Dan Kachur has been researching and exploring for the last 35 years, a part of Algoma history that has almost been forgotten. But with a website that he maintains regularly, he hopes to help people remember the thing that drove Algoma for so long: mining.
His website is rich with photography and research of all the abandoned mines he has traveled to in the Algoma region.
His website does come with a disclaimer which everyone should note: “Please note that all photos on this site are for hobbyist viewing only. Should you decide to visit any of these locations, you are doing so at your own risk. For any reason that you would injure yourself or have a fatality at any one of these potentially hazardous sites, I am not and will not be held liable.”
For a website that you wouldn’t think would get a lot of traffic, he says it’s popular. So much so, that he had to get his web hosting company to increase the bandwidth for his site.
“There are people that are contacting me constantly from all over the place,” Kachur says.
So what began this journey of sorts?
His grandparents, from Blind River, were in the lumber industry in the 1910 era. When lumbering started tapered off in the 50s, mining started to boom.
His grandfather worked for McFadden Lumber until that point. He had trekked through most of what is now Elliot Lake, helping to harvest trees. Since he knew the area so well, and with the mine about to open, he was then hired on by Rio Algom to make Fred Albert’s Crooked Road, later called Highway 612 and is now called Highway 108, to lead to the mine.
Kachur’s father moved from the mines in Quebec to work in the mines in Elliot Lake for the boom of 1955 right up until the 90s.
So “mining is in our heritage,” Kachur says.
For Dan it was just the same. He went to high school in Elliot Lake and he says, “when you graduated high school you had a guaranteed job in the mines. When I finished high school I went right into the mines because they were paying big dollars.”
He was just 18 years old, working in Quirke 2.
“During my time underground, it was very exciting to work in the mines.”
So what started out as a job and a big piece of his family history, gave way to a hobby on the weekends and in his free time: exploring Algoma’s abandoned mining history.
Bi-Ore Mine in Cobre Lake was his first.
“It had tunnels you could walk in. You would walk in those adits in the summertime and there was still ice in them.” He said hunters and hikers used to use them to stash their beer and keep it cold because it was always frozen in those adits.
Soon, through word of mouth we would find there were other mines.
Cannon Mine was the next mine he would discover on Little White River Road.
There was even an old gas pump still there and the price of gas was 53 cents a gallon the last time it was used.
“The interesting thing about these two mines are that they were built on the side of mountains. Flooding would usually happen but it didn’t in both those mines.”
Many of the mines he would later visit were smaller mines run by just a handful of prospectors.
What shocks him is what is left behind and what it is doing to the environment. Mainly the ‘tailings.’
Tailings (a by-product of metallic ore processing) is a high-volume waste that can contain harmful quantities of toxic substances, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, chromium, nickel, and cyanide (if cyanide leaching is used). Although it is rarely the environmentally-preferable option, most mining companies dispose of tailings by mixing them with water (to form a slurry) and disposing of the slurry behind a tall dam in a large wet tailings impoundment. Because the ore is usually extracted as a slurry, the resulting waste contains large amounts of water, and generally forms ponds at the top of the tailings dams that can be a threat to wildlife. Cyanide tailings in precious metals mines are particularly dangerous.
What Kachur found was that the Bio-Ore mine, the Cannon mine, the Jardon mine, and the Tribag mine were mismanaged in terms of tailings, where the tailings are actually flowing into nearby creeks and water.
Sometimes Kachur goes alone and sometimes he brings a partner like his wife or Jack Bowes, also a former miner.
Safety is the biggest thing for Kachur though.
Two areas are the highest concern. One is air quality and ventilation. “There is no air being pumped into them. You need an air meter.” Ranwick Mine was where he had to take particular care.
The second thing people have to look for is the ‘loose’ as it is called. You tap the ‘back’ or ceiling with a scaling bar and if the sound comes back hollow then there is a danger there. Dan has personally never had problems in the mines because of his attention to safety.
“Most of the backs here are pretty solid except the Gould Mine and the Bi-Ore Mine.”
The mines in Algoma started back in 1800s.They have been predominantly copper mines with a bit of gold east of Rock Lake.
In the early 1900s smaller operations sprung up like Austin Mine listed on Kachur’s website.
To read one of Kachur’s many stories, visit here. It is an interview he did with a fellow named Carl Smith.