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The Helen Mine

Introduction

Town site photo

Roadway to the Helen Mine

©Copyright: Yvan Charbonneau

The Helen Mine, started by Francis Clergue, was Ontario's first large scale iron mine. Named after Clergue's sister, Helen, the mine began operations in 1900. In 1907, Clergue laid out a small town site for the workers that included dwellings, bunkhouses, a school and store. In its first phase, the mine produced until 1918 when it was shut down due to low profits. Most of the early mine and town site were destroyed by fire in 1921.

In 1937, the mine was revived by Sir James Dunn of Algoma Ore. New methods made it possible to process the ore with a far greater profit margin. A small town site with 23 homes was added in 1938. Wartime demand led to a boom in the iron mining industry that lasted for years afterwards. In the early 1950s, many of the homes were relocated to nearby Wawa.

The Helen Mine remained in operation until 1996, when it was finally shut down for good. Over the next two years, most of the buildings and machinery were demolished, salvaged or sold. However those willing to make the arduous trek up the side of the mountain, will still be able to find a few small vestiges of the Helen Mine's glory days.