The Spanish/American Mine Site

I’ve visited most of the ten mine sites in this area already, but there are a couple that I haven’t hiked and explored yet. The Spanish/American Mine Site is one of them.

The Spanish/American Mine Site is not as large of an area as some of the other mine sites. From the appearance of the roads in the site, it is not all that well used either.

Unlike most of the other mine sites, this mine site was not closed because of production stoppage, or other similar issues. The mine site was closed because of a fracture in the rock, which allowed too much water to flow into the mine shaft.

I always look for the mine shafts, when I come into these sites, but I’m not always able to find them, because they are sometimes not in plain sight. Usually, I will see the trademark candy-cane shaped vent pipes coming up from the shaft, but I’m not, at all, sure that the Spanish/American site will have one of those, since the reason they closed the shaft was because of incoming water, which might negate the need for a vent pipe.

So, today I did not locate the shaft for this mine but, if I had looked at the topographical map on my GPS, I might have found it, because the location was marked on that map. Now, I know where to look, the next time I’m in this mine site.

Still, it’s not my primary purpose to find the mine shafts. It’s just a point of interest, and gives a bit of perspective on where everything was when the mine was operating. The main reason I come into any of these sites is to enjoy the quiet wilderness. The roads go for miles in many of these sites, and through some pretty scenic terrain that I otherwise would not be able to access, or see.

So, lets begin our hike into the Spanish/American Mine Site with a picture of, what has become, a familiar style of gate at these sites.

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This is the main access gate for the Spanish/American mine, but it can also be accessed through another gate, which connects from the Denison Mine site.

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It’s clear, from the condition of the road, that this access point is not used all that much. It could be because maintenance workers are accessing the site from the Denison gate, or it could also be because there’s just not all that much to maintain in this site.

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While I was in this site today, I didn’t see anything that would require maintenance, such as a pump house.

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I did see a number of these bird houses along the way, but how much maintenance would they need? 🙂

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As usual, there were reminders of bears in the area, and I did have my little music player with me to alert them of my arrival.

The first body of water that I will come to is called Northspan Lake. I don’t believe that they used this lake for mine tailings, but it is within the mine site, so there’s no assurance of this. I have since come across some information confirming that the tailings from this mine site were dumped into ‘Oliver Lake’. I have not been able to locate an Oliver Lake in the vicinity, and I’m thinking that it is a possibility that Northspan Lake was renamed, and was once called Oliver Lake.

It’s a nice enough lake, pretty typical of the small lakes in this area. Take a look;

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I hung around the shoreline for a while, taking pictures, and just exploring a bit. I did go off the road a number of times during this hike, to explore different areas that looked interesting.

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I didn’t see another person at all, while I was hiking here today, which is a real bonus.

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I do know that the local hiking club does, occasionally, come in here though, because I read their blog, and I’ve seen blog posts about this area.

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Here’s a nice, natural boat launch area. Unfortunately, no motorized vehicles are allowed into these sites. That is, except for the maintenance crews.

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Looking back to Northspan Lake, as I continue my hike, deeper into the bush.

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Here’s a fire pit, probably built by the aforementioned local hiking club. It’s clear that it was not an over-night fire, since the logs were not burned all that much. It could have been a warm me up fire, which was started in the colder months.

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I continued my hike, at a leisurely pace, looking for anything of interest, since this was my first time in this site.

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One clue that this road was not used much by the maintenance workers was trees across the road. They could probably get under this one, but there were others that were lying right down on the road.

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While walking down this section of the road, I did venture off to the right a couple of times, to check out some interesting areas.

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Here’s one of those areas that I checked out. Quite often, when I find open areas like this, it ends up being an area where there were former buildings, or even the mine shaft itself. However, I didn’t see any indication of that in this location.

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I continued down the road.

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I stop to check out another open area to the right of the road. I feel that I may have been very close to the Spanish/American mine shaft right here, but I didn’t think of looking at the topographical map on my Galaxy tablet GPS. It is marked on that map and, now that I’ve checked the map, it does show the mine shaft in this area, to the right of the road. Next time I come here, I will do a more thorough investigation.

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Not too long after I passed that last open area, I came to another gate, and I knew exactly what this gate meant. I had come to the end of the Spanish/American mine site, and I would now be entering the Denison mine site. I did, already, do some exploring in the Dension mine site, but not from this side. I had never been down this side of the Denison site, so I continued my explorations past the gate.

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I can only imagine what it would be like trying to explore these areas without the convenience of the mine site roads. It must have been rough being a geologist, looking for minerals that could be mined.

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The road seems to be getting less defined, as I continue on.

