Be Dazzled: Dig Your Own Gems At This Ontario Amethyst Mine

Amethyst Mine Panorama in Shuniah, Ontario is open from mid-May to mid-October.

Amethyst Mine Panorama is a true northern gem with its five-acre area loaded with the semi-precious purple quartz. Visitors can come dig up their their own haul of amethysts while learning about the history of the mine and the gems it yields.

This year, the season open for digging starts May 15 and runs until October 15.

The entrance fee is just $10 and any amethysts you decide to take home will cost four dollars a pound. Children under the age of five have free admission to the mine and guided tours are available.

Courtesy of Municipality of Shuniah.

This northern mining attraction is located about 60 km east of Thunder Bay, Ontario in the municipal township of Shuniah. It is near Lake Superior.

It is a 15-hour drive or a four-hour plane ride from Ottawa, so the Amethyst Mine Panorama is somewhat off the beaten path of major tourism options in Canada.

Whether you are planning a northern Ontario road trip, heading to nearby provincial parks or already in the area of Thunder Bay, it is a rare opportunity to be able to dig up your own gemstones.

Shuniah amethysts will come in four different shades. Each one has a special name: Precious Purple, Thunder Bay Lavender, Phantom Rove and Black Gem.

Bring a big enough duffel bag so you can carry all your treasures back with you.

However, you won’t need to sling your own pick-axe over your shoulder or even bring any tools. The mine will supply them. They also have a strict no-hammer policy so don’t even try to BYOH.

The site has its own gift store with jewelry made from the gems the mine produces, as well as educational material to discover more about the history of the mine and amethysts in general.

A little amethyst history

Did you know that amethysts were believed to ward off intoxication and the lure of Bacchus in ancient Greece? The purple quartz was historically used to make wine goblets for that reason. “Amethystos” is a Greek word that means “not drunk.”

Much later, Leonardo Da Vinci wrote about his own belief that amethysts have the power to get rid of evil thoughts and sharpens intelligence. From the Middle Ages to today, bishop rings are made of amethyst, meant to promote celibacy and piety. Amethyst was also considered sacred to Buddha, so mala (prayer beads like rosaries) are often still made of amethyst in Tibet.

Amethyst is also the traditional birthstone for February, the traditional 33rd wedding anniversary gift and Ontario’s official provincial mineral.

Steve Lukinuk “The Amethyst King” was one of the mine’s owners since 1949.
Courtesy of Amethyst Mine Panorama.

As for the mine’s own history, Amethyst Mine Panorama was discovered in 1949 when a crew from the Ontario Department of Lands and Forest was building a road north of Loon Lake to access the forest.

Ownership of the mine shifted several times over the years until the current owner purchased it in 1981. Then, in 1982, he opened an amethyst store in Thunder Bay where lapidary workshops are also held.

The mine produces 40 per cent usable amethyst by volume, while the digging area for “pick your own” amethysts contain 20 per cent usable amethyst. The digging area is replenished regularly by the actual mine.

For those planning to make the voyage, you will find several different camp grounds, a provincial park and the city of Thunder Bay nearby to fill out the rest of the trip or make a day out of it.

Just make sure to wear closed toe shoes. If you drop a rock at the mine you don’t want to see stars, just the dazzling sparkle of the gems around you.