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GOLD and other stories

as told to Berry Richards


Gold and other stories.

Prospecting and mining in northern Saskatchewan. Edited by W.O. Kupsch and S.D. Hanson

Copyright © 1986 by Saskatchewan Mining Association Inc.

All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or parts thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher. For information address: Saskatchewan Mining Association Inc., 730 Avord Tower, Regina, Saskatchewan, S4P OR7.




GOLD and other stories as told to Berry Richards, has been reproduced on this website with the kind permission of the Saskatchewan Mining Association Inc. Minor changes and editing has been done to facilitate conversion of this book to the Internet and the photos have been colourized.


Box Mine painting.
THE BOX MINE, Goldfields, Saskatchewan
by Maurice Haycock.

This oil sketch by well-known artist, geologist, and mineralogist Maurice Haycock is part of a series of paintings of historically significant sites in the Canadian North. The collection, sixteen paintings in all, was donated by Dr. Haycock to the Department of Geological Sciences, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, where they will be permanently hung in the Geology-Physics Library of the new building.




The Saskatchewan Mining Association wishes to express it's gratitude to the Saskatchewan Department of Education for distributing a complimentary copy of this book to each of the 895 schools in the Province.


DEDICATED TO

The Pioneer Prospectors of Saskatchewan, and the many transient prospectors from across Canada who added their efforts and expertise to prospecting in Saskatchewan, and to the Indian and Metis trappers of northern Saskatchewan who brought many important mineral occurrences to the attention of the White Man.

Berry R. Richards
R.R.#2, Prince Albert,
Saskatchewan
March 15, 1981

FORWARD

In the middle 1970s, Berry Richards of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, recorded on audio tapes interviews with prospectors, miners, geologists, businessmen, and government officials who could recall impressions, facts, fancies, and, above all, stories about the activities of prospectors and miners in northern Saskatchewan.

Richards then entered a new career as a freelance journalist. He undertook the editing of the tapes himself and prepared a manuscript which he submitted to his friend Eric Partridge. At Partridge's insistence the then President of the Saskatchewan Mining Association (SMA), John Kalmet, and the Manager, Dr. Ralph L. Cheesman, met with Richards at Partridge's home in Prince Albert on July 8, 1981. They then concluded an agreement whereby SMA undertook to publish a book based on Richards' manuscript augmented by photographs from the Saskatchewan Archives and other collections, with the intention of distributing it widely to schools in Saskatchewan and to the mining fraternity.

On May 18, 1982, Berry Richards died in Prince Albert of cancer. The manuscript at the time of his death still needed considerable technical editing and I undertook this task for the SMA. My guiding principle was to keep as much of the flavour of the tapes as well as of Richards' editorial spirit in the book. This meant confining myself to correcting obvious mistakes, adding explanatory notes, and re-writing for clarity only. Also, more by chance than design, I could add some more photographs of bush life in northern Saskatchewan.

Beresford Robert Richards was born in 1914. He graduated with a B.Sc. degree in Mining Engineering from the University of Alberta in 1940, after which he spent over 30 years in mineral exploration in northern Manitoba, northern Saskatchewan, and western Mexico. In the one-page resume that Richards submitted to the SMA he puts the greatest stress on his teaching experience at Prospectors' Schools in La Ronge and Uranium City, as well as at the Natonum Community College in Prince Albert. He mentions his community awareness class for the Metis Society of Saskatchewan and also his work with Native people in the field. Richards worked as a prospector for consulting geologists and mine promoters. One of these was C.A.L. (Vern) Hogg, now of Calgary, who, when informed about Berry Richards' passing, wrote me:

"I was saddened to learn that Berry has taken his last portage. He carried out several projects for me in northern Saskatchewan after I set up my consulting business in 1957, and he always performed in a most satisfactory manner" He did the first work on my Nyberg Lakes iron discovery in 1960. He also wrote the Engineer's Report on Flin Flon Mines' property near Flin Flon, Manitoba, for our first prospectus in 1969. His recommendations and conclusions have come true with a production start-up of a gold mine expected in January 1984.

