Of Eggs and Baskets
Mark Twain (a.k.a. Samuel Clements) made a lot of sense, for a writer. One of his characters, Pudd’nhead Wilson (in Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar, 1894) pithily advises that you should “Put all your eggs in the one basket and WATCH THAT BASKET.” Financial advisors have been using variations on that line ever since.
In this issue we cover a company that has been gathering golden eggs for its basket (some with silver yolks) since it came into being a decade ago. Through its acumen for deal-making, Kinross Gold Corp. has become a Major Miner in the amount of time that other companies might need to find and develop just one mine.
But all those eggs came from the baskets of a previous generation of companies, including the Dome, Canada’s longest continuously-operated mine, and part of the Kinross-Placer Dome joint venture in Timmins, Ont. Each mine was found by a prospector or geologist, evaluated by an engineering team, built by a development team and contractors. Looking further back, each deposit was made and brought near surface by a series of natural events… If they were handing out Academy Awards for mines, Kinross’ flamboyant CEO Bob Buchans would have a long list of people and events to thank for his company’s success.
On the subject of looking back, this summer marks the 100th anniversary of the town of Cobalt. The town near the Quebec/Ontario border northeast of Sudbury is one of central Canada’s earliest mining towns. High-grade silver was discovered in August 1903 on the shore of Long Lake, now known as Cobalt Lake. Cobalt was a tent city with 20,000 inhabitants and a thriving centre of opportunity when my grandfather, John Murray, visited there in 1906.
The cobalt-bearing silver veins in the Cobalt area eventually developed into 100 mines, with peak production of 31.5 million ounces of silver in 1911. By 1915 Cobalt was such a mining centre that it spawned an industry tabloid that is an important source of mining news to this day: The Northern Miner newspaper.
Mining continued to boom in Cobalt until the early 1930s. There was another boom from the 1940s to 1950s when the metal cobalt was coveted for its medical and industrial uses, especially by the United States.
The initial Cobalt rush brought together many of the adventurers who went on to open up other major camps including Kirkland Lake and Timmins, hence Cobalt’s reputation as the “cradle of Canadian mining”.
The last mines in the area are now closed. (Pudd’nhead may not have been so wise after all.) Tourism is the main enterprise, drawing heavily on the mining heritage.
Cobalt is putting on a big splash to celebrate its birthday, with the main events between July 31 and August 4. Of special interest to our readers are the Heritage Silver walking trail and the Cobalt Mining Museum. The Royal Canadian Mint has helped by issuing a commemorative silver dollar coin, the first time the Mint has struck a coin in 99.99% pure silver (rather than the usual 92.5% silver).
Details of Cobalt’s history as well as the celebrations this summer can be found at www.cobalt2003.ca, where you will be invited to “come for a day and discover a century”.