[I rediscovered this post in the draft basket, so I’ve finally published it. Enjoy.]
1 ̶ Wearing Two Hats
If this post sounds as if it’s not about Greenstone history, please be patient and continue reading.
On Monday evening, April 13, 2015, the Municipality of Greenstone held a public meeting at the central office to hear comments about proposed amendments to Geraldton’s Official Plan and Zoning By-laws. If you heard about it beforehand, you are one of a handful who did. It was not well publicized by the Council nor by Premier Gold Mines Limited, almost as if they were hoping very few people would show up.
Well, very few did.
I was one of the few. I attended wearing two hats ̶ that of a citizen and that of an historian.
There were actually two public meetings, one after the other. The first proposed amendment would re-zone a large swatch of land within the boundaries of Geraldton from Rural/Future Mining to Rural/Residential. The second would re-zone an enormous area from Rural (I think) to Mining (Industrial).
Re the first amendment: Premier Gold is proposing a residential subdivision on the southwestern shore of Barton Bay, Kenogamisis Lake. Premier Gold proposes 33 large lots between Old Arena Road and the shoreline, west of the residential area of Little Longlac Townsite. You can download the details here: http://1drv.ms/1JZOk5y
As a taxpayer, I sought reassurance that I would not be paying to develop the new subdivision. The Municipality is committing to running a water line to it, and to maintaining an access road. That, I was reassured, was the total financial commitment of Greenstone taxpayers.
Wearing my historian’s hat, I raised two concerns. First, just a few hundred metres from the proposed subdivision is the old Elmos mine. I will tell you more about this historic site soon. There is one gaping three-compartment vertical shaft on the Elmos property, 500 feet deep. There is not even a fence in any kind of reasonable shape to warn people away from this pit. Now, if that subdivision were actually developed, and if people were actually to choose to live there (and I have personal opinions about that), the western end of Barton Bay will see a lot of water-based recreational activity. Adults might be smart enough to avoid this area of hazards (and there is more than an open shaft which can cause injuries), but the site would be a beacon for children in kayaks or paddleboats, or racing around on snowmobiles.
Second, the whole western end of Barton Bay (and not just the old mine site) is littered with prospecting and mining artifacts. They date back to the 1930s, the era of the Little Long Lac mining camp that led to the creation of Geraldton. A very few artifacts will date back to around 1900, when prospectors were prowling the area in search of the holy grail of that era ̶ iron ore.
Premier Gold is proposing an archaeological assessment of the property it wishes to develop. The consultant recommends a Stage 2 assessment of the property which does not include the Elmos mine site. And, the consultant’s report suggests it will focus on pre-settlement evidence (i.e., evidence of the presence of Aboriginals). In response to my question, the consultant (on speaker phone, and not necessarily speaking for the company) said the archaeologist(s) would also look for mining artifacts.
I pointed out that a track trestle used to join the old Elmos mine to the south shore of Barton Bay. That timber trestle has since collapsed into the Bay, posing an additional water-based hazard.
Re the two maps accompanying this article, they are extracted from the consultant’s report. I have identified the location of the old Elmos mine with an X. You can see how close it is to the proposed subdivision. The consultant has identified “mining hazards” associated with the old Little Long Lac mine (near Hwy. 584, where the road crosses Barton Bay). The site of the old Elmos is not identified, and neither are the mining hazards associated with it, yet it is much, much closer to the subdivision than the old Little Long Lac. The consultant also refers to the underground workings of the Little Long Lac; there is no reference to the underground workings of the old Elmos that extend towards, and perhaps under, the subdivision. The report states that “no archaeological sites have been found within one kilometre of the study area” (p. 10), which suggests the Elmos mine has been overlooked.
The third image shows the open shaft as I photographed it in November 2011.
As for the second proposed zoning amendment, from Rural (I believe) to Mining, it would re-designate two residential areas, MacLeod Townsite and Hardrock Townsite, as well as other sites. Good luck finding online either the consultant’s report or the amendment itself. As an historian I asked about the Municipality’s plans for the historic headframe of the old MacLeod-Cockshutt mine (at the junction of Hwys. 11 & 584) and the nearby relatively new Discover Geraldton Interpretive Centre. Mayor Renald Beaulieu reassured me that the headframe would be relocated (new location still undetermined), and that there were plans (as yet unspecified) for the Interpretive Centre.
One citizen in attendance asked what would happen to his residential property at Hardrock Townsite if it were re-zoned as Mining and Premier Gold did not proceed with its plans to develop a mine. There were no other questions about that proposal. I personally found it strange that no one present represented Kenogamisis Golf Club, with its magnificent 18-hole course, which would be re-zoned as Mining. Perhaps the officers have received personal reassurances. Or perhaps they didn’t know about the public meeting.
If you haven’t heard about the old Elmos mine’s very existence, you are not alone. There are hundreds of old mines (not all of them producers) and prospects (economic mineral discoveries) in Greenstone region, and no historian has yet identified them all.
You might want to monitor the Facebook group Greenstone History as the history of the region unfolds.