I was out staking claims on the English River north of Kenora when the idea for MINE was first conceived. It was a bright sunny day. That low-hanging sun of fall which gets in the eyes when you walk south. I was humming a little ditty about the sun in my eyes when the idea struck me. Wouldn't it be funny to stake a bunch of mining claims in such a way as to spell the word mine. I chuckled for a while, and kept working. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to be too good of an idea to pass up. It worked at so many levels. So, it was decided. This work must be done.
Originally, the plans included a friend's farm in Southern Ontario, but there are particular rules to staking in surveyed concessions. All of Southern Ontario was surveyed in the 1800s. This complicated the plan. In addition to this, there was the fact that I would need to stake private property. That realm is another can of beans entirely. The other option was to stake on crown land where there were no existing claims. My sights turned north. A few locations crossed the pages. There was a brief plan to stake a lake, which would require very little blazing. This plan was soon discarded because of its impracticality: too many loose ends and witness posts.
It occurred to me at the beginning of last summer that a couple of friends own a camp near Upsala, Ontario. I pitched the idea to them. They didn't have a problem with me staying there, provided that it wasn't in peak season. Staking, in my opinion, is a job best done in the fall. So we planned for November. Which was good for a number of reasons. The summer flew by in a flurry of activity. The more I thought about the MINE project, the more it occurred to me that it could involve others. Typically my projects are solo adventures into the wilderness with scant more than a tarp and a sleeping bag. The product of which is a bunch of web pages telling a story. This project is different. It is more of a fixed location with intentional wandering. So I e-mailed my brother, whom I knew could finagle some time off, due to his recent retirement from the construction business. After about three weeks of waiting for a reply, I went to Vancouver to ask him in person. He likes to check his e-mail, but his response time lags worse than a Windows box trying to update security. He was into it, of course. So we set a date of October 25, 2008.
The brothers Grimm
Staking was commenced on the 28th of October in the year 2008. Our first day was cold. There was a thin veil of snow over the moss in the forest. It was sunny out in the clear cuts, but remained fairly cool in the forest. The first day was tough. I was all out of shape. I hadn't swung an axe in months. My brother wasn't altogether in the best shape either. He takes care of himself better than I do. He does yoga and stays active, but he is lacking in the bush legs. I had it a bit better in that regard. I had spent the past month walking grid lines in Terrace Bay, where the bush is much less than flat. In that area of Ontario, the Trans-Canada railway cost $700,000 per kilometre. But that isn't in line with the story here. Upsala and the bush surrounding is primo swamp-donkey territory. The few hills that are there are only a mere 50 metres of gentle slope. Where it is flat, it is most likely wet. Where it is wet, it is most likely swamp. Swamps have gotten a bad rap, I feel. The word evokes images of misty, gooey, dead places. In reality, most swamps aren't that bad. There is lots of leg work, but if prepared it is possible to stay dry. No big scary monsters. No giant rats. Just moss, pitcher plants, water, some 80-year-old toothpicks, the occasional moose, and small birds.
It took four days to Complete the "M" the largest letter in the word. My brother and I had a quiet Hallowe'en/M party at camp that night. We burned some wood and drank some beers. Everyone else at camp had gone home for the weekend, so we had the place to ourselves. It was pretty chill out there. Not much going on except the hum of the transformers. The following day was COLD: so cold that the van we were driving did not start. Attempt after attempt failed to result in an idle. Being alone in camp meant there was no other vehicle around for a boost. So, we walked out to the claims. Luckily I had planned for this. The claims were only 7 km from camp, so we hoofed it. Legs are way more reliable than a car. I know this from experience.
After getting off to a bad start with a dead battery. The "E" proved toughest on the second day of its staking. It started out with ice pellets. We got the van boosted by an early returnee to camp. The day was VERY cold. The three lengths that we did that day were so cold and clammy that we had to cut it off. I mean, we were working for free, after all. We weren't going to kill ourselves over it. It was at this time that I had my doubts about finishing off this project. It seemed hopeless. Especially when the van didn't start at the end of the day. Again, we walked home, only to go back later that day with another vehicle to boost the van. A truly horrible episode. When my brother and I were finally warm and dry, the day was finished with a marathon of Corner Gas. We continued on with the "E" for the next day, which was still shitty and rainy. However the south wind had started to blow, so it was no longer as cold.
Some nice bush
By the time we had made it to the "N", we were pros at staking claims. Our system was pretty flawless. My brother would watch the UTMs on the GPS, and I would follow my compass bearing. With both of us blazing, we could eat up 400 metres in 30 minutes max. That was also due in part to the fact that the bush was extremely nice (this was planned). the "N" was completed in three days. The record for any of the letters excluding "I." For the most part, it was awesome staking. The moisture continued, but the work days got shorter. We completed "N" on November 06, 2008. The final portion of the "E" went in on the following day, November 07, 2008. With that, we were set up for the final day.
On November 08, 2008 the mine was completed by: Aaron Veldstra, Simeon Veldstra, Brenden Forbes, and Ryan Dubeau. Team Red Beard helped out by cutting some posts on the eastern edge of the "I." The Red Beards were an integral part of the execution of the MINE project: more integral then they appear here. They were fundamental, as they provided the support. And they deserve the greatest acclaimation. If I had gold medals, they would each recieve one.
Ryan Dubeau, Brenden Forbes
With the staking completed, phase two started: the filing of claims and registering with the MNDM. A man we will refer to as Mr. X helped me out with this part of the process. He is an old hand at claim-staking. He has been working in the mining industry for 30 years or so. Using AutoCAD and good old know-how, he drew up the plans for the Application in an afternoon. On November 19, 2008 I walked the 20-km round trip to the Ministry in the snow. The filing proccess took all of 15 minutes. The lady at the Ministry who took my paper work didn't even bat an eyelash. She took in my paper work and pushed it on to the next step in grim government efficiency. The claims appeared on the Ministry ClaiMAP on November, 26, 2008. I recieved an email from Ryan the moment they appeared. I was excited, he was excited, everyone was excited. That very evening the first share was sold to Dan Driegen in Hamilton. I still have the five dollar bill.
On Monday January 12 2008 the MINE was on Thunder Bay CBC radio show: Voyage North hosted by Gerald Graham. Gerald bought the 19th share in the MINE.