Monday, June 27, 2011

The Sirdar Gold Mining Company

This Sirdar gold mine was located in the west part of Ontario, Canada, near the Shoal Lake region. The company’s share certificate depicts miners at work watched by an Egyptian and a sphinx. In the far distance pyramids show up.

Vignette from a share of the Sirdar Gold Mining Company Ltd
Incorporated 1899, Toronto, Ontario
Issued for 7400 shares of 1 Canadian Dollars, March 31 1900

Ontario mining industry booms in the late 1890s
Incorporated June 3, 1899 in Toronto, the Sirdar mine was a subsidiary of the Toronto and Western Mines Development Company. The Report of the Ontario Bureau of Mines 1900 shows that during the late 1890s, the mining industry of Ontaro expanded rapidly. The number of companies organized and licensed between 1868 and 1899, a period of 32 years, was 416. The 1899 companies made up a fifth of the total.

Number of new mining companies incorporated or authorized by license,
and their collective capital in Canadian Dollars.
Source : Ontario Bureau of Mines Report 1900

Here are some statistics on the Ontario gold mining industry for the year 1899 :

(*) on a total of 10003 employees for the whole mining industry in 1899
Source : Ontario Bureau of Mines Report 1900

A visit of by an inspector of the Ontario Bureau of Mines
Miners knew about the dangerous nature of mining, and took the necessary precautions and checked upon carelessness. Nevertheless serious, sometimes fatal accidents did occur. Most casualties were caused by improper use of explosives and misuse or failure of hoisting apparatus. Inspector James A. Bow produced reports at the occasion of his visits at Ontario mines. When visiting the Sirdar mine he writes :
At the time of my last visit .. there was a total force of 41, of whom 14 were miners. The main shaft is 200 feet deep. At a depth of 200 feet a 5 by 7 foot drift has been driven south 111 feet and is being continued. .. The veins consist, as stated in previous reports, of a zone of altered granite information 3 or 4 feet in width, which coincide with planes of faulting in the eruptive granite information of the Mikado peninsula. .. The quartz in the plane of faulting is often very rich, considerable visible gold being sometimes found in it. There are several of these veins. .. A Northey pump is stationed in a chamber north of the shaft at the 200 feet level. ..
On Oct. 23 I visited the mine and found the hoist in a dangerous condition. The brake was useless, the bucket being held by a wooden block inserted between the gear wheels. Such a condition of affairs was of course intolerable, and instructions were given to have the brake replaced by one suitable for the purpose. This had been done on the occasion of my next visit. It was also recommended that a bell rope 3-16 inch in diameter be employed. A dock with 150 feet of frontage has been constructed on Bag bay. The company owns the steamer Josie, which plies between the mine and Rat Portage.

Shaft house and ore dump of the Sirdar Gold Mine
Source : Ontario Bureau of Mines Report 1900


Sirdars from Egypt
Why is there a sphinx in the vignette? And why is there an Egyptian with a camel included in the design? We see also pyramids in the distance. What has this Canadian company to do with Egypt ? Honestly, I don't know. But I have a theory.  What I do know is that in the 19th and 20th century many artists have been fascinated with the ancient Egyptian culture. This western fascination has been called Egyptomania. But still, that does not explain much more.
The only clue I had is the unusual name of the company : the Sirdar Gold Mining Company. A quick ‘google’ on the word, learns us that a ‘Sirdar’ was a rank assigned to the British Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Army in the 19th century. Aha ! This links the company’s name to Egypt but brings us to the next question : how is this Sirdar story related to a gold mine in Ontario?

A theory : Lord Kitchener
The most famous Sirdar is Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener (1850-1916), well-known for his British imperial campaigns. Kitchener also played an important role in the World War I. He died in 1916 after his ship was struck by a mine laid by a German U-boat. After Kitchener’s death, the Canadian city of Berlin, located in Ontario, was renamed into Kitchener in his honour.
This was not the only case where a place name bears his name or is derived from his actions :
  • Kitchener’s Island, a small island in the Nile at Aswan (1899)
  • Mount Kitchener in the Canadian Rockies
  • Earl Kitchener Elementary School of Hamilton, Ontario
  • Lord Kitchener Elementary School near Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Kitchener Memorial Hospital in Geelong, Australia
  • Atbara, a place near Kootenay Lake, named for the Sudanese city captured by Kitchener
  • Sirdar, a place also near Kootenay Lake, in British Columbia (1899) 

Herbert Horatio Kitchener
Source Wikipedia

Clearly, Kitchener was popular in Canada especially in the late 1890s after his campain against the Sudanese. So this is my theory: the businessmen that incorporated the Sirdar company found their inspiration in Lord Kitchener.
I could not find any further information on the following years of the Sirdar Gold Mine. I checked the Ontario Bureau of Mines Report 1909. The mine was not mentioned anymore. Was there a disaster ? Was this prospect location after all a non-event ? If you could tell us more, please do and post your sharings in the comments section below. 

  • Wikipedia : Sirdar , Horatio Herbert Kitchener
  • Ontario Bureau of Mines Report 1900, made available online by the Internet Archive. See here . This is a very interesting report counting more than 200 pages. Long download time. Try the 'See other formats' button.

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