Although I met Berry Richards on several occasions in the 1950s and 60s and was also one of his subjects in the taping exercise, I cannot claim to have known him as well as Murray Dobbin, who, in his eulogy, said:

"For those who knew Berry Richards, there is scarcely any need to talk about all the contributions he made to the struggle for a better world. More important perhaps is to make the point that he never stopped making those contributions". What struck many people was Berry's refusal to give up. It was his enthusiasm, his mischievous humour, his generosity and his lack of cynicism, even in the face of reaction and defeats, which gave him a special place in people's hearts.

From correspondence Berry Richards had with Ralph Cheesman, it follows that he would have wished to thank certain agencies and individuals who helped him in the preparation of the present book. Specifically he mentioned Eric Partridge, prospector, of Prince Albert, Lorne Sparling, Principal of Prince Albert's Carleton High School, and his [Richards'] ex-wife, Mabel, a writer in Victoria, B.C. The Saskatchewan Department of Culture and Youth (as it was then called, now the Department of Culture and Recreation) supported the collection of the material used in this book during the summers of 1975 and 1976. Many of the photographs reproduced here were provided by the Saskatchewan Archives. Richards wished to give credit to the many men and women who shared their experiences with him; to his many friends and associates who provided invaluable criticism, without which this book would be less than it is; and especially to the few of the interviewees who have passed on since the material was collected - the most valuable correspondents, as they tended to be the oldest, and could look farthest into the past.

To Richards' thanks I should like to add mine to the Honourable Justice John H. Maher of Saskatoon who, as a young man, spent a summer in the North where he recorded in photographs the daily life of a geological exploration party. Earl Dodds of Prince Albert not only contributed photographs but also added some of his recollections about the time when he took his pilot's training and when he first joined the Saskatchewan Department of Natural Resources. The extensive collection of photographs built up by Robert K. Aaberg, now of Saskatoon, during his 30-year residency in Uranium City provided some further illustrative material. In the Saskatchewan Archives, Saskatoon office, Lloyd W. Rodwell was most helpful in guiding me through large holdings of historic photographs. I am indebted to Dr. S.J.T. Kirkland, Regina, for helping me with the captions of some of these photos. Mr. Meleo S. Pechet of Cochituate, Massachusetts provided a 1939 photograph of the Box Mine, Goldfields, where he worked when a young man.

John A. Randall, now of Guanajuato, Mexico, when he attended the University of Saskatchewan, collected much historical information on prospecting, geological mapping, and mining in the La Ronge district. Having access to these notes, I have made use of them to clarify the original text in a few appropriate places.This is also the place to express John Randall's gratitude for the help he received through oral communications and letters from D. Studer, W. Nemanishen, and W. Curle.

I am much indebted to all those who helped me prepare Berry Richards' manuscript for the printers. In particular, I learned a great deal from Stan D. Hanson, University Archivist, on how to deal with the final stages of publication. His involvement in this phase became so great and he saved me from so many potential embarrassments that his co-editorship is well earned.

Finally, both Stan Hanson and I are grateful for the assistance we received from Angie Heppner and Susan Bedford in the compilation of Appendix C and the Index and from David Salt and Malcolm Reeves in getting us over some computer rough spots.

July, 1985 W. 0. Kupsch,
Professor of Geology,
Department of Geological Sciences,
University of Saskatchewan,
Saskatoon.


Berry R. Richards
R.R.#2, Prince Albert,
Saskatchewan
March 15, 1981


PREFACE

A lot of people have helped write this history - fifty-eight to be exact. It has been prepared from taped interviews with all types of people involved directly and indirectly with mining and mineral exploration in Saskatchewan. Some have been quoted at length, some not at all. In the cases of omissions, it is only that others have covered the same ground, perhaps in more detail, or more intimately. To those who have been quoted, and to those who have not, the writer extends thanks. All contributions have been invaluable: many of those who have not been quoted have provided leads to others and clues to further research. All tapes are on file in the Saskatchewan Archives, where the public may hear the unexpurgated whole of all the tapes.

