If you and your family are looking to experience something incredibly cool this summer, head down under to the Mica Mine at Murphys Point Provincial Park in Perth.
Wall upon wall of jagged, glistening minerals will greet you as you descend more than 20 metres underground and touch a piece of living history with your hand.
More than a century ago, Eastern Ontario was one of the mica mining capitals of the world, rich in minerals that were fashioned into sheets of glass-like, thermal windows for lanterns, wood stoves and even French Navy battleships. That was just the beginning for the “Silver Queen Mine” that went on to become a thriving addition to the already-burgeoning Ontario mining industry.
“The Mica Mine is a very valuable historical resource,” says Tobi Kiesewalter, senior natural heritage leader at Murphys Point. “I think it’s important that we protect and interpret that history because in many ways this mine, and the hundreds of others that thrived in this area, formed the foundation of the mining industry in this country. The expertise and knowledge of some of these early miners was used to start many of the mining engineering schools we have today.”
10 cool things about the Mica Mine
1. The mine started in 1903 mined mica, apatite and feldspar at different times until it closed in 1920.
2. Mica is an excellent insulator and was known as “icing glass” back in the day.
3. Mica is still used today in the automotive, aerospace and cosmetic industries.
4. Tours start at the Lally Homestead and continue down to the mine from there
5. Although the mine is over 40 metres deep, visitors walk down 20 metres via an adit (gated entrance). There are handrails to secure yourself while walking down the slippery rocks.
6. One of the most spectacular and most photographed scenes in the mine is the open pit. Picture a wall of rock flush with moss, ferns and flowers that thrive on the cooler climate underground.
7. Glistening pieces of fist-sized mica and emerald-green apatite jut out from the rock face.
8. Because the mine floods from the spring runoff, visitors can still see massive sheets of ice well into August.
9. Mine tours often start in the morning, returning when the air starts getting warmer. If you wear glasses they will fog up instantly when you come back up, just from the moisture.
10. Queen’s University inspects the mine every year before opening and harvests some mica samples for study, some of which are also given out as small samples during tours.
Visit the park
Murphys Point is located on the southernmost extension of the Canadian Shield with a rocky landscape that’s more typical of the north. Located on Big Rideau Lake, it’s part of the historic Rideau Waterway.
Twice a week during July and August, you can experience this hidden gem for yourself on one of the park’s two guided hikes. Alternatively, drop-in during the weekly “Open House” and meet costumed interpreters along the way!
Please check the park’s event board for more details.