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June 25, 2004

Mining on the Manitous...a thing of the past

As mentioned in the 2 previous articles on the Manitou Islands SW of North Bay on Lake Nipissing, mining was a major activity on Newman Island in the 1950’s.  The mining activity created many jobs and had the potential to make the owners and the investors a lot of money. 

 Air photo of mine on Newman Island showing model mining operation (1953-60).  North Bay Museum photo.

Modern technology played an important part in the discovery and development of the project.  Geiger counters that picked up the presence of the uranium started the search and diamond drills cut cores that could be further tested.  Ground magnetic and aero-magnetic testing was done to decide where to drill the holes. 

The 5 Manitou Islands are a part of a larger Manitou Island Complex where the parts of the Islands around the islands expand the possibilities for mining.  If the Chaudiere Dams on the French River had not been built in 1904 the water would be 2 meters lower and the islands would all be larger with different shapes.  Newman Island and Little Manitou would be joined by an isthmus. As a mater of fact where mining did eventually occur there was a long term plan to use some of the excess rock to fill the shallow between these 2 islands and possibly extend mining to Little Manitou. 

The presence of uranium and other minerals was discovered by an American James Stohl in 1952.  Wealthy entrepreneur Martin Van Clieaf and J.J. Kenney obtained the rights to explore the complex and in early 1953 the Beaucage Mining Co. was founded.  They drilled 20 core holes through the ice, water and rock in the winter of 1952-53 and followed with 20 holes on Calder Island, 42 on the Great Manitou, 1 on Little Manitou and 9 on Newman Island. 

The largest ore deposit was to the east of Newman Island underwater.  It was about the size of the island.  Shares were sold to finance the drilling and when the potential looked good the stock went up in value.  A complete mining operation was developed on Newman Island including a 442 foot shaft and many horizontal passages into the area below water.  Millions of tons of ore were removed and a pilot treatment plant was established directly north on the shore of Lake Nipissing. 

Bunkhouse and cookery at the Beaucage Mine.  Nugget Photo.

Pointer Boat – one of the boats used in the operation.  Martin Van Clieaf who started the project is second from the right .  Nugget Photo.

The ownership changed several times.  The Consolidated Mining and Smelting Co. acquired Beaucage in 1956 and continued the exploration and development.  The company later became known as Nova Beaucage.  At one point it was called the Inspiration Mining Company. 

The Nugget regularly reported on the activity on the Manitous including a report on the drilling on Calder Island where several buildings were located for a period.  When you see Newman Island today even though the headframe and the 2 water tanks remain it is hard to believe the extent of the operation.  The photo of the island shows the extent of the impact. 

When the Manitous became a Provincial Nature Preserve in 1990 the Management Plan proposed the preservation of the headframe, a new dock and interpretation and signage as a part of the 20 year plan.  Little has been done and the headframe is slowly falling apart and won’t be repaired.  Visitation to the Manitous is allowed but not encouraged and they are slowly returning to their natural state.  Native people, environmentalists and nature lovers especially will be pleased to see the so called “curse” of man disappear. 

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