Aviation and the Mining Industry in Canada

Generations of schoolchildren—you may be among them—have been taught that Canada is a huge land replete with underground natural resources. It boasts a world-class mining industry, based on diamonds, gold, oil, iron and uranium. Most of these resources lie far away from large cities. We owe their discovery to prospectors, who criss-crossed the land first on foot or by canoe until the invention of the airplane allowed them easier access to resources further afield. Around the world, aircraft have long played a role in the discovery and mining of ore deposits. Documentation from 1914 shows that aircraft were used to transport raw diamonds to a shipping port in what was then a German colony of South West Africa and is now known as Namibia. This particular mining project came to an end with the onset of the First World War.

In Canada, the first known article suggesting the use of aircraft in the mining industry was published in 1919 in the Canadian Mining Journal. Late in 1920, Imperial Oil purchased two aircraft, nicknamed René and Vic, which it hoped to use on its mission to stake claims not far from its oil well at Norman Wells, North-West Territories. Before reaching this objective, however, both aircraft were damaged in crash landings in March and April 1921.

<em>René</em> and <em>Vic</em>, Junkers-Larsen JL-6s, at Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, 21 August 1921.<br /> (CAVM 11458)
Imperial Oil well at Norman Wells, Northwest Territories, with the <em>Vic</em> in the background.<br /> (CAVM 10099)