The refinery was first opened by Silanco Mining and Refining Company in 1949. A smelter was built by Cobalt Chemical and Refinery Company in 1949, but burned down the following year. It was rebuilt again by 1954 but soon closed again due to changes in the refining process.
J. J. Gray bought the operation in 1961. He made significant modifications allowing for the efficient and profitable recovery of silver, gold, bismuth and lead. At one point, he had secured a five-year contract with the Royal Canadian Mint.
The company’s difficulties began when they were required to reduce their arsenic emissions from the smokestack. After that, the property has changed hands several times, under several companies who tried to refine metals using various techniques.
As of 1993, the plant was being utilized as a research facility looking into the stability of metal ions in tailings, and the production of ferric sulphate used for water treatment.
It is currently owned by Alfred Tenny via a numbered corporation, but has been unused since 2007.
***UPDATE June 9, 2013*** I took a drive by today and discovered that the water tower and a couple of the other buildings have been demolished. There are still a few buildings left, but I'm guessing they won't be much longer.
***UPDATE October 28, 2016*** According to a CBC article, the Province of Ontario, having had no response to its orders for Tenny to clean up the site, have issued a fine of $1.52 million dollars, and an additional $380,000 victim surcharge. Article attached below.
In researching this site, I had the chance to read over the minutes from various council meetings of the Coleman Township. This refinery has been a cause of considerable concern since its closure. The barrels of chemicals stored on the site remain largely unidentified. We personally located several unopened bottles of Nitric Acid.
In one set of minutes, the Council was advised that in the event of a fire at the plant, all of the local residents would have to be mandatorily evacuated from their homes. Despite repeated attempts by local officials to secure the site, as recent as July, 2009, it remains porous at best.
The oldest building, located close to the water tower is, by far, the most interesting of them all. It’s quite rickety. One stairwell is already collapsing and the other appears close. The second floor, while made of concrete, is visibly bowing near the upright I-beams.