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INTRODUCTION - Under Development

Cochenour Willans Mine

In 1925, four prospectors, Lorne and Raymond Howey, George McNeely and Frank Morgan stumbled upon exposed quartz on the shore of present day Howey Bay in Red Lake. Lorne Howey telephoned well-known mining promoter Jack Hammell in Toronto to tell him of the find and invite him to travel to Red Lake to examine the property. Hammell agreed, and by Christmas, the Red Lake Gold Rush was on!

Lorne Howey met in Hailebury with his former prospecting partners, William M. (Bill) Cochenour and Dan Willans, and told them confidentially about the gold find and gave them directions to Red Lake Edward C. (Ed) Cochenour,his brother Bill, and Dan Willans left immediately for Red Lake. They travelled by passenger train to Hudson and then embarked on a 180-mile journey through the bush and across the rough waters of Lac Seul. At Gold Pines, the group hired an Anishinaapek guide who led them over five portages along the Chukuni River system to Red Lake.

The Cochenour brothers and Willans arrived in Red Lake in September and staked twelve claims on the south side of Ray Howey’s claims. The group then left Red Lake for Kenora to record their mining claims on the way home to Haileybury. They named the property the Buffalo Red Lake Syndicate after their financial backers, who were from Buffalo, New York.

In early January 1926, the Cochenours and Willans led mining promoter Jack Hammell and a group of engineers to Red Lake. A local trapper, Fred Carroll, was their guide. In 1922, Carroll and trapping/prospecting partner Hubert Tyrrell had staked nine claims on what later became the Cochenour-Willans property. Unable to raise enough capital to do further development, they let the claims revert to the Crown.

On the trip to Red Lake, the Cochenour's learned from Carroll that these claims were open, and that William Mogeridge had restaked four of the claims on behalf of Horace Young, his business associate.

In 1926, Willans and the Cochenour brothers had taken over Mogeridge’s claims and then had thirteen claims that made up the Cochenour-Willans property. From 1927-28, the group continued to work on their property. Although the quartz veins they found looked too small to mine, they continued because the ore body reminded Bill of a successful property he had seen elsewhere.

In April 1928, the Cochenour brothers and Willans formed the Cochenour- Willans Syndicate. They sold shares at $50.00, which generated enough capital to begin surface stripping and trenching. In 1932, Ventures Exploration Limited secured the option and began diamond drilling. Exploration revealed narrow widths of high-grade ore but the geology was confusing and the company dropped the Cochenour-Willans option. In 1934, the Cochenours hired Wilfred Mackle as resident mining engineer. Mackle was convinced that the property would pay off, and promoted it relentlessly.

There was no outside interest in the property again until 1935, when Hollinger Consolidated of Timmins agreed to spend $100,000 on further drilling. In a written reminiscence, Mackle stated, “The shaft was sunk to a depth of 150 feet (one level), and 1500 feet of lateral work was completed. During the following year, 1936, a second level was opened at the 275 foot horizon.”

By summer, Hollinger Consolidated dropped the option when the values appeared inconsistent. The Cochenours were frustrated but refused to give up hope. In April 1936, the Cochenour-Willans Gold Mines Limited was formed, with Bill Cochenour as president. The syndicate formed a capital of 3,000,000 shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange. A group of investors from Toronto took an option on the remaining stock and provided $75,000, which allowed underground exploration to continue.

In 1937, the property was dropped once again when an unfavourable geology report was released. The Cochenour's sold stocks and raised $25,000 for the mine. In 1938, the Cochenour's convinced Mackle, their mining engineer, to lend his expertise in return for shares. Five thousand tons of ore was taken out from the first level of the mine and processed on McKenzie Island at the Gold Eagle Gold Mines mill. The sample produced $83,000 in gold.

The money from milling the ore, combined with stock sales, provided financing for the construction of the mine but more money was needed to go into production. Mackle, who later became the mine manager, commented how, in 1939, sufficient high-grade ore had been seen to warrant construction of a mill at the Cochenour-Willans Gold Mines Ltd. He wrote, “The Canadian Imperial Bank granted a loan of $100,000, the first ever by a chartered bank in Canada to a non-producing gold mine.”

The Cochenour-Willans Gold Mines Ltd. re-opened in 1939, but the financing required to bring it into production could not be raised. Luckily, Margaret Cochenour shared her husband Bill’s optimism and determination and decided to invest a family inheritance of $53,000 in the property.

Ed Fahlgren, then a young accountant at the mine, asked why she was willing to risk her fortune. “Well, Eddy”, she replied, “it’s like shooting the dice once – you must have faith in it and I do. It’s going to come in.” Her gamble paid off and she saved the mine.

The first gold bar was poured on December 23, 1939, only 142 days after the construction of the mill. According to former chief mining engineer, John Jeffries, the mine’s best producing years were 1958-1963. During this time the geologists which included Chester Kuryliw, became better acquainted with its complex geology and discovered a high grade zone that was so rich that the ore would not go through the cone crusher at the Mill Site. This zone is reminiscent of the lower level High Grade ore body discovered by Goldcorp in the recent years at the New Dickenson Mine site.

The Cochenour-Willans Gold Mines Ltd. closed in 1974 having produced nearly $42,000,000 during its lifetime.

Other Area Mines


New Dickenson

Campbell Red Lake


Howey Mine

Hasaga and Goldshore

Starrett Olsen

Leo Goldsmith Obituary 1940-2012

Click arrow for RLDHS Reunion Page

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