On today’s date in 1976, the Royal Canadian Mint opened a new minting facility in Winnipeg, where it began producing all circulation and foreign coins using nickel from several northern-Manitoba mines.
Since then, the Mint’s Ottawa facility has concentrated on numismatic and commemorative currency.
In November 1960, Finance Minister Donald Fleming was advised of the need for a new minting facility as capacity had already been reached in Ottawa. At the time, the Philadelphia Mint was producing a large number of Canadian 10-cent coins, and all numismatic coins were being produced in Hull, Qué.
The Canadian government discussed building a new facility, which would be functional within two years.
A 1968 study reported the Ottawa mint was antiquated, and when the Mint became a Crown corporation in 1969, many believed a decision would quickly follow; however, despite funds being allocated, no real planning had begun.
The federal government of the time – led by former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau – decided to decentralize many public services; however, the province of Manitoba made a claim for restitution regarding the loss of many of its military bases.
In 1970, Supply and Services Minister James Richardson, who was responsible for the Mint, proposed a new facility in Winnipeg.
The proposal was controversial because it was legally stipulated to have the Mint produce money in Canada’s capital region.
Richardson was also a Winnipeg native, leading to claims of favouritism towards his hometown. What’s more, facilities more than 1,500 kilometres apart would require planning for communication and distribution; however, a later study showed the division could be beneficial as raw materials could be purchased from a supplier in Alberta rather than a competitor outside of Canada.
Eventually, in 1971, it was agreed the Mint would build a facility in Winnipeg. The land was purchased and construction began the following year.
The new facility was a complete departure in appearance from the Ottawa facility. Designed by architect Étienne Gaboury, the Winnipeg facility features two large walls of bronze-tinted glass and was the first fully automated currency-making system to operate in North America.
Rising up from the surrounding prairie, the Winnipeg facility is responsible for producing the circulation currency of 70 other nations, including centavos for Cuba; kroner for Norway; fils for Yemen; pesos for Colombia; kroner for Iceland; baht for Thailand; Barbados, New Zealand and Uganda; as well as a $1,000 coin for Hong Kong.
“Every single Canadian circulation coin is produced here—literally billions each year,” explains the Mint’s website, adding the plant occupies a 14,864 metre-square state-of-the-art facility.