Cobalt, Ontario

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Cobalt, Ontario
Cobalt ON 1.jpg
Silver City
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Cobalt, Ontario
Coordinates: 47°24′N79°41′W / 47.400°N 79.683°W / 47.400; -79.683 Coordinates: 47°24′N79°41′W / 47.400°N 79.683°W / 47.400; -79.683
Country Canada
Province Ontario
District Timiskaming
  MayorGeorge Othmer
  Governing BodyCobalt Town Council
   MPs Anthony Rota  (LIB)
   MPPs John Vanthof  (ONDP)
  Land1.44 km2 (0.56 sq mi)
 (2016) [1]
  Density776.0/km2 (2,010/sq mi)
Time zone UTC-5 (EST)
  Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
Postal code
P0J 1C0
Area code(s) 705, 249

Cobalt is a town in Timiskaming District, Ontario, Canada. It had a population of 1,118 at the 2016 Census.


In the early 1900s, the area was heavily mined for silver; the silver ore also contained cobalt. By 1910, the community was the fourth highest producer of silver in the world. [2] Mining declined significantly by the 1930s, together with the local population. In late 2017 one publication referred to Cobalt as a ghost town, but the high demand for cobalt, used in making batteries for mobile devices and electric vehicles, is leading to great interest in the area among mining companies. [3]


Lang Street in Cobalt, 1911 Cobalt, Ontario (1911).jpg
Lang Street in Cobalt, 1911
Silver mines in Cobalt, around 1918 Mine argent Cobalt Ontario 1918.jpg
Silver mines in Cobalt, around 1918

W.E. Logan discovered cobalt in 1884 at the future site of the Agaunico Mine, one mile south of Haileybury. [4]

Silver was discovered in the area during the construction of the Temiskaming & Northern Ontario Railway (T&NO) from North Bay to the communities of Haileybury and New Liskeard, north of Cobalt. The discovery was made in 1903, [5] near Long Lake (later called Cobalt Lake), by Ernest Darragh and James McKinley, who were supplying railway ties. Later that year, Tom Hébert found a rich vein on the east side of Cobalt Lake and began a business with hotel owner Arthur Ferland. [6] The silver from both sites was consistently high-grade. [7]


The subsequent Cobalt silver rush led to the development of the McKinley Darragh, La Rose, Nipissing, and O'Brien silver mines. In 1904, Willet Miller, on a visit to Mile 104 on the T&NO, along with brothers Noah and Henry Timmins, named the future town Cobalt. The Timmins brothers bought the remaining claims from Fred La Rose, and erected some cabins. [4] :18

Speculation over mining stocks on Wall Street in New York City required mounted police to control the crowds. The town was incorporated in 1906. [4] :32,40

By 1908, the camp was considered the world's largest producer of silver and of the cobalt which is a byproduct of the process. [8]

In 1911, the 34 mines produced over 30 million ounces (937.5 tons) of silver. The town's population soared to 10,000 by 1909. [9] Mining continued until the 1930s, then slowed to a trickle. Activity renewed in the 1950s then slowly dropped off, and since the 1980s, there have been no operating mines in the area. By the 1960s, the area had produced over 420 million ounces of silver. [10] One mill still operated in the area in 2017, and exploration for diamonds and other minerals was ongoing. [3] [11]

The silver mines of Cobalt, and the prospectors and miners who discovered them and worked them, left an indelible mark on Canadian history, and the town is known as the birthplace of hard rock mining in Canada. The ore in Cobalt was close to surface, so men with limited experience could prospect, begin mining, and then hone their skills as the mines went deeper. Those who learned their trade in Cobalt moved north, discovering gold in Kirkland Lake and Timmins and further afield in Canada and around the world. Cobalt mining was done with the use of wheelbarrows, pickaxes, hand steel and dynamite.


Cobalt suffered two devastating fires in the 20th century. In 1909, a fire in a cafe spread quickly through debris and garbage-filled alleyways. Half the town was destroyed; 150 buildings were lost and 3,000 residents left homeless; by that time the water table had been contaminated and a typhoid outbreak earlier in the year had killed 111 people. [9] Fire protection at the time was inadequate and firefighters were forced to dynamite buildings to create a firebreak. [12] On a hot and windy Victoria Day in 1977, a discarded cigarette started a fire that destroyed 140 buildings and left over 400 homeless. [13] [14]


The Cobalt Silver Kings played in the inaugural 1910 NHA season.


