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Workers home

An aerial view of the town site

Return to index of Kenora District

Located in: Kenora District
Location #342

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Location Owner: OAP
Creation Date: 1/1/2006
Last Updated: 1/1/2006

The Berens River Gold Mine is fascinating for a couple of reasons. The first being that Berens River has been left relatively untouched by vandals, thieves and urban explorers. Unless you are willing to charter a plane to the area, you probably won't be taking a Sunday drive to get here.

The second reason Berens River is fascinating is that unlike previous mine townsites, many of the original buildings have not been demolished.

It began around March of 1926 when the word spread that gold had been discovered in Red Lake. Anxious prospectors rushed in by the hundreds where claims were quickly staked out.

Soon the area would be home to over half a dozen mines including the McMarmac, Gold Eagle, Uchi Lake (1939-1943) and Howey Mines (1930-1941). The Red Lake population grew to over 1000 men and approximately one dozen women. Needless to say, the single women (usually nurses) did not remain single for very long.

Approximately 200 km north of Red Lake, Berens River, also saw gold mining activity. In 1936, H. Dewitt Smith, the founder of the Newmount Mining Company began gold mining operations at Berens River (Ghost Towns of Ontario, Ron Brown, 1997, pg 181).

As there were no roads leading to the mine, all equipment had to be flown in piece by piece. The problem with a road was that the closest land was in Manitoba. Manitoba did not want to build a road for a mine which would be producing gold for Ontario.

By 1937 the site had two bunkhouses, management homes and eating quarters. It grew to include a bowling alley, swimming pool, single room jail, workers homes, store and medical building. Aboriginals from nearby reserves would visit the mine for medical services.

By the mid-1930's, Gold was worth $35 per ounce and the area continued to grow. Many of the mines remained in operation until the 1940's when much of the gold resources were depleted. The Second World War saw man of the workers leave to fight in the war, however the mine remained in operation.

By 1948, Berens River fate was also sealed and the mine closed.
By this time the mine had extracted 560,607 tons of ore. The result was 157,341 ounces of gold with an estimated worth of $5,000,000 (Ontario Geological Survey, Open File Report 6110).

Berens River can be found on the south shore of South Trout Lake. An overgrown road leads to the site, 5 km away (Ghost Towns of Ontario, Ron Brown).

The Ministry of Northern Development reported that the mine site was rehabilitated in 2004. Jordan (a contributor to the site) reports that he had the pleasure of doing some prospecting on the old Berens River mine property. "All of the old buildings have been torn down and the shafts have been capped and all other hazards secured. While on the property with the help of several old geology plans of the claims , I searched for the remains of the old buildings and could find evidence of them, but just barely. Not to mention we had to cut our way down the old road which had over 250 tree's fallen on her in her old age."

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Status: Unknown
Category: Mine

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Pictures (C) and references courtesy of Ron Brown

Abandoned railway cars with what appears to be graffiti on them