Maggie Wilson Author

Historical Non-Fiction in Northern Ontario

Cobalt Lake Mine Mill Site

A view to the north and the Town of Cobalt from the ruins of the mill on the Cobalt Lake Mine site.

Earlier, I wrote about a mine at the north end of Cobalt Lake. Today, I’d like to introduce you to the mine site at the south end. Unlike the Right of Way Mine site where several buildings still stand rusty but intact, most of the buildings at the Cobalt Lake Mine and mill are gone. Only the concrete foundations and some walls remain. The property has been rehabilitated by Agnico Eagle, the owner of most of the mine sites in Cobalt/Coleman.

Cobalt Lake Mine

A colourized slide of the Cobalt Lake Mine .

In 1903, prospectors discovered nuggets of silver in the gravel on this end of Cobalt Lake, but mining the lake bottom was reserved for the Crown. In 1906, however, the Province of Ontario auctioned off the mining rights. The winners formed the Cobalt Lake Mining Company and mined the veins under the lake. These veins subsequently produced close to 7 million troy ounces of silver. The most productive of these veins was known as the Cobalt Lake Fault and measured approximately 330 x 130 x 1.3 metres.

Cobalt Lake drained ca 1967

Ever since 1907, other mills around Cobalt Lake deposited tailings (finely ground particles of mine waste) into Cobalt Lake. When silver recovery methods improved, companies returned to Cobalt Lake and reprocessed the tailings to recover the silver earlier operations left behind. Agnico Eagle conducted the most recent such reprocessing in 1966. The company drained the south end of the lake and recovered approximately 200,000 troy ounces of silver. The tailings from this operation where deposited in the north end of the lake and now form the foundation for part of the Cobalt park.

The other night I was out taking photos of the ruins of the Cobalt Lake Mine mill site. As I snapped away, I noticed the building in the background and saw… a door! “Great!” I thought. “I can contribute to Norm’s Thursday Doors series at the same time as I take inventory of the signage on the Heritage Silver Trail sites. I love efficiency, don’t you?

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Thursday Doors is a weekly photo feature hosted by the Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.

Categories: Mining Heritage

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41 replies

  1. Looking at the photo from 1967, there is so much evidence of the environmental havoc caused by the mines. I doubt the people who lived there 50 years ago could have imagined what a pretty little town it would become.
    … damn, saying 50 years ago when talking about our childhood years makes me cringe.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Did they just mine and truck out the silver, or did they do any smelting in the area as well Maggie? The mining definitely leaves it’s mark on the land and environment, but getting all the good stuff from those piles of rock, and the methods they use to extract worry me more. Little side story for you– I live about 10 miles from what used to be a smelter site. It was huge, right on the bay, and was active for years and years. You can imagine all the waste poisons that settled on the land surrounding that smelter. That part of the city is now known as a very historic area, and very high-brow, but no matter how much they claim to have cleaned up all the toxins I would never be comfortable with what might be lurking in my garden dirt 😉


    • Hi Deb – in the first years, the silver was bagged and sent by train to existing southern smelters in Deloro and Welland. The first rounds of mining were relatively “easy” – ( I use that word very, very loosely.) The miners basically used pick axes and hammers to collect the large masses of silver that were on the surface. Initially, there were no smelters on site – up until the silver rush started in 1903, there was no train, no town, only bush and water.

      Once the surface ore was mined out, the focus went below ground. By this time, smelters were built and the entire mining process of digging the ore to pouring the silver bars was conducted on site.

      You may have seen the images of the High Grade Mill that I’ve posted before – there was a furnace on this site, too. Tailings ran down the slope that sits across the street from our house, and into a natural gully that ran into the lake. The mine owners re-vegetated the “slimes” or tailings pond just behind our house in the late 90’s, by way of remediation.

      As to comfort level with my garden dirt? I’m torn. My geologist hubby assures me that the asparagus that we found growing in our yard would be perfectly fine to eat. He says that the heavy metals (arsenic among them) are “tied up” in an inert mineral (the name alludes me at the moment) so we needn’t worry about ingesting the nasties. But hubby has been known to make some outlandish, incorrect assumptions, too. To be on the safe side, we’re building a raised garden bed and importing our topsoil.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Call me weird, but I love old ruins. There is something about visiting them and wondering what memories they hold.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fascinating photos. I like seeing the ruins, but regret that it had to happen. Interesting door story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ally – Yes, there is much to regret, both from the point of view of the environment and the way the workers were treated.

