Selco South Bay Logo

South Bay Mine, Ontario, Canada


 The mine officially opened July 3rd, 1971 and closed up business in May of 1981.


(from Selco Report or mining publication)

The South Bay Mine is (was) located at Confederation Lake in Northwestern Ontario, approximately 50 miles east of the gold mining centre of Red Lake. Access is by a 50 mile gravel road from Ear Falls. A Canadian National rail link is located at Ear Falls and the nearest airport is at Red Lake.

Location Map

The deposit was discovered in September 1968 as a result of routine drilling of anomalies resulting from a program of airborne and follow up ground geophysics.

The area is typical Northwestern Ontario topography, rugged low hills, abundant lakes and heavy spruce and pine forest. The immediate area of the deposit was covered by glacial sand and gravel and hence, the deposit could only be discovered by geophysical techniques.

Development methods are conventional, access is provided by a shaft to 1800 feet and a decline ramp from surface to 900 feet. Diamond drilling, both exploration and development, is carried out from the ramp and from the shaft stations at 150 foot levels. When ore is located by exploration drilling and outlined by development drilling access is provided by driving drifts from the ramp and connecting these with raises. Actual development of the orebodies depends on the mining methods used.

Mining is carried out by either cut and fill stopes or by shrinkage stopes depending on the attitude and size of the orebodies. Vertical or near vertical orebodies are mined by shrinkage methods with the ore being drawn from boxholes by scooptrams. Large orebodies or those at low attitudes, are mined by cut and fill. In the past, some blasthole type stoping was carried out but this method is not used at present. Ore in the stopes is drilled by standard jackleg drills and blasted using ANFO explosives.

Reserves at South Bay were approximately, point five ( . 5 ) million tons when production commenced. Underground production is at approximately 500 tons per day. The ore milled here and the resulting concentrate is trucked to Ear Falls and shipped by rail. Approximately 150 tons per day of concentrate is produced. The zinc concentrate is 54% zinc, copper concentrate 27% copper and 30 ounces silver. The concentrate is sold to Noranda Mines Limited.

South Bay Map

(from the South Bay "Book"- 1981)

Patrick Campbell MacCulloch
Patrick Campbell MacCulloch
President, Selco Inc., Canada

    It is a pleasure to write an introduction to a success story. And South Bay has been a success story in more than one way.

    Firstly, it was an exploration success story - Selco's first find after 15 years of exploration. Secondly, it is a financial success story - careful mining and metallurgical recovery producing a profit, every cent of which we have ploughed back into a successful search for further mines. 

    Lastly, and most significantly, it is a success story of a totally different kind - an example or what can be accomplished in the work place and in the community when people bring an attitude of understanding and mutual respect to their working and living together.

    Those of you who have lived and worked at South Bay have created a successful enterprise and a true sense of community, and in so doing you have written the South Bay success story.

    I am proud to be associated with that story.

    What is my first memory of South Bay? The tension that existed while we were staking the claims to protect our find there. Ted McCormick had made the discovery with a Winkie drill while testing the string of anomalies found by our Questor Surveys aircraft in the area. Victor Wierzbicki confirmed the find and the pressure was on to pick up claim protection. Our security turned out to be very good and we were able to extend the original four claim group into a block that protected our find along several miles of strike length. Then the first contract drilling, let to Jack Edwards of Kenora. the first three holes returned exciting ore values, the news eventually leaked out and our phones jumped off the hook as people in the exploration and securities businesses tried to find out what we had. Then came a string of 10 poor holes and our morale started to sag particularly when we drew a blank between two of the original three good holes. At last the tide turned again and we were able to steadily put together a picture of enough ore for about 30 months of operation.

    We worked away at estimates for the construction costs, the likely operating cost, and the amount of metal we could recover and expect to sell. It looked very tight, in fact we could not see more than just getting our money back if no more ore was to be found. The dilemma was that we could not effectively drill anymore from surface so we had to gamble on what we had in sight and the decision was taken to sink a shaft and develop the mine.

    By this time we had realized that we had to change Selco from just an exploration company into a mining company. Merv Upham joined to become President, and I am happy to say he remains as a valued director to this day. Jerry Hamilton and then Alan Law joined to mastermind the construction. First we had to get the access road and I well remember on one of my very early visits to the site, on a particularly bumpy flying day, sitting in a Cessna and following the route of the power line from Ear Falls and realizing what a major job it would be to turn the rough track into a useable year around access road. Luckily for us, Merv and Jerry were able to call upon the services of the late Ollie Leed, an unforgettable man with a supreme natural flair for judging country and laying out and building roads. He put the access road through in good time but even so there were some tense moments when we had to move heavy equipment over the lake ice from the South Bay Lodge landing because the last part of the road had still to be completed.

    Once the road was in, construction went ahead rapidly and in fact it was only 38 months after the day the survey airplane first flew over South Bay to the day when the mine was formally opened. That's a day I will certainly never forget. It was the culmination of so much hard work and at the same time the justification for all the years of confidence that Selection Trust's managers had shown in backing their exploration team in Canada and then in gambling upon a successful outcome from the South Bay development.

    For the opening itself we had the bright idea of bringing all the people in a private train from Winnipeg and then parking the train near the concentrate load-out at Ear Falls to provide living and eating accommodation for the visitors. We had a three piece band playing in one of the bar cars - what a way to travel!

    The Honourable Leo Bernier, who is now the Minister of Northern Affairs, opened the mine together with Mr. A. Chester Beatty, then Chairman of Selection Trust and to this day a Director of Selco Inc. Mr. Beatty rang up the first skip and I am not sure whether my chief emotion was that of pride or relief when the skip actually came up and deposited its load with a roar in the bin.

    Well, that day was ten years ago now and so you can see that the company's faith was justified and thirty months of ore has turned into several years of production. It has not all been smooth sailing but overall what a success story it has been.

    If you were to ask me to select just one impression of South Bay that I will carry away with me, I would have to say that it is one of the immense respect and affection for the people it has been my privilege to meet there. Over the years I have watched the development of a way of living and working together that is, to my mind, truly remarkable in an age when confrontation, mistrust and cynicism seem to be the norms. At South Bay, both on the job and in the community, you have succeeded in emphasizing the human values of mutual respect and encouragement. To anyone who has not seen for themselves what has been accomplished at South Bay, such words may sound empty, but those of you who have lived and worked there will understand what I mean when I say that there is something very special about our South Bay community.

    As the mine comes to its end, that community will break up and its people will move to other places and other jobs, some with Selco, some with other companies. As they do I hope that, like me, they feel that their South Bay experience and the friends they have made there have given them pleasant memories to take with them wherever they go.