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Dome Mine & Dome Mine Extension

History

Town site photo

First building on the Dome property

Source: unknown

Back in 1909, Jack Wilson staked claims on a considerable amount of property in the Porcupine area. After Wilson's party used up all their licences, they began to stake claims illegally. Then they went to Haileybury for more licences, which turned out to be a good thing since any prospector could have taken them over, including the owners of the site of the future Dome Mine. That same year the Canadian Copper Company purchased the site with a down payment of $75,000.

The following year the company held over 240 acres of patented land, where a small, new mill produced 24 ounces of gold. A town site grew up around the mine. Most employees commuted from South Porcupine before the town site was laid.

The Temiskaming & Northern Ontario Railway (ONR) reached the site in 1911, followed by a great tragedy a week later. On July 11th, after the fanfare of the new rail link finally subsided, the Porcupine Fire raged through destroying Cochrane, Porcupine, South Porcupine and most small mining camps (including the Dome's), with a loss of 73 lives *. The mine was rebuilt within months and back in operation. They added a 40 ton stamp mill and were soon processing 400 tons of ore a day.

By 1915 all payments were accounted for and it was now time to expand ore reserves. The result was the purchase of the Dome Extension, the Foley-O'Brien, along with 3000 acres of land in Tisdale, Whitney, and Shaw Townships. Production levels were maintained until the end of the war when labour shortages became more acute. All underground development ceased in 1919 until work slowly resumed the following year. The Dome and Dome Extension properties continued to be extensively developed until 1929, when again fire raged through the wooden mill. It was rebuilt within a few months, and following cleanup efforts, the mine yielded an unexpected bonus of $534,848. in gold.

Prosperity continued during the 1930's and by 1935, 790 men were employed. Only one event in 1936 spoiled an otherwise fine decade. As production expanded, it came near the edge of a 160 acre property owned by one Fred Shumacher, an Ohio based speculator. The ore body naturally continued into Schumacher's property, but the ore couldn't be touched. Although this was a small piece of land, Dome had neglected to consolidate it into their empire.

Shumacher had purchased the property in 1909 for $8000 and then offered to sell his claims in 1911 for a modest but profitable $75,000. Dome refused to cut a deal. Not to be outdone, Schumacher simply doubled the price of the property and when Dome returned to inquire about the land, his price had also doubled to $150,000. As Dome kept underbidding, Shumacher's price kept doubling. By 1936 Dome was forced to purchase the property. After some shrewd negotiations, Shumacher ended up with $1.25 million and 20,000 Dome shares (valued at $600,000) for his tiny parcel of land. The property paid for itself after a mere 4 acres of exploitation. Since then the Dome Mine (and Extension) proved to be one of the greatest gold mining properties in Canada. The treasure troves found the adjoining properties assured its long term success for many years to come.

In its early days the mine spurred a town site directly north-east of the mine. It developed in an attractive and orderly fashion, while a secondary town site sprang up directly south of the mine and in a less organized way became known as Little Italy. The community was serviced by a post office (no records), a store, a small school, station, and health care centre with up-to-date conveniences. The town site was graced with the tall red shaft house and large mill. The Dome Extension town site was essentially created during the twenties and properly laid out in a single rectangular block. It contained respectable single and double dwelling homes. By 1961, 508 residents still called Dome mine property home.

Ironically what killed the town was not a mine closure, but a mine expansion. In the early 80's plans were drawn up for the massive super pit. The project would cost over $150 million and would necessitate a large area for a vast low grade open pit operation. Residents were ordered out. The Dome town site and the Dome Extension site were both torn down.

Today the large Super Pit has replaced the Dome site while the latter was bulldozed in the early 90's and is now used as a dump for tailings. After three generations the spirit of a community was indefinably blown out for good. But the name Dome will survive for years to come.

* It is attributed that perhaps 200 people may have perished in the Porcupine fire, since no official counts were made of the many transients who scoured the surrounding bush prospecting or developing distant claims.