The Haineault Mont Saint-Hilaire Collection
In October 2020, the Canadian Museum of Nature announced the acquisition of a significant scientific collection of minerals from Mont Saint-Hilaire in Quebec.
The Haineault Mont Saint-Hilaire Collection comprises more than 8000 specimens. Of these, 1160 were assessed by the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board as meeting the criteria of "outstanding significance and national importance".
The collection includes display specimens, rarities and numerous type specimens. Many of these specimens are considered to be the best of their kind in the world. Some are microscopic, or only a few millimetres in size.
The collection was acquired from mineral enthusiast Gilles Haineault. With his wife Liliane, he amassed what is considered to be the finest of all Mont Saint-Hilaire collections between the mid-1980s and 2007.
Haineault found the ideal home for his treasures in the Canadian Museum of Nature's national mineral collection, which is housed at the museum's research and collections facility in Gatineau, Quebec.
The acquisition, which was partially supported by the Nature Foundation, ensures that Haineault's collection remains in Canada, and will be professionally curated, made accessible to the scientific community and used for public display, education and outreach.
About Mont Saint-Hilaire and the Canadian Museum of Nature
Mont Saint-Hilaire is an isolated hill in southern Quebec—about 40 km east of Montréal along the Richelieu River. Mineral collectors and mineral scientists worldwide recognize Mont Saint-Hilaire and the associated Poudrette Quarry for the unique species of minerals that they produce.
The Canadian Museum of Nature has a long history associated with Mont Saint-Hilaire. The museum began actively investigating minerals from the site in the 1970s, led by former minerals curator Lou Moyd and research staff members Joel Grice, Ph.D., and Robert Gault.
Museum scientists and mineralogy staff have described numerous new mineral species from Mont Saint-Hilaire. New species will continue to be described upon study of the Haineault collection.
No other mineral locality in Canada—and very few others in the world—have produced such a wide diversity of exotic mineral species. Mont Saint-Hilaire boasts more than 430 distinct mineral species—about 8% of all known mineral species in the world and about 25% of those found in Canada.
This remarkable diversity is from the complex composition of the alkaline rocks that characterize Mont Saint-Hilaire. Mineral species containing more than 40 different chemical elements have been found there. Many of these constituent elements—lithium (Li), beryllium (Be), zirconium (Zr), niobium (Nb) and the rare-earth elements, among others—are themselves less abundant in the Earth's crust.
Even after decades of scientific study, many of the geological processes responsible for the creation of Mont Saint-Hilaire more than 115 million years ago remain a mystery.