Bridging mining-scarred landscapes and nature- and resource-based tourism and recreation in northern Ontario

Kendra O’Neill

The lifecycle of resource towns in Canada has been a topic of study for many decades, but recently, the role of diversification has become a key point in the discussion. Tourism and recreation are a potential route to diversification, especially for minetowns looking to reduce the impacts of ‘boom and bust,’ so common with the fluctuation of markets. One unique option for minetowns is the repurposing of mine land to support nature- and resource-based tourism and recreation (NRBTR). A post-mining landscape designed to be accessible and provide a new asset for the community can help with the diversification efforts and promotion of tourism.

This study investigates the diversification of northern mining communities. The research is guided by objectives focused on community lifecycle modeling, northern Ontario minetown population, labour force and tourism, and the reuse of mine sites for NRBTR. A mixed methods approach is used to combine qualitative and quantitative data. This includes qualitative deductive modeling, a quantitative community inventory, and qualitative case studies.

A new minetown model is proposed that addresses the shortcomings of existing resource community lifecycle models. The new model uses mining sector labour force as the categorizing factor, and includes stages of mining influence and diversification responses. An inventory of northern Ontario minetowns, identified at any time from 1950 to the present day as being dependent, is created. The inventory is used to assess population and labour force trends and the prevalence of tourism in the communities. The inventory results show only one post-1950 minetown as being abandoned (Renabie), and 24 have been amalgamated into larger municipal areas, leaving 23 communities in the inventory. Minetowns are found to move through the lifecycle stages in a nonsequential fashion from 1991 to 2011 and to have a more diversified economic base than previous models allowed for, supporting the need for a new evolutionary model. Nearly all communities were found to have tourism and NRBTR businesses and activities. Only one (Gauthier) did not have tourism businesses and only three (Cobalt, Gauthier and McGarry) did not have NRBTR businesses.

NRBTR has previously been identified as a market niche for northern Ontario and its prominence in minetowns supports this. The communities were surveyed for NRBTR post-mining land uses to identify case study sites. From these, the Charleson Recreation Area in Atikokan and the Sherriff Creek Sanctuary in Elliot Lake were selected. The case studies examined the process of transitioning former mines to NRBTR sites in former minetowns, including the on-going use and maintenance of the site. Both sites were naturalised areas where informal passive recreation occurred pre-NRBTR development. This helped facilitate the transition to a formal NRBTR asset. The case study findings indicate that volunteers and community members are the primary drivers for NRBTR redevelopment projects. The need for clearly defined roles in development and maintenance of such sites is supported by the findings.

This thesis highlights the reality of minetowns and the lifecycles that describe them, and the opportunity for post-mining land use for NRBTR. Academic and applied implications of the research are provided with recommendations for various actors, including those considering mine site redevelopment to support NRBTR activities. This research supports proactive diversification efforts in mining communities, and supports the inclusion of NRBTR.

O’Neill, K. (2015). Bridging Mining-Scarred Landscapes and Nature- and Resource-Based Tourism and Recreation in Northern Ontario (masters thesis). Retrieved from UWSpace (the University of Waterloo's institutional repository);sequence=1

Bridging mining-scarred landscapes and nature- and resource-based tourism and recreation in northern Ontario