Mining History in the Porcupine Camp
The Precambrian Shield, the oldest geological formation on the planet, underlies most of Northern Ontario. The shield was broken into many sections, or “provinces”. Timmins sits on what is known as the Superior Province.
The history of the Timmins-Porcupine area goes back beyond the early days of the Porcupine mining camps. Archaeological and historical studies done in the area indicate that the first people to settle in the area were the nomadic people of the Shield Archaic culture whose first record of existence dates back to 5,500 BC.
Others from Europe came to the area in the late 1600’s. They were explorers and traders who established outposts in the region to capitalize on the fur trade. It has even been postulated that Radisson and Des Grosseillers trapped in the area, and had an outpost on Nighthawk Lake. The Hudson’s Bay Company established several trading posts along major trading routes in the area. The Northwest Company also operated several posts.
Timmins was founded in 1912; the community was a “by-product” of the Porcupine Gold Rush. Situated 680 km north of Toronto, the camp attracted men and women eager to find their fortune and carve a name for themselves in “New Ontario”. Starting in 1907, the area became home to dozens of prospectors who explored the areas around Porcupine Lake and the Frederick House River.
It was not until the discovery of the Dome Mine in 1909, by Jack Wilson, a member of the Harry Preston crew, that the area became known as an important gold camp.
Discovered by Alexander Olifant (alias Sandy McIntyre), the McIntyre Mines completed the string of important gold discoveries in the Camp. Many other gold mines would open up in the area around the Porcupine Camp in the next 60 years; however, no other gold mines discovered to date have ever equaled the importance of the first mines in the Timmins area called the “Big Three”.
Most of the people who came to the Porcupine area settled around Porcupine Lake; Placer Dome Mine is situated one mile from the lake. Four miles down the road, around the McIntyre Mine, the hamlet of Schumacher (named after Frederick Schumacher, druggist and supplier of “miracle medicines” in a “dry” camp) grew. A mile from that site, the town of Timmins, which was in fact the company homes for employees of the Hollinger Mines, came to be. This entire area would form the core of the present City of Timmins, Canada’s largest city in size (3,185 km2).
The arrival of the rail system in 1911 accelerated the growth of the Camp; until then, the trek to the Porcupine was done by canoe and by foot from Haileybury. That same year, (two days after the first train arrived in the Porcupine), the entire Camp was destroyed in the fire of 1911. Because of the importance of the gold discoveries, very few people abandoned the camp and the area was rebuilt in two months.
The twenties and thirties were prosperous years; the Great Depression did not adversely affect the economy of the area. Jobs were available from any of the mines and lumbering facilities. Farming also offered opportunities for the residents of the area. A third important event in the history of the camp was the decline of the gold mines in the fifties; until then, the community had been sheltered from the Great Depression and its effects on the economy. The discovery of base metals in the area in the sixties resurrected a dying industry; today, the city continues to prosper because of numerous additional gold deposits and these important zinc, copper, nickel, and silver finds. Secondary industries such as lumbering, government & business services and most recently, tourism have also helped to maintain this growth.
Current Operating Mines in the Porcupine Mining Division
View Timmins 2014 Production Data on MNDM Website
Download Timmins Resident Geologist – 2014 Report of Activities – OFR 6304