Cobalt, Haileybury, and New Liskeard were formerly known as the Tri-Towns. [15] When Haileybury and New Liskeard were amalgamated into the city of Temiskaming Shores in 2004, Cobalt decided to remain a separate town. However, the two municipalities continue to have a close relationship, including the operation of a shared public transit system.

In 2001 Cobalt was named "Ontario's Most Historic Town" by a in panel of judges on the TV Ontario program Studio 2 , and in 2002 the "Cobalt Mining District" was designated a National Historic Site of Canada. [16]

Renewed interest in cobalt and silver mining

Cobalt is a byproduct of silver mining and was not of significant interest as a mineral until recently; in fact, many considered it to be a "nuisance". [17] Today, however, it is a critical component in the types of rechargeable lithium battery used in millions of mobile devices and in electric cars, [18] and demand is expected to increase. [19] This application for the mineral was not yet possible in the mid-1980s [20] when the last mining company, Agnico Eagle Mines Limited, ceased operations in the area. [11] Cobalt is always mixed not only with silver but also with copper, nickel and other metals. [21]

By 2017, several cobalt exploration companies were focusing on the area around Cobalt, [22] as one alternative to cobalt mining in the politically-unstable Democratic Republic of Congo. [23] Roughly 60% of the world's cobalt is mined in the Congo, much of it using child labour in very poor working conditions. Major companies that require this mineral for their batteries were searching for ethically-sourced product. [24] The shortage of such cobalt is a primary reason for the 300% increase in the price of this commodity since 2015. [25]

Stock prices of First Cobalt Corp. and Cobalt 27 Capital Corp. had soared in 2017 based on this prospect. The CEO of First Cobalt made this comment after returning from a trip to the U.S., Europe, Australia and Asia: "We've got some of the biggest resource companies in the world interested". [11] In October, the company was planning to prospect the Caswell, Ophir and Silver Banner areas, as well as mines around Kerr Lake and Maiden Lake, via the staff of Bjorkman Prospecting of Whiskey Jack, Ontario. [26] At the time, First Cobalt was negotiating a merger with two other companies, Cobalt One and CobalTech. [27] If the merger is completed, the group expected to control about 45% of the potential mining properties in the Cobalt area including 50 mines that previously produced cobalt and silver; a competitor, Agnico Eagle, controls approximately 21%. [28] However the latter ceased production there in the 1980s.

Silver was selling for US$17 per ounce in late November 2017, down significantly from its peak of US$50 in 2012, [29] but cobalt was at about US$31 per pound at that time, up significantly from the US$10 price in late 2015. [30] The prices will increase according to Gino Chitaroni, the president of the Northern Prospectors' Association. He also predicted that the area around Cobalt would be a primary source of both minerals. "It's spectacular ... We have the infrastructure. We have a historic mining area. It puts us a step up on anywhere [else] in the world." [17]

In March 2017, the town's mayor estimated that mining production could start in about three to five years. [31]


Cobalt, Ontario
Historical populations
1996 1,401−4.7%
2001 1,229−12.3%
2006 1,224−0.4%
2011 1,122−8.3%
2016 1,118−0.4%
Canada census – Cobalt, Ontario community profile
2016 2011 2006
Population:1,118 (-0.4% from 2011)1,133 (-7.4% from 2006)1,223 (0.0% from 2001)
Land area:1.44 km2 (0.56 sq mi)2.05 km2 (0.79 sq mi)2.11 km2 (0.81 sq mi)
Population density:776.0/km2 (2,010/sq mi)553.0/km2 (1,432/sq mi)582.8/km2 (1,509/sq mi)
Median age:47.5 (M: 47.2, F: 47.7)46.5 (M: 46.1, F: 47.0)43.9 (M: 43.1, F: 44.8)
Total private dwellings:611559569
Median household income:$42,816$31,470
Notes: Includes corrections and updates – References: 2016 [32] 2011 [33] 2006 [34] earlier [35]

Mother tongue (2006): [34]

Environmental issues

The mining activities in Cobalt have left a significant environmental legacy. Millions of tons of mine waste rock and mill tailings were dumped on the land and in local lakes. In cobalt ores, silver was associated with arsenic minerals. Some of it ended up in the tailings and waste rock. Today this arsenic contaminates surface water in the area and is believed to pose risks to the environment. Sediment samples from surrounding lakes showed elevated concentration levels of nickel, copper and arsenic while water samples exceeded the provincial water quality guideline for cobalt and arsenic. [36] Fish from five of the lakes around Cobalt had mercury concentration which exceeded the consumption limit as well as elevated concentration for arsenic. [36]

The Cobalt area is also laced with many miles of underground mine workings, surface trenches, pits and shaft openings. As a result, there are risks of collapse, or subsidence of underground mine workings, and many areas have been fenced off to prevent entry.

