Digital History - Histoire Numérique

Mining on the Landscape

Mining changes the landscape, not only in environmental ways, but also in the ways that the community uses the land. Mining visibly impacts the landscape, especially with practices like open pit mining or the clearing of massive amounts of forests. The ways that communities are impacted by the changing landscape is sometimes less visible in comparison, especially in comparison to the power of industries like mining.

Timmins has had many visible instances of mining affecting the landscape, especially around tailings ponds, which is where mines dump mining byproducts. In one of the most prominent mining camps, the Porcupine Camp of the Hollinger Mine, it sat beside Miller Lake. This lake went from a large sandy lake to a much smaller polluted mess, contaminated with the cyanide used to leech gold out of ore and general waste water. This area became known as “The Slimes” to locals, and even after efforts to cover it up with earth and make the area usable as a sports track, it still kept the negative connotations with names like “Cyanide Flats” or “The Cyanide.”(1)


Looking at another specific example of the community’s direct action on the landscape where mining had affected it is with Gillies Lake. This lake was used in the 1920s and 1930s by mining companies as a convenient natural basin to dump their tailings, mining byproducts. Gillies Lake, now only about 22 hectares in area, used to be a 100-hectare spring-fed lake stretching to the northeast where it connected to the Porcupine River. This shrinkage was noticeable in the 1940s when three quarters of the lake had disappeared with the prevalence of various mining companies surrounding it, including a smaller mining operation named after it, the Gillies Lake Mine.

Gillies Lake might have been used by the mines, but it was also a space for the community. In the 1920s and 1930s, Gillies Lake was a popular lake and campground. The lake was not apart of the town of Timmins at this point, but being so close, though a disorganized township and squatter area it was somewhere that people could go swimming. In 1932, it was even proposed by the community that the town should buy it to make a public beach, which they did.(2) Since this time, there has been a lake rejuvenation project in 1986 to make Gillies Lake a more recreational area with a promenade and a 2.5km trail. The mining history of the lake has faded to the background, only remembered through interpretive storyboards surrounding the lake detailing the area’s natural history or through stories given through word of mouth about the effects of the lake’s long-term contamination.(3) 

Mining on the Landscape