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A True Northern Gem

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A True Northern Gem

Parking the RV at the Amethyst Panorama Mine on Lake Superior, Ontario. All photos: Anne Weaver

While touring Lake Superior, check out Amethyst Mine Panorama—a working mine and ideal stop for gem-lovers of all ages. Take home a piece of Northern Ontario.

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If you’re an RVer visiting Ontario’s Lake Superior shoreline, you’ll certainly appreciate the area’s stunning beauty. One hidden gem you shouldn’t miss is digging for your own gorgeous amethyst at Amethyst Mine Panorama

Located one hour east of Thunder Bay, along Ontario’s Lake Superior Circle Tour, Amethyst Mine Panorama is a working amethyst mine. Amethyst, the traditional birthstone for February, is a violet form of quartz that’s a semiprecious stone used in jewelry. It’s also Ontario’s official provincial mineral.

With plenty of signs along Highway 17 pointing the way, Amethyst Mine Panorama is easy to find. Open mid-May through mid-October, the mine is located on East Bass Lake Road a few kilometers off the highway. The road is relatively steep, but well maintained. About halfway, there’s an easy turn out where guests are asked to leave trailers. Up top, there’s plenty of space for parking cars, RVs, and even tour buses.

Visitors enter through the gift shop and can take a guided or self-guided tour. Our guide led us through an exhibit that explained how it takes millions of years to form amethyst crystals. She also told us that the six-sided amethyst crystals range in colour from light violet to deep purple and red and, when iron is present, reddish brown.

Amethyst Mine Panorama features an amethyst seam that’s 50 feet wide, 55 feet deep, and 1,200 feet long—making it one of the largest and richest amethyst mines in Canada. The mine has been producing since the 1960s and it’s estimated that it will produce the semi-precious crystals for another 50 years.

During our visit, we met co-owner Tim Lukinuk and his dad, Steve. Steve has mined here for years and says working the mine in the summers as a kid instilled a love of discovery in him. He showed us the working seam, which is a big gorge that’s filled with gorgeous crystals.

They don’t have to look for the gems; they’re everywhere. Miners like Steve sift through the bounty looking for “points,” the six-sided structures that characterize Amethyst crystals. They also look for crystals with deep colour or unusual size.

Much of the amethyst material from the mine is simply scooped up and deposited topside onto a five-acre area so visitors can, for three-dollars per pound, sift through the gems to find their own treasures.

They provide collecting buckets, digging tools, and water hoses, so visitors can rinse the mounds of crystals to help uncover favorite treasures. There are also sorting tables.

During our visit, several families picked through the crystal heaps. It was fun to watch little ones, each with their own bucket, find the perfect gem. Soon we joined in the fun and in no time we’d collected four pounds of glittery gems.

Back in the gift shop, where they sell beautiful amethyst jewelry created from crystals mined at Amethyst Mine Panorama, we weighed our finds. Then the clerk carefully wrapped and boxed our crystals for us. For a mere $12 Canadian, we took home some of the most beautiful Ontario souvenirs available—ones that we’ll treasure for a lifetime.

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