Tourism and attractions

Historic mine in Cobalt, 2007. Cobalt ON 2.jpg
Historic mine in Cobalt, 2007.
Main street Cobalt Cobalt ON 4.jpg
Main street Cobalt

Visitors to Cobalt can visit the Cobalt Mining Museum, which boasts the world's largest display of locally mined silver, as well as "The Bunker" military museum and the Northern Ontario Firefighters Museum. [37] The Heritage Silver Trail is a self-guided driving tour of several mine and mill sites in the area. The trail is well marked, guiding visitors around the backroads of Cobalt. At each site, signs are posted, identifying the site, and providing a brief description of the site. [38] The trail guides visitors to many of the remaining mine headframes in the Cobalt area, some of which are quite picturesque, and stand as an important reminder of Cobalt's past.

Visitors can also take a tour of an old underground mine. Tours start at the Mining Museum, and are guided by museum staff. The narrow damp tunnels of the mine give a real appreciation for the conditions under which miners worked, and tour guides sprinkle the tour with many stories to help bring the past to life. [39]

On February 14, 2008, plans were announced to convert the vacant Fraser Hotel building into a complex which will include The Bunker museum, housing units, tourist accommodations, and a proposed culinary school. [40]

Passenger rail service continued to be provided from the Cobalt railway station on the Ontario Northland Railway's Northlander train (it was during the building of this line that silver had been discovered in Cobalt) until it was discontinued on September 28, 2012.

A notable tourist attraction in the area in the 20th century was the Highway Book Shop, which closed in 2011.

Notable people

See also

Related Research Articles

Ontario Northland Railway Railway in Northern Ontario, Canada

The Ontario Northland Railway is a Canadian railway operated by the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, a provincial Crown agency of the government of Ontario.

Timiskaming District District in Ontario, Canada

Timiskaming is a district and census division in Northeastern Ontario in the Canadian province of Ontario. The district was created in 1912 from parts of Algoma, Nipissing, and Sudbury districts. In 1921, Cochrane District was created from parts of this district and parts of Thunder Bay District.

Temiskaming Shores City in Ontario, Canada

Temiskaming Shores is a city in the Timiskaming District in Northeastern Ontario, Canada. It was created by the amalgamation of the town of New Liskeard, the town of Haileybury, and the township of Dymond in 2004. The city had a total population of 9,920 in the Canada 2016 Census. Temiskaming Shores is Ontario's second-smallest city, in terms of population, after Dryden. Haileybury is the seat of Timiskaming District.

Black River-Matheson Township in Ontario, Canada

Black River-Matheson is a township in the Cochrane District of the Canadian province of Ontario. The municipality is astride the Black River, for which it is partly named. The Matheson railway station was serviced by the Northlander until 2012.

Agnico Eagle Mines Limited

Agnico Eagle Mines Limited is a Canadian-based gold producer with operations in Canada, Finland and Mexico and exploration and development activities extending to the United States. Agnico Eagle has full exposure to higher gold prices consistent with its policy of no-forward gold sales. As of 2017, it has paid a cash dividend every year since 1983.

The Nipissing Central Railway (NCR), sometimes known as the Temiskaming Streetcar Line, is a former interurban streetcar system connecting New Liskeard, Haileybury and Cobalt on the western bank of Lake Temiskaming in northern Ontario from 1910 to 1935. As the line had a federal charter, the operating company continues to be used to operate the Ontario Northland Railway freight spur line between Swastika, Ontario and Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, avoiding the need to re-charter either end in its respective provinces.

Hollinger Mines

The Hollinger Gold Mine was discovered October 9, 1909, by Benny Hollinger, who found the gold-bearing quartz dike that later became known as Hollinger Mines. With his friend, professional prospector, Alex Gillies; Hollinger had travelled to the Porcupine region, in the wake of the Wilson expedition, which had recently discovered the future Dome Mine site. Hollinger and Gillies staked three claims each, and one for their former partner, Bernard "Barney" P. McEnaney, who had been unable to join them due to severe sciatica.

