Come to Abitibi-Témiscamingue, specifically, Val-d’Or, and discover our very own yellow brick road. In this case, the ‘yellow’ refers to all the gold that lies beneath our feet when we’re anywhere near Highway 117. Every time we take that highway from the eastern limits of Val-d’Or to the Ontario border, we are actually riding on gold! Yes sirree, the road actually runs along the Cadillac Fault, which contains abundant deposits of the precious metal.
Although no one I know has found the pot of gold (even though the average income here is among the highest in the province of Quebec), we can still follow the yellow brick road several times a day!
What is the Cadillac Fault?
Here’s the short course in geology: the Cadillac Fault, Cadillac Break or Cadillac-Larder Lake tectonic zone, refers to a major, mineral-rich geological structure in Quebec and Ontario. In the goldrush days, prospectors followed the fault in their search for the precious mineral and, to that end, built the road that is now Highway 117 along the Cadillac Break. Which also explains all the mines you see along the fault line; there are hundreds of millions of ounces of gold buried underneath the road and in its vicinity.
The Cadillac Fault is about 320 km long and very rich in gold deposits, but it also contains silver, copper, zinc and many other minerals. In fact, it is one of the main gold structures in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. The mines that sprouted up alongside the fault gave birth to the regional cities and towns of Rouyn-Noranda, Val-d’Or, and Malartic among others.
Image of the Cadillac Fault, Source | L’ATLAS de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue [French only]
Discovering the mining industry
If you are as fascinated by gold as the prospectors were at the turn of the last century, I can recommend visiting two really interesting places where the mining industry and our age-old fascination for gold really come alive. You might begin at Cité de l’Or and the historic village of Bourlamaque where you can experience what the life of a miner was like and follow the history from the early days to modern times. When you’ve emerged from your journey into the workings of an old gold mine 300 feet underground, I highly recommend the Abitibi-Témiscamingue mineralogical museum (Musée minéralogique de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue).
Our underground wealth has meant that we’ve had to move not mountains, but entire neighbourhoods. Visit the Musée minéralogique and discover how a mining operation pulled it off then check out the museum’s breathtaking gold collection.
If you still haven’t had your fill of tales from the frontier, then, you could visit Canadian Malartic, the largest operating open-pit gold mine in Canada, which offers guided visits in conjunction with the Abitibi-Témiscamingue mining museum.
While you are visiting the essay laboratory, you will have the chance to assist to a real gold melting!
The underground galleries of La Cité de l’Or
During your visit at the Canadian Malartic Mine you will stop at the Employee’s post observation.
Become a miner for a day at the Cité de l’Or by travelling 300 feet underground, explore the mining village of Bourlamaque, visit the Musée minéralogique de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue and its impressive gold collection and experience firsthand the Canadian Malartic open-pit mine, so that you, too, can follow the yellow brick road!