The 14 Mines of Gatineau Park: Unveiling the Hidden Treasures ⛏️

Chelsea Quebec Local logo
by The Local
August 15, 2023
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Welcome to Gatineau Park, a picturesque natural oasis located in the heart of Canada's National Capital Region. While the park is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, lush forests, and captivating wildlife, it also holds a secret within its depths: the 14 mysterious mines that once thrived here. Join us on an exciting journey as we explore the rich history, fascinating locations, and intriguing interesting facts about these hidden treasures. But before we begin, a word of caution: visiting abandoned mines can be extremely dangerous, and we strongly advise against venturing into them.

Uncovering the Past πŸ”οΈ

Gatineau Park, spanning over 36,000 hectares, has a remarkable history that dates back centuries. Nestled within its boundaries, the 14 mines tell tales of perseverance, industry, and the quest for precious resources. Let's delve into the origins and significance of these mines.

Mine Locations and Highlights πŸ—ΊοΈ

  1. The Adams Mine: Located near Lac Philippe, the Adams Mine was one of the largest copper mines in the park. It operated from the late 1800s until the early 1900s.
  2. The Tiger Mine: Situated in the southern region of Gatineau Park, the Tiger Mine was known for its zinc and lead deposits. It operated during the mid-1900s and left behind remnants of its former glory.
  3. The Eardley Mine: Found near Luskville Falls, the Eardley Mine was primarily an iron mine. It played a significant role in the region's industrial development in the early 1900s.

Unveiling Interesting Facts πŸ’‘

  • The mines in Gatineau Park produced various minerals, including copper, iron, lead, and zinc, contributing to the economic growth of the area.
  • The mining operations in the park often employed hundreds of workers, shaping the lives of local communities.
  • The mines had a significant impact on the environment, leading to deforestation and altering the park's landscapes.

The Hazards of Exploring Abandoned Mines ⚠️

While the allure of abandoned mines may be tempting to some, it's essential to understand the potential dangers associated with entering these sites. Abandoned mines can be unstable, with collapsing structures, hidden shafts, toxic gases, and unpredictable terrain. Venturing into these areas without proper training and equipment poses a severe risk to personal safety.

Preserve the Past, and Stay Safe! πŸš«β›‘οΈ

As we conclude our journey through the 14 Mines of Gatineau Park, we invite you to appreciate the history and significance of these remarkable sites from a safe distance. Remember, exploring abandoned mines can be extremely dangerous and should be avoided. Instead, enjoy the park's natural beauty, take in the stunning vistas, and engage in activities that will ensure a memorable and safe visit. Let's preserve the past and embrace the present in harmony with Gatineau Park.

Note: The 14 Mines of Gatineau Park are historical landmarks that contribute to the park's heritage. While the information shared in this article is based on historical records and available knowledge, it's always advisable to consult local authorities or park management for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

The Iron of Gatineau Park πŸŒ³πŸ”©

The discovery of iron in the Gatineau Hills is intricately linked to the region's early surveys and settlement. In 1801, during a survey for Philemon Wright, John MacTaggart noticed his compass needle behaving erratically while traversing lot 11 range 7 in what is now West Hull Township. This unusual phenomenon was caused by the high iron content in the rock, interfering with the Earth's magnetic field. However, it wasn't until 1826 that MacTaggart and Wright formed the Hull Mining Company to exploit this discovery.

Initially, mining activities were small-scale, with limited production. However, in 1854, Tiberius Wright sold the rights to the Hull Iron Mine, later known as the Forsyth Mine, to Forsyth and Company of Pennsylvania. The quality of the ore was exceptional, and a ton of it was even exhibited at the 1855 Paris International Exposition. Production soared, with around 15,000 tons (13,600 metric tons) of ore shipped between 1854 and 1860. The ore was transported to the village of Ironside and then loaded onto barges for the journey along the Rideau Canal to Kingston. From there, it was transshipped onto Lakers bound for Cleveland and the iron mills.

The fire that engulfed Ironside in 1870 destroyed the village and its infrastructure for processing the ore. Alanson Baldwin purchased the mine and nearby properties, and his Baldwin mine produced roughly 3,000 tons (2,721 metric tons) of ore during the 1870s. Legal complications and changing ownership plagued the mines in the area for the next 50 years, resulting in intermittent production that never matched the earlier economic impact.

The Moss Mine: Biggest in the World! πŸŒβ›οΈ

In the western corner of Gatineau Park lies an area that holds the remnants of one of the world's largest mines of its kind: the Wood Molybdenite Mine, commonly known as the Moss Mine. During its peak, the mining camp was a thriving town with over 40 buildings and more than 300 residents, making it one of the largest settlements west of Aylmer.

The discovery of molybdenite, a bluish-coloured metal, took place when the owner of the land noticed metal flakes chipped off an outcrop of rock while target shooting. The flakes contained 15 percent molybdenum disulphide (MoS2), a substance used to strengthen armaments when alloyed with steel. The farmer who owned the land negotiated with the men from the nearby Galetta mine, and a new company was formed. Henry Wood, an expert in molybdenum extraction, was brought in to develop the mine, which soon reached full production capacity. The mine processed 150 tons (136 metric tons) of ore daily, and over its lifetime, approximately 250,000 tons (226,795 metric tons) of ore were milled.

During the First World War, the demand and value of molybdenum were high, allowing the mine to quickly recoup its costs. However, with the onset of the worldwide depression after the war, the price of molybdenum plummeted, leading to the closure of the mine. Over the following years, the mine changed hands several times, reopening intermittently during the 1920s but eventually succumbing to the effects of the Great Depression. The Second World War witnessed a brief resurgence in production, but cheaper sources of molybdenum through open-pit mining in the United States led to the closure of the Moss Mine in Onslow during the war.

While the mine was never officially known as the "Moss Mine," the name might have originated from the crates of minerals being transported to the train station. Each crate had the chemical formula "MoS2" written on it, representing molybdenum disulphide. Even in the 1960s, some structures stood on the site, but most were dismantled and sold after the mine's closure. Today, the ruins serve as a poignant reminder of the men who worked tirelessly in the depths of the mine, contributing to the Allied war effort.

Moonshine and the Moss Mine πŸŒ•πŸΎ

The Second World War had wide-ranging effects on society, including the implementation of rationing measures. Ration books contained coupons for various goods, including alcohol. Some enterprising workers at the Moss Mine found creative ways to meet the demand for alcohol during this time.

Every mine required a chemist to test the ore, and during the war, some workers involved the chemist in a scheme to distill alcohol. They set up a secure room in the laboratory and began producing homemade alcohol. To avoid suspicion, they coloured the alcohol with tea and flavoured it with essences obtained through ration books. The alcohol was strictly for private consumption among the group, as selling it would have invited trouble with the police. However, word spread, and soon authorities known as "the Provincials" arrived in the area, inquiring about any bootleggers in the vicinity. The mine workers, cautious of revealing their secret operation, redirected the authorities to individuals who were more knowledgeable about local affairs.

A Tapestry of Mining History πŸžοΈβš’οΈ

The mines of Gatineau Park, including the iron mines and the Moss Mine, are woven into the tapestry of the region's rich mining history. These mines shaped the landscape, impacted local communities, and played significant roles during times of war and economic prosperity. However, it's crucial to remember that exploring abandoned mines is highly dangerous and not recommended. The decaying structures and unstable conditions pose serious risks to personal safety.

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