There have been omissions, many of them, we're sure. There are people we should have talked to and did not, in most cases for reasons beyond our control. There are, inevitably, blanks in history, and even some contradictions, since not everyone recalls history in the same way, no apologies are offered for this.

Not all aspects of mineral exploration and development have been covered. Coal mining, the first mining activity of any significance in Saskatchewan, is not included. This applies also to the story of sodium sulphate and other industrial minerals as it does to potash. It is then a book about northern prospecting and mining. So this book is not all-inclusive and final, of course, neither is history. It is ongoing. It is hoped that more careful records are kept in the future so that this history can be updated to provide a dependable, and human, account of how mankind obtains wealth from the earth. It must be remembered that this material was collected in 1975 and 1976, and much has happened since then. Several of those interviewed have passed on and there have been many developments in northern mining, particularly in uranium.


AN OVERVIEW

Mineral exploration and development in Canada has been mainly a hit-and-miss operation, and Saskatchewan is no exception. It is a pursuit that is guided by so much that is unpredictable - the changing demand for one metal over another, the willingness of the public to "take a chance", the discovery of an orebody in a new area, and the state of the economy.

Gold and silver are known as the precious metals, because they are scarce, and therefore expensive, and because they are resistant to wear. They are the prizes that invariably excite the prospector, and bring him into an area.

It is no accident then that, while today the Flin Flon area is a producer of copper and zinc, it was the discovery of gold in the Beaver [Amisk] Lake area on the Saskatchewan side in 1913 that started the mining. While Uranium City is known today as a producer of uranium, it was again the discovery of gold in the area in 1934 that initiated the activity there.

There is so much that is fortuitous in the history of mineral exploration that the reader should not expect to be presented with a smooth running account. It will be found to be somewhat erratic, and not particularly chronological.

All the activity described herein took place in the Canadian or Precambrian Shield, in rocks up to 3 billion years old, or in the recent gravels and sands of the North Saskatchewan River of the Shield.

To assist in orienting the reader, a map of the Canadian Shield in Saskatchewan, with sufficient place names to locate most events that are covered in the text, is included. For the reader who wants to place events in their historical order, the chronology of Appendix C can be useful.

Map of Sask.

Prospectors are stereotyped - people tend to see them as a homogeneous group, all operating similarly, though in various parts of the country. They all used to be called "sourdough prospectors".

This concept is incorrect. Generally, there are two types of prospectors. One is the well-known man with the gold pan and perhaps the sluicebox, established on the banks of a river, usually where the water flows fast, panning or sluicing for gold. The sluicebox, incidentally, is a chute made of board, with riffles, or cleats nailed across the bottom of the sluice box, followed by a blanket. As the gold-bearing gravel is shovelled in, the riffles and the blanket recover the gold, which is later retrieved at "clean-up".

Aside from the few who, rather unsuccessfully, have panned gold from the North Saskatchewan River, Saskatchewan's prospectors are of a different class.

Saskatchewan's prospectors in the main, have been men, and some women, who search for "prospects" or "showings" which to them have promise. These prospects are brought to the attention of mining companies, or other financiers, who, it is hoped, will deem the property of merit, proceed to develop it, and make an initial payment to the prospector, with further payments in the future, depending upon the value of the deposit.

Thus there are two types of prospectors - first, the one who pans for gold and sees the wealth he extracts. This wealth is gold that was originally embedded in solid rock, was broken down by the elements, and as flakes and nuggets were washed from the hillsides into flowing streams. The product of the labour of this kind of prospector is sold on the market, so he wins his wealth independently, without the involvement of a third party.

Saskatchewan's prospectors are different, their operation is different, and the way they win their wealth is different. They are looking for rocks in place, in the Precambrian Shield, rocks that contain within them minerals of value - gold, silver, lead, copper, iron, zinc, or any other mineral of commercial value.

So the wealth of the gold panner is before his eyes and can be sold as is. The wealth of the bush prospector in northern Saskatchewan is in the future and depends upon the success of his search. The stories in this book are about the second type of prospector: he who looks to the future.



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