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High-grading: Timmins' worst-kept secret?

Author Kevin Vincent launches his new book — a dramatic telling of the 1986 Aquarius Gold Robbery

Kevin Vincent, Timmins author and chronicler of the city’s second largest industry, gold high-grading, launched his second volume of stories dealing with the thefts of gold from the city’s gold mines, this volume dealing with the brazen Aquarius Gold mine theft of 1986.

The launch of Bootleg Gold Vol.2 was held at the Timmins Public Library Tembec room, last night, to a packed room of guests that included Timmins Mayor Steve Black, and Gregory Reynolds, former editor of the Timmins Daily Press and someone who also has many stories on the topic.

Vincent has been working for 30 years at collecting and telling the stories of more than 100 years of high-grading or gold thefts from Timmins gold mines since the very early days of the Porcupine gold rush and the founding of Timmins in 1912.

If it was up to Kevin Vincent, Timmins’ gold mining stories about rascals, robbers, rogues and characters would rival those of the Klondike if not outshine them.

As he indicated in his first volume of Bootleg Gold, if gold mining was Timmins’ primary industry, high-grading followed as its second.

“Shortly after I got here in 1984 (to work with a local TV station news department), this amazing thing happened in January, 1986 —  a gold robbery at the Aquarius gold mine, which is just past the Kettle Lakes turnoff on the south side of Highway 101,” Vincent recalled.

The gist of the Aquarius gold mine robbery was that a couple of guys showed up around midnight and a young 21-year-old security guard let them in. One of the people who showed up that night was formerly employed with Redpath, a mining contractor who helped to sink the mine’s shaft.

“What is amazing about this story is that only one person ended up going to jail, even though everybody in Timmins knew who did it,” Vincent told those gathered in the Timmins Public Library for the launch of Bootleg Gold Vol.2.

Vincent covered all the preliminary hearings for the television station he was working with at the time.

The Crown attorney ended up giving Vincent his entire Crown brief, which contains all the details and evidence, all of the transcripts of the case.

The book describes the robbery and then presents an exciting courtroom drama based on the transcripts of the trial presided over by Judge Harold Gauthier.

The chief prosecutor was a Mr. O’Malley, Timmins’ assistant Crown attorney. The defense lawyers are three legendary Timmins lawyers, Lorenzo Girones, Sylvano Carlesso and Norm Karam.

“I’ve kept the best parts of that Crown brief,” Vincent said. “But I have changed the names of those who were charged but found not guilty.”

 “This book is primarily about a robbery that happened in 1986,” Vincent said. “But the background story as it involves me is actually kind of interesting because when I got here in 1984, I wouldn’t know a gold mine if I fell into one.”

“I met this fellow by the name of Jack Atkinson, a detective with the Timmins Police Department, who I dedicate both of my books to, who told me these extraordinary stories about these gold thefts that were happening in Timmins,” explained Vincent in talking about how he came by his passion for documenting high-grading in Timmins.

“I thought 'Where are all the books on this and the magazine articles?' and he said I don’t think there are any,”  recalled Vincent.

“I think we can fix that,” Vincent told Atkinson. “So for two years every morning before work I came to the library from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and researched the stories about the theft of gold in Timmins.

Vincent has accumulated 17,000 pages of documentation on gold thefts from examining microfilm of the Porcupine Advance and Timmins Daily Press.

“Everybody in Timmins has a story about this and it is Timmins' biggest secret because anyone you meet on the street will tell you a story about someone they know who high-graded, usually it’s a friend who stole gold, never anybody in their family.”

“It was a lot of fun, researching these stories,” noted Vincent, "but it was also very serious because of many people getting hurt.”

“But for the most part it was considered a victimless crime,” he added.

Vincent said Bootleg Gold Volume 1 sold out all its 1,000 copies and has been reprinted for anyone who hasn’t read it yet.

Vincent also is writing a TV script based on his books which he hopes can be turned into a TV series.



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Frank Giorno

About the Author: Frank Giorno

Frank Giorno worked as a city hall reporter for the Brandon Sun; freelanced for the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. He is the past editor of www.mininglifeonline.com and the newsletter of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers.
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