Much of what was once a flourishing mining industry is now forgotten. The remains are buried under development or overgrown by forest. On this particular day my father and I headed up to Moira Lake to see if we could find some fluorite crystals – remnants left behind and of interest to the rockhound.
Fluorite is typically deposited in veins that have been subjected to the actions of very hot water from deep within the earth. Madoc is bound by two great plutons. They are granite batholiths that have welled up from far below – cooling under the surface some 1.2 billion years ago.
It is thought that those cooling stresses or possibly the endless seismic tremors from the area’s proximity to the ever-widening rift of the Ottawa Valley may have cleaved open the faults in which the fluorite had been deposited. Magnitude 2 earthquakes occur around Madoc on a yearly basis at depths between 5 and 18 kilometres. Bob Bredburg, a well known writer on all manner of local geological phenomena suspects that the Moira lake is situated above one such fault and he says that it extends onward for over seven miles in length. Almost all of the region’s fluorite is found in that fault or some other closely associated parallel crevice.
Of the old fluorite mining boom it is still possible to see the wooden trestle bridge as it crosses the lake on highway 62. Fluorite ore was moved out along that route, southwards to Hamilton and their booming steel industry.
To the historian, explorer, and rockhound the clinical directions offered in various guide-books are somewhat deceiving. These old mine sites are far from obvious. The roads that are talked of are all but non-existent. Locals are often unaware of what lies in the next field and as is the nature of the local vegetation, the thorn bushes humble those that had grown up around sleeping beauty’s castle. James and I were absolutely torn to shreds while searching through the scrub (see the blood on his arms). Landowners are also very protective of their land. It is essential that you obtain permission before crossing any ones property. As one local put it, “Neighbours don’t take kind to strangers, shoot em on sight”, he winked.
Because of the fractured nature of the rock and their proximity to Moira Lake many of the fluorite pits are inundated with water. There are unlikely to be any significant underground explorations in this area.
During one of our explorations, when thoroughly lost and confused we came across an old barn that was overgrown by Virginia creeper. It was mid way into collapsing into a termite-ridden heap of planks. Two great cast iron wheels sat in an open doorway and beyond lay a treasure trove of rusty mining equipment.
“By gum”(one of James’s favourite exclamations) He staggered out onto the rotting floorboards, “Looks like a four stage deep well pump.” I tried to coax him back to safer ground but he was oblivious. James used to sell pumps to the Western oil fields and also irrigation equipment in Africa. He has an undying fascination with such machinery. He explained that a four stage deep well pump is an old type of mining pump. “I was familiar with that sort of thing in Rhodesia you know, it would have been driven from the surface but now days you would have the motor down below.”
James is teetering on the brink of a hole that has been torn through the one inch thick barn boards. Ten feet beneath, protruding from the gloom of the basement I can see the upper edge of a huge coil of wire. It is several hundred pounds in weight. All around the machinery is stacked. It is a decaying warehouse of obsolete technology. By the old generators and insulators it would appear that the mines provided their own electricity. The lonely hydro poles, cracking and greying in the bush are the last markers that point the way to those once flourishing enterprises.