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Canadian Mines

May 22 2015
Northern Ontario has a rich mining history that is slowly fading back into the wilderness. Although we've been exploring and documenting the mines of the north for the past few years, many of the workings themselves were flooded either for safety or due to turning the pumps off. Due to the depth and stability of many of these mines, it is not feasible to explore them with divers, and this is where OpenROV comes in!

May 22 2015


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Name: Dave Beach
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Preparation Stage

Hello everyone!

It's been a long, long, long winter for us here in Canada, but summer is finally here! I'd like to apologize for the paucity of updates, but now we're about a month out from our "expedition" and things are in full swing. Here's a rundown of what we're doing/what we've done to prep for this trip.

Trip Planning: As you can see in the image below, we've mapped out our route and the mines we're planning to try and hit. We'll be gone from the 28th of June to the 5th of July and we'll travel over 3,000 km (~1900 mi) round-trip. A lot of logistic consideration goes into a trip like this: trying to minimize gear weight to maximize fuel efficiency, determining where we need to fuel up (gas stations in these remote areas can be scarce), planning menus to pack food, etc. etc. Picking areas of Crown land for overnight camping (land designated by the monarchy for free and public use) is another important factor, as there will be no "campsite camping" for us!

Gear Prep: As previously mentioned, we've concentrated this year on smaller, lighter, more efficient camping gear. While it is vehicle-based camping and not backpacking, space and weight are given great consideration. Sleeping bag compression sacks, smaller sleeping bags, a tent, a camp table, lanterns and kitchen implements have all been purchased to replace the old, heavy, cumbersome gear we've used in years past. A large corner of our living room has become a staging area for all of this equipment. In addition to the camping gear, there's also mine exploring gear: helmets, head lamps, back-up lights, neoprene socks, spare batteries, pelican cases for electronics, etc. etc. While the trip is supposed to be for fun and exploration, safety is a primary concern, especially in the case of abandoned mines, and so packing the right equipment and properly prepping is an integral step.

Last, but not least, the ROV: After a bit of stagnation in progress, the ROV is about 80% complete! We're currently waiting on a few spare parts and supplies in order to finish up, but the hope is to have it done within the next 2 weeks. Before we put it down a flooded mine shaft, we'd like the chance to test its capabilities and get used to the way it maneuvers. Mines are tight spaces fraught with debris to get caught or tangled up on, so we don't want to risk losing it on the first go!

I think that just about covers it - that was a really long update! As the days wind down til departure, we'll be sure to keep everyone in the loop. We'll let you know when the ROV is complete, how our test runs went and if we make any modifications. Hope you're all getting out there and exploring! Best wishes from the Canadian Mines team.


Great news! Excited to follow along!

Thanks for the update! I love that you included a map, too. Do the pinpoints represent different mine sites you plan on visiting? Can't wait to see what you find. This seems like the perfect ROV use scenario!

@margaretsinsky In a perfect world we'd be able to hit all of them, but I'm not sure it's possible in the time that we have! We have a few "must-do" locations, like Tribag Mine and Consolidated Luanna O'Sullivan Lake Mine. The reality is that our intel on these locations isn't always up-to-date, so we always come up with a short list of alternatives. All the flags are the "short list" locations, in the event that some don't work out. :)

@margaretsinsky I forgot to add that if you look closely you can see little circular letter markers, which designate "important" locations (A & F are home, the rest are mines or points of interest that we have down as must-do places)

Got it! Wow, a quick google image search for "Tribag Mine" has piqued my interest even more. Will you need to go very far into the the mine shafts to deploy the ROV, or are they usually flooded right up to the entrance? Thanks so much for the response!

@margaretsinsky There are a lot of vertical shafts that are flooded right to the top in Ontario - it was common practice to flood and cap them once a mine was decommissioned. A lot of the older silver mines around Cobalt are just that - literal holes in the ground surrounded by building rubble.

Tribag is an interesting site because it's massive and has multiple horizontal entrances. Best we can tell, we'll have to find our way into a horizontal adit; there are a few photos we found that show a flooded shaft that drops down from there. We went there on last year's scouting trip and found what we assume used to be part of an adit or horizontal drift (a horizontal, level tunnel that follows a vein), but it appeared as though multiple levels had collapsed down on one another, so that entrance was... uh.. unusable, to say the least. We have 2-3 more possible adit locations at the site, so we'll take a look at those. :)

@alexaspiwak How interesting! I was curious whether the flooding happens naturally when pumps are turned off/mines are abandoned, or if it is actively done to prevent people from wandering in. Sounds like Tribag will be a really interesting case. Hopefully one of the adit locations will be explorable! I'm excited to follow along!

Hello everyone! It's been a while since we last updated and we are very pleased to announce that, thanks to generous funding, we have indeed received an ROV kit! We will be slowly building the machine over the winter, in anticipation of next summer.

Unlike our mine exploring friends in the UK and the Southwestern states, our exploration season effectively ends come October/November. Snow and ice make mine access difficult, and hibernating bears also pose a real danger. In addition, we try to avoid disturbing hibernating bats that take up shelter in mine adits during the winter, as many of them are struggling with White Nose Syndrome during the colder months.

Our work, however, is never done! We will spend the winter narrowing down our impressive list of possible locations, as well as designing and testing modifications to the ROV once assembly is complete. We have tentative dates set for our week-long exploring trip in early July 2015, and we will try our best to keep you all updated with the ROV's assembly and modification. Until then, we hope that you enjoy the holiday season with your loved ones and family!

Hello :)

How is the ROV progressing along? We hit a snag wit ours but hoping to get it working soon. We are very local to you; perhaps we could arrange an ROV meetup.

I was curious if you have decided on a Mine location to dive yet?

What a great opportunity to connect @charliemaker ! How are things going with your ROV @alexaspiwak ? let us know if we can help you get ready for your July trip!

Hey @charliemaker and @erikabergman, sorry for the delayed replies! I'm working on an update post and it should go up shortly. :)

So much to choose from! We've been working our way through the incredibly-helpful database of abandoned mine lands provided by Geology Ontario, and have over 5,280 possible locations.

Our current focus is on two areas of Ontario; the north shore of Lake Superior between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay, and the region surrounding Bancroft. The operations in these areas mined everything from gold, silver, and copper to uranium (don't forget the Geiger counter!) and rare earth elements.


Over 5,000 locations!! That is crazy! so much left to explore in this world.

And it's just the tip of the iceberg! I've assembled similar databases for abandoned mines throughout the US southwest and have well over 100,000 entries.