Although it may not seem like it now, Ontario’s Highlands has a long and storied past as a significant source of mineral wealth. Many know only of the logging industry as an important driver of early European settlement and trade in the region. Some may have heard that the hardships of farming on the Canadian Shield that drove some to abandon their homesteads, led others to plant the seeds of a small-scale, but widespread backyard mining industry. Few, however, know the full extent to which today’s wilderness playground, environmental retreat, and cottage getaway was once the most important mining district in the Country. Hidden beneath a canopy of seeming untouched wilderness lie the remains of some of Canada’s most significant historical producers. Awaiting discovery at the end of a cottage road, an ATV trail, or in someone’s back forty, are the stories of the rise of our Nation’s great mineral resource sector, and how we came of age on the international stage.
Did you know…
- Rich ore samples, giant crystals, and beautiful gemstones from Ontario’s Highlands have been proudly displayed at World’s Fairs around the globe since 1851.
- In 1927, two thousand kilograms of beryllium ore was shipped from the Beryl Pit in Quadeville to Germany for the manufacture of armoured plating for tanks leading up to WWII.
- The first discovery of gold in the Canadian Shield (and first in Ontario) was made here in Eldorado in 1866 – thirty years before the Klondike.
- The Craigmont Corundum Mine near Combermere was once the world’s largest producer of this important industrial abrasive.
- Those fabulous terrazzo floors in your local train station, school, or museum were probably made with marble from Madoc – right here in Ontario’s Highlands. Planning a renovation? Shop local!
- Black Donald Mines – now an underwater ghost town near Calabogie, with only an historic plaque to mark its existence – was once Canada’s largest producer of graphite.
- Ores from the great mining districts of Cobalt and Sudbury were shipped to Deloro for processing because of special refining techniques that were developed here.
- Before its closing in 2010, the Canada Talc Mine in Madoc was one of only three mines in the world to have operated continuously for more than 100 years.
- Marble from the OMYA quarry in Tatlock might be in your driveway, your printer paper, or even the paint in your living room.
Join the Industrial Revolution:
|Go underground at the Silver Queen Mine in Perth – Experience life as a miner in a real turn-of-the century mica mine! Murphys Point Provincial Park is home to the Silver Queen Mica Mine (1903~1920). It’s one of only four public underground mine tours in the province, and with fully-restored mine-camp buildings, guided heritage interpretation, special events and more, it’s an experience like no other!|
|Drive the Miner’s Loop in Marmora – After a hard week in the mines, workers would be known to travel between neighbouring mine sites in search of a Friday night drink, and to catch up on the local gossip. Relive the heyday of mining in Central Hastings as you follow in their footsteps along the Miner’s Loop.|
|Take a Recreational Geology studio tour - On a 100 mile diet? Try 100 mile decor! Ontario’s Highlands isn’t what it was 100 years ago, and neither are the products of the mining industry. Sulfur, hydrofluoric acid, and arsenic have given way to locally-sourced raw materials for artisans and craftspeople.|
|Explore industry’s past and present in Tweed – The Ontario Geological Survey office for Southern Ontario is home to a great wealth of information about the mines of Ontario’s Highlands – both historic, and current. Do some research, or find some locally-sourced stone for your kitchen!|
|Experience Eldorado – Long before the Klondike, Timmins, or Red Lake, the Richardson Mine (in the aptly named Town of Eldorado) was the site of the first discovery of gold in the Canadian Shield. Join the owner of what is now a rustic country estate for a personal tour of the original mine site, browse local mineral samples in the gift shop, or try your hand at gold panning!|
|Learn the Algonquin Way in Golden Lake – With an extensive collection of First Nations’ artifacts and interpretive activities, you can peer a little deeper into the Highlands’ industrious past. You’ll find industry and trade dating back thousands of years in the carefully selected and gathered stone used for tools and ornamentation.|
The story of life in Ontario’s Highlands begins with the earth, and so it has always been. Whether you join a guided tour through a fully-restored mining camp, gain a new appreciation of traditional wisdom and craft, or break off on your own in search of long-forgotten ruins, you’ll leave with a brand new sense of what makes us who we are. Come to know Ontario’s Highlands and you’ll learn just how much more there is to explore through Recreational Geology.
Come to know the story of our Earth
|Dig for buried treasure in Canada’s Mineral Capital.|
|Immerse yourself in the historic waters of the Ottawa Valley.|
|Experience the Mica Festival and live geoheritage in Lanark.|
|Or come to know Ontario’s Highlands’ undiscovered country.|