Kanichee Mine: an abandoned mine rich in iron and gold and its uncertain future

Nikola Petrovski
Photo Credit Black Tusk CC BY 3.0

Temagami is a municipality the in the northeastern part of Ontario, Canada, once known as n’Daki Menan. This place was and is home to the Anishinaabe, one of the first peoples in North America. Having such early beginnings means that communities here have developed and adapted to their surroundings over centuries since ancient times.

Abandoned building with clear signs of vandalism. Author: Black Tusk CC BY 3.0

Abandoned building with clear signs of vandalism. Author: Black Tusk CC BY 3.0

The story of Kanichee Mine began in the early 20th century. The name of this mine, however, was not always Kanichee. At first, it was known as the Cedar Lake Nickle Prospect. The first geological survey at this site was done in 1895 by geological surveyor A. E. Barlow.

The flooded pit. Author: Black Tusk CC BY 3.0

The flooded pit. Author: Black Tusk CC BY 3.0

And so GSC (Geological Survey of Canada), together with Mr. Barlow, made a contract and conducted a survey that resulted in finding large deposits of iron. The first prospector staked his claim known as EB26 in 1910. Five years later, in 1915, another prospector staked another claim known as TR3187, which also made its first shipments out of this site in 1916.

Heavily destroyed structure. Author: Black Tusk CC BY 3.0

Heavily destroyed structure. Author: Black Tusk CC BY 3.0

As time went on, news of this rich site spread rapidly and in 1918, National Mines, Ltd. staked their claim on this land. Today, almost 20 years into the 21st century, this mine is abandoned, although not for the first time.

The interior of one abandoned building found at the mine site. Author: Black Tusk CC BY 3.0

The interior of one abandoned building found at the mine site. Author: Black Tusk CC BY 3.0

Its history tells us that it has been closed and reopened a couple of times over its existence. But despite all the pauses in production, this rare precious-metal mine managed to produce an impressive 2,100 tons of metal during its years of operation.

Geologically, Kanichee is an area of igneous intrusion, which happens when magma cools and crystallizes below the surface of the earth, forming different types of igneous rocks such as pluton or batholith. The location of this mine became known as the Ajax intrusion that, by definition, is a layered intrusion.

Inside some of the structures. Author: Black Tusk CC BY 3.0

Inside some of the structures. Author: Black Tusk CC BY 3.0

The mine itself is part of a volcanic belt, oval in shape and filled with igneous rocks rich with minerals such as felsic or mafic that together form a group known as Temagami Greenstone Belt (TGB). TGB is 2.7 billion years old and the core of the Canadian Shield and the North American Continent. Kanichee mine was lucky enough to be part of this volcanic belt and became one of the most distinguished mines, among which are also the abandoned Copperfields and Sherman Mines.

Inside some of the structures. Author: Black Tusk CC BY 3.0

Inside some of the structures. Author: Black Tusk CC BY 3.0

The work in these lands begins right after the initial exploration effort that happened before 1920. For this purpose, test trenches were dug, as well as two shafts. Then over the three years between 1933 and 1936, the company Cuniptau Mines Ltd. dug a 245 feet deep shaft and mounted a smelter. This industrial machine was used to extract the base metal from its ore by using a combination of chemical processing and heat that together decompose the ore and release the metal.

This machine can reach temperatures up to 1,250 °C. The miners from this early shafts extracted almost 49 tons of copper and 33 tons of nickel. The miners also found some quantity of gold, platinum, and silver.

By 1937, 3,318 tons of ore had been extracted from the area. Other minerals found in this mine included pyrrhotite, chalcopyrite, and pyrite.

Part of the mining equipment. Author: Black Tusk CC BY 3.0

Part of the mining equipment. Author: Black Tusk CC BY 3.0

Even though companies like the Ontario Nickel Corporation Limited and Trebor Mines Limited noticed the importance of this place, none took over the mine’s operations and so it was essentially closed from 1937 to 1973. Then it was turned over to the Kanichee Mining Company and Jack Koza Limited which took over the mine and operated there until 1976.

Some of the machinery. Author: Black Tusk CC BY 3.0

Some of the machinery. Author: Black Tusk CC BY 3.0

The mine finally closed down in 1976 under the name of Kanichee Mine. Ever since, it has remained abandoned and its future, as well as that of the rest of the mines in the Temagami Area, is uncertain and tentative. The last of the mines that operated on these lands was the Sherman Mine, an iron-filled mine that closed down in 1990.