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Since the 1870's, geologists knew of large copper and gold deposits on the shores of Burchell Lake. The area's isolation however made the further exploration of these deposits unlikely.
Thanks in part to a rail link established to the area through a partnership with the Ontario & Rainy River Railway and New York and Canadian Copper Company Limited, mining operations were able to get under way. The Tip-Top mine opened in 1902 and a rough road was established to connect the mine to the nearby Kashabowie Station. A small spur led from the railway to the Tip-Top mine.
By 1903, the Tip-Top Mine had begun to extract copper from the deposits in Burchell Lake. They mined approximately $30,720 worth of copper deposits. The next two years would provide the Tip-Top mine with $7200 worth of copper. The mine stopped operating until the price of copper improved.
Tip-Top mine remained out of service until the start of the First World War and the mine opened once again in 1916. However it remained in operation only two years until inflating costs caused it to close again.
The Second World War renewed the need for iron and copper. In 1942 the Frobisher Exploration Company performed extensive exploration of the Tip-Top Mine. In 1943, at least 1,000,000 tons of ore was discovered however no further action was taken.
This remote area of Ontario was not accessible by road until 1954, when the Atikokan Highway (today's Hwy 11) finally passed through the area. Until that time, transporting the necessary mining equipment to Burchell Lake proved to be prohibitive due to the area's remoteness. Copper prices began to rise, and by the mid-1950s, it became economical to mine the copper despite the high mine startup costs.
The mine was purchased by Coldstream Copper Mines Limited which began construction of a three-compartment mine shaft and mill complex. Mining operations were under way by June of 1957.
Production was in the range of 1000 tons of ore per day. By February of 1958 they had removed over 4 million tons of copper from the mine. Coldstream underwent financial problems and stopped further minine until they resurfaced with new investments as North Coldstream Mines.
In 1956, North Coldstream Mines applied to the government to build a townsite for their workers and their families. The government gave the green light for the application. In 1959 construction began on a small town for the miners and their families. The site included a two-room school, 40 homes, Koski's General store, BP service station and bunkhouse.
The BP gas station provided gasoline for vehicles. To allow mail delivery, a post office opened in 1961. To provide recreation, a baseball field was built.
The townsite now completed, the mine resumed operations in 1960. Soon 331 people occupied the townsite. By 1962 that number had reached almost 400 residents. Mobile homes had to be brought in to accomodate those who required additional housing.
The company's hard work paid off. During their first year back in operations March 1, 1960, the company had removed close to 11,500,000 pounds of copper.
By August of 1967, the value of ore had fallen and the mine closed. By this time they had removed almost 102,000,000 pounds of minerals.
The residents of Burchell Lake packed up their belongings and left. Many of Burchell Lake's buildings were moved off when the mine closed. However, many more buildings were left behind. They remain undisturbed in the forest that now envelops them, slowly succumbing to age and the elements. The town site is so complete, that it will delight all ghost town enthusiasts. Allow half a day for visiting the site, as there is a lot to see here.
Beyond the fence lies one of the most complete ghost towns still standing in Ontario today. About 100 meters past the fence lies an abandoned British American Gasoline service station. The service station sits just to the right of what used to be the main entrance road to the mine and the town. Although the gasoline pumps are no longer there, the double-garage service bay still stands, along with two small adjacent offices. Sadly, vandals have taken their toll on the service station. The B-A Gasoline signs on the front of the building appear to have been stolen, and many of the windowpanes have been broken over the years.
There are still a number of B-A Gasoline oil cans and drums scattered around the building. A bit further up the road, a heavily overgrown trail leads off into the woods to the right. This used to be the road to the mine. The mine was completely rehabilitated in 1997-1998, and thus none of the mine buildings remain standing today. There is a small clearing in the forest where the mine buildings used to stand.
Further along the road, a wide trail leads off to the right. This trail used to be a town street, and it follows the overhead hydro lines to the old town site. To the left of the trail lies an overgrown grass field, with some strange pipes still exposed at the far end of the field. I'm presuming that this used to be a small park of some sort. About 200 meters along the trail, the first of Burchell Lake's homes appear. Along this trail there are no fewer than 14 overgrown homes, all of 1950s vintage.
A careful observer will also note old sewer covers and rusting fire hydrants still poking above the ground. The winding street eventually goes down a hill to a wide clearing where it appears some of the mine structures were actually dismantled during the 1997-1998 mine rehabilitation. The earth in that area has been disturbed recently, and it is littered with old mine relics.
To view the rest of Burchell Lake, turn around and walk back along the street through the old homes. After passing the last home, look for a very narrow overgrown trail, which leads off to the right. Follow this trail for about 200 meters, and look into the woods along the right to see the school. The school is very overgrown and hard to see from the trail.
The school is still standing, its roof entirely intact. Even the flagpole is still there. You can see most of the school's rooms through the exterior windows. The building itself is more or less empty, although there are a few old desks still located in one classroom. Around the left side of the building, overgrown bleachers and an old baseball cage lurk in the regenerating forest. Follow the school trail back to the street and turn right to return to the main entrance road, where the gasoline service station sits. Once you reach the road, turn right and follow the road for about 200 meters. Here the road splits in two. The right fork leads to the ruins of a building that I was not able to identify. It was quite large, and made mostly of wood. The building is mostly collapsed now, however. The left fork in the road winds on for about 600 meters to the former executive homes down by the lake.
These buildings appeared to still be in seasonal use as cottages when I was there. From there, you have to return back up the road to get back to the chain-link fence, and Hwy 802. On the way out, look along the right-hand side of the road to see the remnants of the old mine tailings.
Location : To reach Burchell Lake, follow Highway 11 from Shabaqua Corners west for 48 Km. Turn left onto Hwy 802 south, and follow this road for 6 Km. After 6 Km, there is a fork in the road. The less-traveled right fork is actually Hwy 802. The left fork is a heavily used logging road, which leads deep in to the forest. For Burchell Lake, follow the right fork (Hwy 802) and drive for another 5 Km. The town site lies behind a chain-link fence at the end of Hwy 802.