      The Cobalt Mine Camp was among the first to develop methods in hard-rock mining. Slash and hack and “ravage” are words that come to mind. The hill that sits just east of our house was washed of vegetation using hydraulic hoses. Completely laid bare, to expose the veins.

      It was a silver “rush” in more ways than one. Mine owners were in a rush to get the silver as quickly and as fully as possible. Miners worked 6 or 7 days a week. Forget health and safety. They worked so hard, using back-breaking manual methods, in extreme conditions. All this for the corporations, many held by foreign interests. Whose, “interests” were, as usual, profit, not the health and well-being of the employee or the health of the environment.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with Ally Bean. Truly fascinating. I like the samples on racks just at the end of the post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ian – thanks for your comment.

      The drill core on the racks is a mystery – I have doubts whether it is from the Cobalt Lake Mine. The mine company may be using the building to store drill core from another site. I’m fairly certain that this was not the building’s original purpose.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a great post, Maggie. History, photos and doors. You covered all the bases and you did a wonderful job! I would have never thought about mining the bottom of a lake. The world is fascinating, and I love learning more and more about it. Thanks.


  7. I have to agree with “fascinating”, Maggie. I love asparagus, but I think I’d err on the side of caution as well.



    • Hi Janet – thanks for your comments. Yes, I think in this case, the asparagus will remain un-harvested. It does beg the question though – how did it get here? We have apple trees on the property too – possibly/probably remnants of early homesteading?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The carnage wrought more than a hundred years ago from extraction of silver ore leaves a nasty scar on the landscape, doesn’t it?
    But, I have to give you credit for finding the silver lining (couldn’t hep the pun ;))… You wrapping this well-crafted post with several clever bows. Nicely done Maggie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nasty scars, indeed. Some gaping crevasses here are much worse than others, and short of an earthquake, will remain visible for centuries. Nature will reclaim and heal, eventually. She’s handy that way.

      As for the silver lining remarks: very clever. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Interesting history, but so sad about the long-term impacts. So much of what was done (and is still being done) to our environment transpired with very little thought to anything beyond monetary gain. I do love the rust and ruins (and doors), though!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Janis. I forgot that you liked rust! I took a picture of some mangled steel something or other, but decided against using it. Maybe next time!

      Mining is an activity that may never recover from the deserved bad reputation. I recall from my mining-school days that in the 1550’s, before “the enlightenment” people considered anything to do with going into the ground as evil. Extracting riches from the dirty soil? The devil, you say!


  10. Nicely detailed photography. I like the rusty close-ups of the door handle against the weathered wood. I can’t say the site looked terribly inviting. Kudos for you for finding something worthy of capture.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Isn’t it cool how those doors pop up just when we need them!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Not a door anymore is one of my favorite kinds. No admittance is an awesome shot! I love where you live. Am I saying that too much?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love where I live too. You can say as much as you like!

      On another “Thursday Doors” thread, a blogger suggested that they had no doors worthy of mention. I get that initial sentiment, given the grandeur of architecture that surrounds many of the doors. But to those bloggers I say, “Take a picture, anyway.”

      Liked by 2 people

      • Right? They can’t all be fancy doors. I hear people say the same thing. Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe and then I remember living in the middle of nowhere…and I think, yeah, maybe.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Great informative post Maggie. My husband and I spent several years exploring the Pacific Northwest’s old mining towns. Idaho has some incredible sites, and there was a remediation project at the old Sunbeam mine site that was interesting. The hydraulic spraying of hillsides left so many scars, and even still, small scale dredging of creeks and tributaries out that way wreaks havoc on the fish habitat. Mineral extraction is and always has been an exploitative industry in the worst way. It is fascinating history though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ilona – it is a fascinating history. “Exploitative” is an apt descriptor in both meanings. Literally, that is without added emotion, a mineral deposit is exploited to access necessary metals or gems. Add in the “profit” and “greed” factors, and then the environment and the workers are exploited without regard.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Some great, rugged, shots here

    Liked by 1 person

  15. It amazes me to see how creative our Thursday Doors community can be when it comes to crafting their posts, and this one is a shining example. I just loved this post!
    It’s got it all: doors, history, and some fascinating old photos.
    Well done Maggie 🙂

    Liked by 1 person


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