Noah Anthony Timmins was a Canadian mining financier and developer who is now counted among the founding fathers of Canada's mining industry.

Devils Rock

Devil's Rock is a granite escarpment located 5 kilometres (3 mi) south of Temiskaming Shores, Ontario, Canada. The cliffs rise 300 feet (91 m) above Lake Timiskaming and extend nearly as far underwater as they do above, giving Devil's Rock a cliff face roughly 600 feet (180 m) tall.

Porcupine Gold Rush gold rush in Northern Ontario, Canada, starting in 1909

The Porcupine Gold Rush was a gold rush that took place in Northern Ontario starting in 1909 and developing fully by 1911. A combination of the hard rock of the Canadian Shield and the rapid capitalization of mining meant that smaller companies and single-man operations could not effectively mine the area, as opposed to earlier rushes where the gold could be extracted through placer mining techniques. Although a number of prospectors made their fortune, operations in the area are marked largely by the development of larger mining companies, and most people involved in the mining operations were their employees.

Neighbourhoods in Timmins

The city of Timmins, Ontario, Canada contains many named neighbourhoods. Some former municipalities that were merged into Timmins continue to be treated as distinct postal and telephone exchanges from the city core.

Michael John OBrien

Michael John O'Brien was a railway builder, industrialist and philanthropist. He was named to the Senate of Canada in 1918. He was a founder of the town of Renfrew, Ontario.

The Timiskaming Professional Hockey League (TPHL) was a minor professional ice hockey league based in the area of Lake Timiskaming, Canada. Founded in 1906, the league is notable for providing teams and Ambrose O'Brien, a founder of the National Hockey Association and the founding owner of the Montreal Canadiens.

The Cobalt silver rush started in 1903 when huge veins of silver were discovered by workers on the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway (T&NO) near the Mile 103 post. By 1905 a full-scale silver rush was underway, and the town of Cobalt, Ontario sprang up to serve as its hub. By 1908 Cobalt produced 9% of the world's silver, and in 1911 produced 31,507,791 ounces of silver. However, the good ore ran out fairly rapidly, and most of the mines were closed by the 1930s. There were several small revivals over the years, notably in World War II and again in the 1950s, but both petered out and today there is no active mining in the area. In total, the Cobalt area mines produced 460 million ounces of silver.

Silver Centre is a ghost town in Timiskaming District, Northeastern Ontario, Canada, situated in South Lorrain Township. It is located approximately 35 km (22 mi) south of North Cobalt, and 3 km (1.9 mi) west of Highway 567. Silver Centre was a secondary camp to the great silver fields of Cobalt, discovered in 1903. There are no current residents in Silver Centre. It is still an active mineral field and does at times have active mineral exploration.

Beanland Mine

Beanland Mine, also known as Clenor Mine, is an abandoned surface and underground mine in Northeastern Ontario, Canada. It is located about 1 km (0.62 mi) west of Arsenic Lake and 4 km (2.5 mi) northwest of the town of Temagami in central Strathy Township. It is named after Sydney Beanland, who first claimed the mine site in the 1920s and was a director for the mine from 1937 to 1938.

Barton Mine

Barton Mine, also known as Net Lake Mine, is an abandoned surface and underground mine in Northeastern Ontario, Canada. It is located about 0.50 km (0.31 mi) north of the Temagami Arena in Temagami North and just east of the Ontario Northland Railway in northwestern Strathy Township. Dating back to the early 1900s, it is one of the oldest mines in Temagami. Barton was the site of a fire in the early 1900s, after which it never had active mining again.

Big Dan Mine

Big Dan Mine is an abandoned underground mine in Northeastern Ontario, Canada. It is located about 1 km (0.62 mi) southwest of Net Lake and just west of the Ontario Northland Railway in east-central Strathy Township. It is named after Dan O'Connor, who first claimed the site in the 1890s.

Henry Timmins was a Canadian shopkeeper who, with his younger brother, Noah, became an influential mining financier. The brothers are considered to be among the most significant founding fathers of the Canadian mining industry.

Alfred "Fred" La Rose, also known as "Fred Rose" and "Frederick LaRose", was a blacksmith from Quebec who discovered silver on September 15, 1903 at the future site of Cobalt, Ontario. He is often referred to as the "Father of Cobalt," an unofficial title shared by the province of Ontario's first geologist, Dr. W. G. Miller.


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