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 townsite for the workers that included dwellings, bunkhouses, a school and store. In its first phase, the mine produced until 1918 when low profits forced it to shut down. A fire in 1921 destroyed most of the early mine and townsite.
Sir James Dunn of Algoma Ore revived the mine in 1937. New methods made it possible to process the ore with a far greater profit margin. He added a small townsite with 23 homes in 1938. Wartime demand led to a boom in the iron mining industry that lasted for years afterwards. They relocated many of the homes to nearby Wawa in the early 1950s.
The Helen Mine remained in operation until 1996, when it shut down for good. Over the next two years, they demolished, salvaged or sold most of the buildings and machinery. 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. Learn more