Ministry to present plan for future of popular west Quebec mine

Quebec's Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources will present a plan Wednesday to block access to a former mine popular with weekend adventurers, but is leaving the door open to the site's eventual development into a proper tourist attraction.

Destroying Wallingford-Back Mine no longer on the table, province indicates

The picturesque Wallingford-Back Mine in west Quebec, which has recently seen an influx of tourists from Ottawa and the surrounding area, could be closed to the public over safety concerns. (Chloé Fedio/CBC)

Quebec's Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources will present a plan Wednesday to block access to a former mine popular with weekend adventurers, but is leaving the door open to the site's eventual development into a proper tourist attraction.

The Wallingford-Back Mine, located approximately 60 kilometres northeast of Ottawa, has become a popular destination for paddlers, ice skaters, photographers and other explorers who are drawn to its turquoise water and imposing rock pillars.

However nearby residents have complained about the traffic, noise, litter and other nuisances generated by the steady stream of visitors who travel the winding private road to see the mine.

"My neighbour, somebody tried to get into his house last summer," said Serge Morin, who has lived near the mine in the village of Mulgrave-et-Derry, Que., for six years.

Morin said he's heard of other break-ins at cottages near the mine.

Residents who live near the Wallingford-Back Mine in west Quebec hold signs to protest an earlier plan to grant tourists access to the site on Oct. 14, 2016. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Last fall the province told the regional municipality, which includes the municipality of Mulgrave-et-Derry, to either block the mine to trespassers or destroy it. The municipality instead asked the province to come up with a plan.

Ministry officials will unveil the details of their security plan to the mayors of MRC de Papineau at a meeting Wednesday, spokesperson Sylvain Carrier said in an email. 

Carrier declined to provide early details of the province's plan, but said it would not involve steps that might jeopardize a future tourist attraction, indicating the option of destroying the site is no longer on the table.

Mine shuttered since 1970s

Closed since the 1970s, the Wallingford-Back mine was once one of the largest producers of quartz, mica and feldspar in Canada.

Residents say previous attempts to block access to the mine have failed.

Supporters of the mine have lauded the site for its natural beauty, its importance to Quebec's mining history and its potential as a carefully developed tourist site.
The Wallingford-Back Mine in west Quebec is a popular draw for weekend adventurers. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Chantal Crête, one of the founders of a group devoted to preserving the mine, said she's pleased the Quebec government has backed away from demolishing the site.

"So hopefully, with that new plan that's coming, we'll be able to save the mine, prevent its destruction." 

Crête said any plan must take into account the legitimate concerns of local cottagers and homeowners.

"Hopefully [it will] make sure that the residents of Mulgrave-et-Derry find their peace and quiet once again," she said.

Carrier said it will ultimately be up to the regional mayors whether or not to endorse the province's plan.

If officials support it, work could take place this summer, Carrier said.

with files from Robyn Miller