TIMMINS -- Historical remnants of Cobalt's rich mining history continue to stand tall, and are none the worse for wear.

A hundred years ago, many prospectors came into being by chance in the north. Some of the first ones in Cobalt were building rail lines who caught glimpses of silver gleaming in lake rocks.

Then they kept moving north, in search of gold.

Timmins Museum curator Karen Bachmann said many of them were engineers or mining men who understood the bush.

"There's a large component as well that are just looking for their fortune, thinking this is an easy way to make money, or following the romance and the adventure of it all," Bachmann said. "I mean, you're looking at the beginning of the 20th Century, so that's a very adventurous time."

Much has changed

Since then, much has changed. A modern prospector's job description has evolved over the years.

Gino Chitaroni, Northern Prospectors Association president, said today's prospectors are largely professionals.

"There (are) amateurs, but they're professionals (in the sense) that they're educated as geologists, mining technologists, geo scientists of some sort," Chitaroni said.

Take Matthew Halliday, for example. A geologist, he left southern Ontario to make a future here as president of Canada Silver Cobalt, a junior mining exploration company.

Halliday said he works with prospectors all the time, including those who still like to get their boots on the ground instead of just working behind a computer screen.

Went for a few weeks

"This year, I've had two women go out and up to a property north of Gowganda called Shillington, and they went out prospecting for copper, gold, silver and cobalt and they were out for a few weeks," he said. "I've heard of people camping out there and they use everything -- so boats, ATVs, their feet, whatever they can do to get into the bush and find what they can find."

Chitaroni said the future of prospecting depends on the health of the mining industry itself.

"We go through cycles, which is natural to the exploration/mining sector," he said. "We went through a pretty tough one there for about 10 years on the gold side of things, and even though there was an interest in cobalt for a couple years, now things have come back. There's a lot of interest in silver and gold right now, and a lot of prospectors are getting more work out of it."

Chitaroni and Halliday said with the gold market skyrocketing recently, and silver not far behind, it has been a good time to capitalize and do more exploration work.