Mine offers pursuit of amethyst

·3 min read

Thunder Bay, Ont. — Amethyst Mine Panorama is one of Thunder Bay’s hidden gems tucked away north on East Loon Lake, about 45 minutes from the Terry Fox Lookout. Set to open for the season, the mine sees hundreds of visitors throughout the season.

The mine was purchased in 1980 by Steve and Lorna Lukinuk and has been passed down the family to their son, Tim, and Lori Lukinuk, who will open the site on June 1 for their 43rd season operating as both a mine and tourist attraction.

Tim Lukinuk said the mine is relatively small and people have a sense that they are still actively mining the site.

It’s one of the attractions luring people to Thunder Bay, Lukinuk said.

“We provide a tour, which is quite educational, informative and fun. We go through the history of geology, some of the mineralogy of Thunder Bay amethyst, then the big attraction really is to go to the digging area.”

Lukinuk described the site as a “safe area” that looks like a gravel pit for easy digging.

“There’s lots of amethyst available for our visitors,” he said. “We give them a small pail and there’s running water out there and a digging area. Some people spend most of the day out there just digging and scratching around finding all kinds of pieces of amethyst.”

The Lukinuks charge $5 a pound for whatever the visitors decide to keep. For those who choose to pass on the digging experience, or are looking for a finished piece, the site’s Welcome Centre has an array of amethyst products from jewelry and pen sets to clocks and inukshuks.

“That completes the package here,” Lukinuk said. ”They get a tour, they can dig for their own amethyst and then they can actually purchase something right from the mine that has been made in Thunder Bay by local people. It’s a process that seems to work quite well.”

He added that they also run the Amethyst Gift Centre located on Victoria Avenue, which is filled with finished pieces.

Lukinuk says they work closely with Tourism Thunder Bay, Destination Ontario and Superior Country Tourism Association to distribute their promotional information. As a private business, he says they have not required municipal or other government funding.

The site hosts many visitors from the U.S. who were mainly halted through what Lukinuk called the “COVID years.”

“But it was more than made up by people within Ontario because they couldn’t really leave (the province) with COVID restrictions, so more people than normal from the Greater Toronto Area, London and southwestern Ontario were travelling within the province,” he said. “Lots of them came to Thunder Bay during COVID and certainly during the summer when the restrictions were lifted, lots of people were going to the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. We were able to benefit from all that traffic.”

Lukinuk pointed out that over the years, there were upwards of six different amethyst mines in operation in the area that have been open to the public. Today there are only two that are open.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal