Wednesday, 15 April 2015


I admit it; I don't like mining towns. They are, by and large, ugly places, dirty and dusty, populated with square, squat buildings of brick and stone, as if the only architectural style was blocks, the newer buildings built of steel frame and tin siding, still following the block style of everything else in town. It's not until you get out of the centre of town, to the "moderrn" sections, where the new hotels and malls have sprung up, that you get to see something resembling style and grace in a building. Or at least something not resembling the brick and stone structures built for utility and durability in a harsh environment.

Let's face it, mining is dirty and harsh, especially the hard rock mining that is the core of so many northern Canadian towns, places like Timmins, Kirkland Lake, Labrador City, Tumbler Ridge and so many more, including Sudbury. These places make their living by tearing apart the earth, melting it into something which can be shipped out, or shipped out as ore from the ever present railyard which inevitably forms the central locus of town. They leave behind scarred land and piles of slag, the one here in Sudbury still growing and glowing as I type. Once the wealth of the mine is gone, so is the town.

Sudbury sits right in the middle of the Canadian Shield's nickel and iron ore belt. It celebrates this fortunate placement with a The Big Nickle as it's local symbol. It was built on one of the biggest nickel finds in the world. It will continue as a mine for as long as there is a demand for this important industrial and financial metal. Sudbury will be in business, the mining business, for a while yet.

This does not mean the town is without merit. While I am not a fan of mining towns, I recognize the essential nature of mining for our modern, technological society. We could not function without the mines and miners, without their output. I just don't like the persistent ugliness of these towns, their main streets perpetually filled with dust and dirt, their outer edges hewn into the rock of the surrounding mountains. The people here work hard, pay their taxes, produce wealth which fuels our economy. They are good people, doing their best in a harsh land. The people of Sudbury deserve our thanks; they have merit.

It's just the town which is ugly.

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