Dec '16/Jan '17

President's notes

Destroying our cathedrals

By Michael Winship

Michael WinshipIn June 1985 I was part of the team at Con mine in Yellowknife, which bottomed out the Robertson shaft at a depth of 6,240 feet (1,840 m). Con mine started up in 1938 and the shaft deepening allowed mining to continue until 2003. Ultimately the mine produced over five million ounces of gold and provided jobs over the course of four generations. The Robertson headframe, capped in orange steel, was the tallest structure in the Northwest Territories at 76 metres, and an important beacon for pilots and boaters around Great Slave Lake. On Oct. 31, 2016, the headframe was blasted to the ground despite efforts of many local Yellowknifers to preserve the landmark.

From coast to coast, mining helped build Canada into the great nation we are today. Around the world, Canadians are reputed to be some of the best miners out there. Yet, while other countries preserve their history through the protection of their castles, cathedrals and pyramids, we Canadians seem to be intent on destroying our mining heritage by tearing down our headframes.

What is the harm in leaving some of our mining cathedrals standing? Headframes lining the roads in Timmins? Golden Eagle in Red Lake? Thompson Lundmark in Yellowknife? When some of our great current mines like Creighton, Dome and Kidd finally end, after decades or even a century of contribution to Canadian society, will we have to rip down those mighty headframes too?

Thanks to the efforts of CIM and historians such as Michael Barnes, Hans Brasch and D.F. Parrot, Canadians have access to written and photographic documentation of our mines. These, however, cannot replace the power of actually seeing the unique architectural marvels of a headframe.

I challenge our mining companies, stakeholders and government regulators to work together to find ways to protect our mining history captured in the headframes. Does it have to be more complicated than capping off the shafts and putting a sturdy fence around the headframe? My colleagues in Sudbury and other jurisdictions will remember my vision of “New headframes on the horizon,” a call to build new mines. Now please join me in my appeal: “Protect our headframes!”

Michael Winship
CIM President

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