I am currently working on a project that has me researching Wawa's rich gold mining history. In 1897 Louise Towab and William Teddy likely had no idea that the gold laced quartz vein they uncovered during their picnic on Mackey Point, Wawa Lake would seal Wawa’s future as a resource based northern community. While the Klondike gold fever was still fresh in everyone’s blood, one thousand hopeful souls flocked to the tiny Michipicoten River Village and Hudsons’ Bay Company post. Visions of rich placer gold fired their imaginations and every creek bed, river and stream were staked and panned.
By September 1897 some 1,700 claims were staked. The area was proclaimed a mining division and the first Ontario Mining Recorder’s Office was set up at the abandoned Michipicoten HBCo. Post. WaWa City was surveyed and registered in 1899.
These “tenderfeet” gold seekers soon discovered that unfortunately there were no nuggets to be had and the most productive “gold mine” in the area was the local hotel and tavern, the Balmoral, which sat where the Lakeview Hotel presides today.
The rugged Wawa mountains did however reveal their worth to those more patient and practical prospectors who secured finances and resources to drill, explore and develop some of the more profitable veins hidden beneath the forest floor.
Mines of note during this first gold boom were the Grace, Norwalk, Jubilee and Kitchie Gami. In March 1903 newspapers reported the “8 gold bricks valued at $8,630 were received at the Imperial Bank from the Grace Mine, result of 4 weeks’ run.” At the current price of gold (February 2011 = $1420/oz) these bricks would have been worth over $592,000.
Investment dollars soon ran out and before long Wawa's first gold boom was overshadowed by the burgeoning iron mining operations at the Helen and Magpie Mines. However in a strange twist, while the rest of the world was struggling to survive the Depression, the Wawa area was experiencing their second gold boom.
A newspaper heading in the Sault Daily Star from January 6, 1932 highlights the energized atmosphere in the Wawa area at this time. “Michipicoten Snaps Fingers at Depression, Advances More in 1931 Than in All History.” The Parkhill was mining veins that were producing 1.9 oz/tonne at 50 to 100 tonnes per day. The price of gold per ounce in 1932 was $20.67 (this rate had not changed since 1879). The mine was therefore making approximately $2-4000/day. Last months price of gold was $1425/oz which would equal $2,707.50 for that same 1.9 oz of gold in 1931. Local gold mines today on average produce 850 tonnes of ore per day which assay at approximately .3 oz/tonne or $363,375.00 per day.
All this being said, I have to wonder why the Wawa area is not flush with gold mining companies exploring the many historical mining ventures of the past 100 years and taking advantage of the high price of gold? Granted the environmental standards and legislative procedures to open and close a mine are a necessary evil to this industry. But with the number of proven golden sites within a stones through of downtown Wawa, you would think that our little town would be in someone's sites?
And who says it has to be gold. With our constantly changing technology and industrial needs, you would think that there are any number of local minerals that would be of interest. Wawa's mines have excavated gold, silver, iron, copper, lead, galena, molybdenite, asbestos...the list goes on. And lets not forget diamonds!
I am an eternal optimist. Wawa will boom again...soon!