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Adventure: Roaming with the Rockhounds in Canada's Mineral Capital

The Bancroft area is famous for its great variety of minerals and the quality of mineral specimens that can be found. Bancroft specimens can be found in displays all over the world, including the Smithsonian Institution.

The region has been subject to many geological processes and the geology of the region is a complex mixture of different rock types which give rise to many different minerals that bring rockhounds from all over the world. The Bancroft/North Hastings region lies within the Grenville Structural Province of the Canadian Shield, a northwesterly trending belt, roughly 400 kilometres wide and 2,000 kilometres long, extending from Lake Huron to the Labrador coast. The rock beneath Bancroft is between 1.1 and 1.8 billion years old, and has been subject to volcanic activity, glacial scouring, extreme heat and pressure, and intense faulting and folding. The Grenville Province can be subdivided into separate areas or terranes, which exhibit certain characteristics (type of rocks, degree of metamorphism). The Bancroft area is located in the Bancroft terrane, consisting of deformed carbonate metasedimentary rocks, a minor amount of volcanic rock, and a distinctive suite of nepheline syenites, syenites, as well as, skarn pyroxenites, calcite cored veins, and uranium-bearing nepheline rocks.

Bancroft is regarded as the "Mineral Capital of Canada" because of the well known variety and quality of mineral species which occur here. A list of commodities mined in the Bancroft area include: corundum, feldspar, uranium, graphite, iron, nepheline syenite, mica, marble, granite, lead, gold, molybdenite, apatite, beryl, fluorite, talc and sodalite. Mining in most cases was carried out on a limited scale, between 1880 and 1935, and was largely confined to open cuts and quarries.

If you are new to rockhounding, all you need are safety glasses, a rock hammer and appropriate clothing to get started. Begin your visit with a stop in the Mineral Museum and see excellent examples of local minerals. Information and directions to 30 popular collecting sites in the Bancroft area is on sale at the Mineral Capital Gift Shop. Collecting equipment is also available for sale in the gift shop.

Geologist-led Field Collecting Trips

The Bancroft & District Chamber of Commerce operates geologist-led mineral collecting field trips Tuesdays and Thursdays in July and August. collecting field trips Tuesdays and Thursdays in July and August. Registration is at 9:30 am at the Chamber office in the "Old Station" and the trips depart at 10:00 am. The geologist will give a short talk and instructions before the parties head out, describing the locations to be visited, as well as the geology, minerals and the best way to find and extract these minerals. Participants should dress appropriately, (sturdy footwear, long pants, hat for sun protection, and rain gear if necessary). Bring a small garden cultivator (or something to rake through rock rubble or dirt), safety glasses, rock chisel, a container for collectibles, and bug repellent. A lunch, with plenty of fluids for a hot day, is a must, since the collecting trips usually last for about four hours.

Mineral collecting equipment is available at the Mineral Capital Gift Shop located in the "Old Station". Rock hammers are available for sale or rent. Backpacks, canvas bags, magnifying loupes, mineral kits and the local Collecting Guidebook are also available.

Participants follow the geologist in their own vehicles, convoy fashion, to the sites and can leave at any time. During the day, staff are available and ready to point out good collecting areas, and provide advice on collecting and identification of your finds.

The trip is a great get away for the whole family. A chance to learn something about rocks and minerals, the bedrock around us, and to get out in the sunshine and fresh air.


$ 7.00 per person

$ 15.00 per family

Bear Lake Diggings Mineral Collecting Site

The Bear Lake Diggings is a privately owned "fee for collecting" site operated by the Bancroft & District Chamber of Commerce. Permits are required to access this site. The fee structure is:

One person, one day $ 5.00

One family, one day $ 12.00

Group (over 5, up to 20) per day $ 25.00

Group (over 20) per day $ 50.00

One person, one week $ 20.00

One family, one week $ 40.00

One person, season $ 50.00

Permits are on sale at the Bancroft & District Chamber of Commerce Information Centre, on Station Street in Bancroft; the Dwyer Mine Rock Shop, near Wilberforce; The Great Escape Bookstore, downtown Bancroft; the Princess Sodalite Mine, 3.7 km east on Highway 28; and Black Forest Schnitzel House, 20 minutes south of Bancroft on Highway 28.

The mineral collecting season runs from May 1st to October 31st, each year.

The Bear Lake area is situated in the southeast border zone of the Glamorgan Gneiss Complex, which is composed of amphibolite, granite, granitic gneiss and minor amounts of marble. This area is predominantly underlain by quartz - feldspar gneiss and amphibolite, with lenses of pegmatite and bands of marble.

This area is famous for apatite, hornblende, titanite, and feldspar. Over time the calcite in the veins dissolves, due to natural acids formed by rain water mixing with leaf litter. As the calcite weathers out, the more resistant silicate minerals are left in the black earth which fills the veins. Mineral collecting is done by digging into the dirt filled veins, to find the loose lying minerals.

Be sure to visit the Rockhound Gemboree, Canada's Largest Mineral & Gem Show each Civic Holiday weekend. There are mineral specimen and jewellery exhibitors from around the world, swappers, gold panning, mineral identification and many more activities.

A trip to the Bancroft Mineral Museum in the "Old Station" is a must see. Over 300 mineral specimens from the area are on display.

Bancroft & District Mineral Collecting Guidebook

This guidebook provides mineral collecting tips, mineral descriptions and directions to over 30 popular collecting sites in the Bancroft area. This Guidebook may be purchased in the Mineral Capital Gift Shop in the "Old Station" in Bancroft or ordered and delivered through the mail. The Guidebook is $10.70 at the Chamber, $13 by mail (all funds are Canadian).

Send cheque or money order to:

Bancroft & District

Chamber of Commerce

Box 539

Bancroft, Ontario






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