9 must-visit museums in Eastern Canada to learn about Canada’s mining and energy industries

From Newfoundland to Ontario, Eastern Canada offers a wealth of mining museums to explore.

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Dynamic Earth's staff all come from science backgrounds. Visitors gain real knowledge and fun experiences.

Dynamic Earth's staff all come from science backgrounds. Visitors gain real knowledge and fun experiences. — Photo: Dynamic Earth

Dynamic Earth Science Museum, Sudbury, Ontario

Sudbury, Ontario, is known for the Big Nickel Mine. Science North, however, took this underground mine tour experience one step further with Dynamic Earth, the science centre. “It was an underground mine tour, but that was really it,” said Julie Moskalyk, senior manager at Dynamic Earth. “We knew right from the beginning that we wanted to make something that was so much better than that.”

In 2003, Dynamic Earth opened with a focus on earth sciences and mining. “That’s a big topic coming out of the greater Sudbury region,” said Moskalyk. Over the past three years, Dynamic Earth has undergone a massive renewal. “It’s very focused on inspiring young people to pursue careers in earth sciences and mining,” she said. Dynamic Earth was originally very Sudbury-centered. “We’ve really expanded to include the earth sciences story that is Canada-wide, and is very much about modern mining, and mining of the future,” Moskalyk said. 

About 50 per cent of the exhibits are new. The biggest renovation is the Big Nickel Mine itself. “We completely redid the underground tour, and added special effects and multimedia,” said Moskalyk. “It’s a very immersive, engaging experience.” Dynamic Earth also opened an outdoor science park. “The science park is the first of its kind in Ontario. It’s specifically an earth sciences and mining park.” The large-bodied interactive exhibits, like a slag slide and a climbing structure, are meant to teach kids about the mining industry in an easygoing way.

Inside, Dynamic Earth is filled with interactive exhibits. One of the most popular exhibits is the mine training centre. “The mine training centre is filled with simulators,” said Moskalyk, “real training simulators that people in the mining industry use to train operators. We let our visitors learn how to operate this equipment.” All of these exhibits teach kids what a career in Canada’s science and energy industry would be like. There’s a three-level explorer mine; a mine safety and rescue area; a Canadian diamond mining exhibit; and an area focusing on core earth sciences and geology. The exhibits give people a chance to learn about these different jobs.

Kids at Dynamic Earth display.

All of Dynamic Earth's exhibits are meant to inspire kids to explore careers in the science and energy industries of Canada. Dynamic Earth works with the local curriculum at elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels. — Photo: Dynamic Earth

The best feature about Dynamic Earth is the staff: “Our staff all wear blue lab coats,” said Moskalyk. Blue coats are associated with strong science communicators all over the world. “They’re all scientists,” Moskalyk said. “At Dynamic Earth we have people that are either studying sciences, or have science degrees in geology sciences and mining. Their job is to communicate science, and make it fun, engaging and exciting.” Dynamic Earth is even linked to the local curriculum at elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels. Real scientists share real science with their visitors.

The Big Nickel Mine is an iconic experience at Dynamic Earth, especially with the recent upgrades. The experience is so real that mining equipment developers in the Sudbury region actually install, test and showcase their equipment for potential clients in the underground mine.

The authentic experience underground, as well as throughout Dynamic Earth, is meant to inspire young people. “The industry of geology, earth sciences, mining and energy is a really important one to our entire country,” said Moskalyk. “And it’s a safe one. The equipment and technology that is used today is such a different work environment. And it’s a great sector to explore.” Dynamic Earth is an earth sciences and mining centre, but it’s not just about Sudbury. It’s about all of Canada.

Canadian Mining Hall of Fame, Toronto, Ontario

The Canadian Mining Hall of Fame is spread between exhibits at the original location at the University of Toronto; the gallery at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto; the Mining Museum in the Lester B. Pearson Civic Centre in Elliot Lake; the Britannia Mine Museum in British Columbia; the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa; and a travelling exhibit that can be spotted across Canada.

These exhibits range from photographs and short biographies of inducted members, interactive multimedia that stresses the impact of mining on all Canadian lives, and the specific roles of notable Mining Hall of Fame members in history.

Town of Cobalt, Ontario

The town of Cobalt, Ontario, is a designated National Historic Site in northeastern Ontario. Within this old mining town, visitors find headframes from abandoned mining claims, as well as the Cobalt Mining Museum. The Mining museum has seven gallery rooms that tell the story of the town. The museum also offers underground tours of the Colonial Mine. From the museum, visitors can explore the Heritage Silver Trail, a self-guided tour of 17 well-preserved mine and mill sites. This little town is packed with history from the early days of mining.

Bancroft Mineral Museum, Bancroft, Ontario

Bancroft, Ontario, has a rich history in mining. With such a unique array of minerals present in the area, some deposits have been explored, some have turned into mines, and some have been left undeveloped. The Bancroft Mineral Museum houses 400 local mineral specimens inside a restored train station.

Cape Breton Miners’ Museum, Glace Bay, Nova Scotia

The Miners’ Museum in Glace Bay begins telling the story of mining in Cape Breton about 250 years ago. The French found coal in the cliffs while constructing their fortress at Louisbourg—hundreds of miners flocked to the jobs. Although the collieries in the area at one point produced 40 per cent of Canada’s total coal output, there are currently no large operating mines. The museum showcases the importance of coal mining to the area, and to Canada as a whole. Retired coal miners explain what the mining life was like from first-hand experience through tours of the Ocean Deeps Colliery, which is an out-of-service underground coal mine located directly under the museum.

Bruce Mines Museum, Bruce Mines, Ontario

Located on the northern shore of Lake Huron, the town of Bruce Mines was founded when copper mining began in the area in 1846. The workers were mostly Cornish miners recently relocated from England. The Simpson Mine Shaft has since been restored for tours. The Bruce Mines Museum walks visitors through the complete history of this small mining town.

Malartic Mineralogical Museum, Malartic, Quebec

If you find yourself in northwestern Quebec, plan a stop at the Malartic Mineralogical Museum. The main attraction at the museum is the Malartic Mine. The Malartic Mine is Canada’s largest open-pit gold mine, which is currently still operating. Visitors will see the actual equipment in operation. The museum also offers interactive displays teaching visitors about geology and minerology, and a virtual mining map.

Thetford Mines Mineralogical and Mining Museum, Thetford Mines, Quebec

The Appalachian Mountains of Quebec were the first site of Quebec’s mines. Quebec’s history, geology and mining meet at the Thetford Mining Museum. Photographs and artifacts from the early mines and a collection of mineral samples are among the permanent exhibits at the museum.

Bell Island Community Museum and No. 2 Mine Tour, Bell Island, Newfoundland and Labrador

Bell Island is accessible by ferry from Portugal Cove in Newfoundland and Labrador. This community museum and its guides tell the story of young boys and men working in poor conditions in the mines to extract iron ore. The lives of mining families were especially hectic during the world wars. A tour of the No. 2 Mine takes visitors underground to see what operations looked like between 1865 and 1966.

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