This is the first in a series of posts presenting information on the History of Mining in Manitoba Canada. As Gold is a favorite subject of mine I choose to blog about Manitoba Gold Mining first. Recently San Gold Corporation (SGR) has reopened and modernized what was once known as the San Antonio Mine at Rice Lake, now known as the Rice Lake Mine and a second new mine known as SG#1. SGR is actively exploring for new deposits within the Rice Lake Greenstone belt and have been successful in finding several additional gold deposits and prospects within close proximity to the rice lake mine and the companies modern milling facility. With two mines already producing and success in finding new deposits the future for gold mining in the Rice Lake area looks promising.
Some History of The San Antonio Mine
From Manitoba Historical Society
In May 1910 E. A. Pelletier, of the Royal Canadian Northwest Mounted Police, resigned from the force and turned to prospecting, north and east of Norway House. While en route south by boat on one occasion he met Charles A. Bramble, associated with the Great Northern Gold Mines Limited (incorporated 1908) which held claims near the Hole River Indian Reserve-staked by Arthur Quesnel, Charles A. Bramble, Louis Simard, Allan Meade and John Potvin. Bramble told Pelletier of the favourable geological formation in the area, which prompted him to leave the boat at the mouth of Wanipigow (Hole) River, to prospect east to Wanipigow Lake. Next he worked south to the mouth of Manigotogan (Bad Throat) River where he met Arthur Quesnel at his trading post, and was informed of the mineralized areas along the river. In a very short time Pelletier discovered, staked the Ojibway claim and proceeded to Winnipeg to record the claim and organize the Ojibway Syndicate which included T. L. Cartwright, OF. L. Crosby, A. C. Gray, John Kitchen, W. A. Munro, J. W. Sifton, W. L. Roblin, G. OF. C. Pousette, and A. Murray S. Ross.
Returning to the claim with some mineral samples he had obtained in Montreal, Pelletier indicated to various trappers in the area what regions appeared favourable for the occurrence of gold. Travelling east along the Manigotogan River, after freeze-up of 1910, with a trapper, Alex Spence, he met Duncan Twohearts, an Indian trapper, who had some rock samples in his possession.
One of these proved of interest as it contained arsenopyrite, but it did not belong to the area in which Twohearts was working. However the Indian was attracted by Pelletier's sample and said he would keep on the lookout for gold quartz similar to what had been shown to him.
Pelletier and Spence continued their journey to (Big) Rice Lake where the latter had a winter camp. There Pelletier was impressed with the favourable appearance of the rock formation and spent a month before returning to the Ojibway claim. In the meantime Twohearts had sent some samples to Arthur Quesnel. When Pelletier saw these he thought so well of one particular sample that arrangements were made to investigate its source.
With two dog teams, a party set out from the Manigotogan post and at Turtle Lake the attractive sample of quartz was shown to Twohearts who said through an interpreter, Johnny Woods, "From Big Rice Lake." Twohearts and his son joined the party to proceed to (Big) Rice Lake and stopping a mile west of Spence's camp on the north shore of the lake, he pointed to where the sample has been taken but nothing except float quartz could be found.
Pelletier was desirous of finding a rock outcrop so he called on the men to gather wood to make a fire. The dogs were unhitched and tied up to rest; the party removed their snowshoes which were used to shift the deep snow. Next wood was set afire to expose the bedrock. In the meantime the usual bush lunch was prepared. When the outcrop was laid bare and while strongly heated by the fire, Pelletier had the men throw water on the rock. Quartz cracked off in slabs and its unweathered surface was exposed. Sulphides were found and on closer scrutiny visible gold was seen. The staking out of the Gabrielle claim followed on March 6, 1911 the holder E. A. Pelletier.
Some prospecting equipment was moved from the Ojibway claim and Pelletier with an assistant, Alex Desautels, began preliminary work. On May 17, 1911, Desautel staked out the San Antonio claim and on the following day, May 18, Pelletier staked out the Rachel claim. These were the beginnings of what is now the property of San Antonio Gold Mines, Limited. Returning to Turtle Lake, Pelletier had Twohearts make a birch bark canoe which he used later to transport several hundred pounds of samples from Rice Lake to Hecla on Lake Winnipeg and thence to Selkirk by a fishing boat.
