Canada / Ontario / Travel

Digging for Amethysts in Thunder Bay, Ontario

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On a cloudy day in Thunder Bay, I visited the Amethyst Panorama mine. As we drove down dirt roads, the GPS didn’t know where we were. Luckily, there were helpful signs reassuring us that we were going the right way. And we were!


The Amethyst Mine Panorama is the largest deposit in Canada, and produces 40% of usable amethyst. You can take a tour or start digging right away to pick your own amethyst, in a digging area that contains 20% usable amethyst.


I took the tour and learned about amethysts and the quarry. The quarry where the amethysts come from is 40 feet deep, and 54 feet wide. It’s been in continuous production since 1965. An amethyst can be many different shades of purple; from a pale reddish violet colour to a dark blueish purple. I really liked the legend of the quarry, so I’ll share it here.


Legend of Amethyst Mine

Millions of years ago the great wine god Bacchus was angered by the insults of man. He vowed to let his man-eating tigers destroy the first human they could catch.

A beautiful princess named Amethyst was travelling from the shores of Thunder Bay to worship at the shrine of the goddess Diana on the highest hilltop. Hearing the beasts roar, she climbed up to Elbow Lake hoping to escape by canoe. No canoe could be found and alas, Amethyst believed she would be killed.

Amethyst quickly climbed into a nearby crystal cave praying for help. The goddess Diana, hearing the maiden’s prayer, sealed the princess safely into the cave.

Bacchus, now remorseful and ashamed, poured red wine on the cave. The wine stained all the crystals in the cave, creating the beautiful gemstone Amethyst and freeing the princess.


Now it was time to mine some amethyst! We were all given a bucket and a metal tool to dig for our gems.



Dig and put the amethysts that catch your fancy into the bucket.


Then, take your bucket over to the wash station and scrub your stones clean. When you are satisfied with the level of cleanliness, you take them inside to be weighed. It’s $3 per pound. (I spent $12 on gems!)

The gift shop has beautiful amethyst sculptures of animals, jewellery and raw amethysts for sale to take home as a souvenir.

I had a great time digging for amethysts at the mine. If you go to Thunder Bay, don’t miss this!


The Amethyst Panorama is located at 500 Bass Lake Rd – Turn off Highway 11-17 @ East Loon Rd. The mine is open from May 15 – October 15 from 10am-5pm. Admissions is $8.



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