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Then a break in the bush appears, and one of those rock dams comes into view. I know that this can mean only one thing, that rock dam is holding back a lake containing mine tailings.

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Wow, it’s a big dam, must be holding back a lot of water.

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On the way up, to the top of the dam, I spotted some tracks in the sand. They’re a bit hard to make out, but these are Elk tracks.

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That’s Quirke Lake way down there. It’s at a much, much lower level than the tailings lake that this dam is holding back. Can you imagine what the result would be, should this dam fail for some reason? One possible reason could be an earthquake. This is why they wanted a more secure way of storing these tailings under water, and Quirke Lake was the proposed place to do that. Who knows, they may get their wish by accident one day.

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This is the tailings lake, and it’s a big one, at about 3kms long and about 1.5kms wide. I have a feeling that the tailings from the Spanish/American mine site may have ended up in here too, since it is very close by. The fact is, not even the government knows where all the tailings from these mines ended up since, back when the mines were producing, there were no restrictions on the dumping of wastes.

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Even though it’s very large, this lake doesn’t have a name, in fact, it’s not even shown as a lake on most maps.

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Looking down, from the top of the dam, on the Quirke Lake side.

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A panorama of the Quirke Lake side of the dam.

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Some of the islands on Quirke Lake. The hydro lines, that can be seen in the lower right side of this picture, were installed for mining operations. I noticed that they now use propane at a lot of these sites, because they found out the hard way that electricity occasionally goes out, which was what created the big spill at the Stanleigh mine site back in 1993.

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Looking over the top of the dam to Quirke Lake, far below.

And so, lunch was had, and I continued to walk further into the lower Denison mine site.

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Even though this is a tailings lake, there still seems to be a fair bit of wildlife and weed growth in and on it, and I haven’t seen any two headed snakes around. I’m not sure what kind of a bird this is. It swims and dives like a duck, but it’s beak is not like a duck beak.

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Here, what I believe to be, the female half of the pair. Strange looking.

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I’m headed up along the north side of the tailings lake now, which is to the right in this picture.

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As you can see, this area is quite open, and I did catch quite a few rays on this hike. In fact, you might say that there was radiation from all sides. 🙂

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Some old, dried up bones of a larger animal.

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I call this high rock face The Rooster’s Hen. I don’t think it actually has a name, but it’s right across the lake from Rooster Rock.

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I spoke too soon, this specimen of wildlife has, obviously, been badly deformed by the effects of radiation. It was sad to see, but there was nothing I could do for him. There will probably be more old dried up bones in this location the next time I visit here.

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I actually considered getting a Geiger counter to check these places out, but the small amount of Radon gas that might be produced by these tailings lakes would be very difficult to gauge. It’s more of a concern when the gas is leaking into confined spaces, like the basements of homes. There is a map showing the areas of Canada which have tested high for Radon gas in homes. Here is the link for that map; http://tinyurl.com/qczr2sy

You’ll probably be surprised to see that Elliot Lake is no more likely to have high levels than anywhere else in Canada. In fact, if you really wanted to get into some high levels, you could head out to the Prairie Provinces, where some of the highest levels in Canada can be found, as well as the Province of New Brunswick.

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Not to worry, I didn’t just come walking into these places without doing a lot of research to find out, for myself, what the risk/reward factor might look like. I found the risks to be minimal, and you can see what the rewards are like in these pictures.

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I continued along the north side of the tailings lake, but I wasn’t intending to go all the way to the upper side of the Dension mine site, because I had already explored that area before.

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The road continues on, right up to the other end of the lake, but there was this sort of ‘U’ turn area. Looking back, I came in on the road on the right, and I’m going out on the road to the left. It’s just a bit of a loop, to get me back to the road I came in on. In other words, I turned around here, and started the trek out.

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I wasn’t bothered too much by bugs today. There was the odd mosquito, back in the bushier sections, and the odd deer fly in the open areas but, now that fall is getting closer, the bug season is bugging off.

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This side road will lead back to the road I came in on.

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Back on the main gravel road out, my pace picked up a bit. I could smell the coffee brewing at Timmies.

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Back out on the dam, overlooking Quirke Lake, I stopped to take another panorama of this scenic spot.

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Back into the bush I go. A little shade would go nice just about now anyway.

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This turned out to be a real nice hike, one of my favorites so far, with a good mix of bush, open areas, lakes, and scenic spots. What more could you ask for?

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Back at the gate between the Denison, and the Spanish/American mine sites.

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The natural boat launch, at Northspan Lake, on the way out.

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And there’s the inside of the main gate to the Spanish/America mine site.

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And there the truck waits, patiently, for my return…….Now, let’s see if it will start? 🙂

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