Some years later Pelletier realized that he required financial assistance so he journeyed to Montreal to offer the property to the Timmins brothers of the Hollinger mine. Alphonse Pare, mining engineer, was sent to examine the claims and reported favourably but by this time Pelletier was averse to disposing of all the claims in one venture. Negotiations were discontinued and later Gabrielle Gold Mines Limited was formed by Pelletier. Stock was offered for sale in Winnipeg at 30 cents a share and the first advertising appearing in the Free Press brought the following comment in a day when the public were not quite so ready to venture as they were later:
"The sale of this stock by Fryer and Company caused considerable comment and much ridicule in Winnipeg, but there were a few so-called unbalanced people who with stealth and abandon bought a few shares from 50 to 100. But those purchasers did not want their names used or their friends to know that they had come to such a low level of financial hopes. However, the conservative statements of this first gold mining advertisement created interest as well as smiles. To strangers in Winnipeg the statements appeared of marked importance."
A new chapter was written into the mining history of Manitoba but Pelletier's property was then many years away from being a producing mine. Following the discovery of gold at Rice Lake, many claims were staked out in the area. Then came several years of fitful attempts at development in the area during which no prospect made a mine. Results so unsatisfactory cast doubt on the presence of gold in paying quantity.
The next chapter in the history of mining in Manitoba is concerned with since the coming into production of the Central Manitoba mine in the fall of 1927, which time there has been a steady production of gold from that area even though Central Manitoba mine had ceased operations in 1937, after mining gold ore to the value of $4,118,311.
The San Antonio mine adds to that chapter. As early as 1919 J. D. Perrin, now president of San Antonio Gold Mines, Limited, hired what is believed to have been the first aeroplane used in mining work to get J. B. Tyrrell out of the Rice Lake area after he had examined the San Antonio property. It was pretty much of an open air machine. A snow storm came on forcing Perrin and Tyrrell to turn back and later Tyrrell got out of the area by dog team.
In the development of the San Antonio mine three names stand out - J. D. Perrin, D. J. Kennedy, now deceased, but its first general manager, and John A. Reid, consulting mining engineer of Toronto. The successful position of the company today is the outcome of faith in the venture, efficient direction of its development and accurate deductions from geological study. The mine began production in 1932, and milled ore at the rate of 150 tons a day. It paid its first dividend in 1934 and has continued to do so since that year.
There were times in the career of the San Antonio mine that were discouraging. Financing was not easy until 1930, but D. J. Kennedy was convinced, as was his president, J. D. Perrin, that the mine had merits. At one time when finances were low and there wasn't enough money in the treasury to buy steel rails on which to tram with cars, Kennedy turned to an antiquated device the wheelbarrow an almost unpardonable offense in a gold mine to move the broken rock in opening up a high-grade shoot in the No. 16 vein.
The Timmins Brothers of Hollinger fame were induced to invest some money in the San Antonio mine. That was the turning point and from that time even if the mine had only 61,000 tons of $12 to $14 rock in reserve, the San Antonio went on producing. As yet it was a one vein (No. 16) mine when a second turn came in the tide of success with the discovery of the No. 26 vein in 1933, and an outstanding development followed in that year. San Antonio was no longer a struggling prospect. The daily mill rate was raised to 275 tons. But No. 26 vein had its day. It sparked the life of the mine in placing large ore reserves in sight rapidly and supplied the key for the planning of future developments. Veins such as the 36, 38, 40, 42, 50 and 54 have been discovered successively at depth while No. 16 continued its existence to the 16th level (2400-foot). At the end of 1948 San Antonio was pursuing development to a depth of 3.450 feet. Its ore reserves at the end of 1948 were estimated at 720,000 tons or enough for more than four years of milling at its present mill capacity, 550 tons a day. To the end of 1948 San Antonio had produced $22,311,164 in gold from 2,054,537 tons of ore. Dividends amounting to $5,839,838 had been paid.
About the north shore of Rice Lake there has grown a community which is a credit to the mining company and its employees alike. It is one of these tidy communities in which the homes, the school and the playground reflect the good feeling that animates those who work in the San Antonio's mine and mill. Removed some 125 miles from city life it lacks nothing that is desired in wholesome, healthy community life.
South-eastern Manitoba may he able to claim that it was one of the first areas in the Province to record the discovery of gold but it cannot claim to be the first gold producer.
The next post will cover more of the recent history from 1948 to present. More information on the Rice Lake and San Gold mines can be found on the San Gold Corporation Website