.

Kirkland Lake began as a small gold mining town in 1912, but unlike Swastika has continued to prosper in that industry. By the 1930’s there were six major gold mines in Kirkland Lake employing a total of 5000 people1. The town has not grown much since then, and now has a population of 8000 people. Macassa Mine, seen below, lasted the longest of the major gold mines in Kirkland Lake. It produced over 3 million ounces of gold between its opening in 1933 and its shutdown in 1999. In 2001 Kirkland Lake Gold Inc. bought the shutdown properties of 5 old mines and began extensive exploration work. The gold resources found have brought new vitality into a town which may have faced a dwindling economy otherwise3. With Kirkland Lake no longer a major producer of gold in Ontario, the “torch” has been passed to other Northern communities such as Timmins and Red Lake.

Timmins began mining gold in the early 1900’s similar to the other mining communities mentioned above. Having a population of nearly 50,000 and gold mining opportunities that continue far into the future, Timmins may be the most successful gold mining community in Ontario. Mining is still the largest industry but other businesses such as lumber and tourism have diversified the town’s economy. One of the major gold producers, Goldcorp, owns and operated the Porcupine property which consists of Hoyle Pond and Dome mines. This property has produced more than 64 million ounces of gold since it began production in 19104. This property produced 3.8 million tonnes of ore in 2008, much higher than the past 5 years but with a higher operational cost as well. The grades of gold ore are not as good in Timmins as they are in the gold capital of Ontario; Red Lake.

Vein of gold in the drift wall at Red Lake Mine

Vein of gold in the drift wall at Red Lake Mine - “Redlake mine is the largest and richest gold mine in Canada, producing 629,200 ounces in 2008 at a cash cost of just $302/Oz.”

Red Lake is located near the border of Manitoba, 500 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay. Gold was discovered in Red Lake in 1926, which sparked an inflow of settlers and business to the area. The town quickly grew to a population of over 30005. Mining has continued as the main industry in Red Lake, growing to become the gold capital of Ontario (and Canada). The community has grown to a size of 5000 people, most involved in the mining industry or industries servicing the mines. Red Lake mine is the largest and richest gold mine in Canada, producing 629,200 ounces in 2008 at a cash cost of just $302/Oz 4. Mining is expected to continue and prosper in the region far into the future.

Gold mining has been responsible for the creation of many small and large Ontario communities alike. The gold rush of the early 1900’s brought prosperity to Ontario regions, especially in the North. Gold mining continues to generate revenue for some communities of Ontario, but the scale has diminished since the earlier days. Mining is a cyclic process and we may see a gold rush again in Ontario, but it is more likely that in the near future the focus will be on other metals or industries. Gold mining will remain an important part of Ontario’s history and a staple of many communities.

References:

Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Canada; Deloro Mine Archive – Trent University ;Kirkland Lake Town Website “http://www.town.kirklandlake.on.ca” ;Goldcorp – Corporate Website “http://www.goldcorp.com” ; Ontario Towns Travel Association “http://www.ontariotowns.net”



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