The image of Canada as an untouched pristine wilderness is a myth. In the world of mining, it is a land of giants—home to massive deposits of almost every mineral and metal bought and sold on commodity markets throughout the world, a global leader in extraction and processing. Nickel, copper, silver, zinc, cobalt, rare earth metals, and the list goes on. The world’s largest gold producing company, Barrick Gold Corporation is based in Toronto, not New York or London. Canada has long been a natural resource pillar in the worlds of production and the trading of commodities. From the hammering of the jackleg and jumbo drills underground to the ringing of the stock exchange bells, corporate empires have been built on the riches extracted from the Canadian Shield. And within that rich geological formation, straddling Northeast Ontario and reaching into Northeastern Quebec, is a region the industry has dubbed the Golden Triangle—a hard rock mining Mecca stretching from Val-d’Or in Quebec, west to Timmins in Ontario, and south to Sudbury, one of the world’s largest and oldest nickel mining capitols. It has attracted just about every mining corporation in the world for over one hundred years. It beckons legions of miners, shaft sinkers, and diamond drillers known throughout the industry for their skill and unmatched determination. It is said they would tunnel to the center of the earth if asked.
The new multimedia slideshow presented here, with production by Jesse Dukes, is culled from thousands of images shot over a twelve-year period, during which I toured more than eighty mines and smelters in the Golden Triangle. As the son of immigrant laborers, I have always been fascinated by the politics of work and commerce. Underground mining of gold and uranium in this region produces high silica content in the air—and an overwhelming number of miners suffer from the severe lung damage known as silicosis—but these communities also have given rise to some of the most militant labor unions in North American history. By examining the social issues surrounding workers and market economies, we gain a clearer understanding of the symbiotic nature of the global economy we all participate in.
Click below to watch Louie Palu’s slideshow “The Golden Triangle.”
To learn more, read Louie Palu’s “The Underground Giant: Life in the Hard Rock Mines of Quebec and Ontario.”