History of Coal Mining in Nova Scotia
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Cape Breton

The Coal-Fields and Coal Industry of Eastern Canada



The Carboniferous area of eastern Canada, with its associated coal-fields, forms part of the northward continuation of the Appalachian Mountain range, as evidenced in the characteristic occurrence of the rock formations in elongated belts with a general northeasterly and southwesterly trend. This is seen in the general configuration of Nova Scotia; in the indentation of the Bay of Fundy; in the parallel valleys and hill ranges characteristic of the Province; in the narrow and picturesque Bras d'Or lakes; and in the fiordlike arms of the sea that penetrate far inland---alike in Cape Breton island and in Newfoundland.

The Carboniferous and Permo-Carboniferous rocks extend from the vicinity of Fredericton in New Brunswick; across the upper reaches of the Bay of Fundy; and along the seaward slopes of the western shore of the mainland of Nova Scotia, into Cape Breton island, where they dip under the sea, and re-appear on the other side of the Cabot strait, in a narrow strip of disturbed strata that is prolonged for a distance of eighty miles along the western shore of Newfoundland. Whether the Carboniferous rocks are continuous under the Cabot straits is, of course, not known, but there is sufficient evidence for presuming the coal seams to persist at least as far seawards as they can be mined.

Carboniferous and Permo-Carboniferous rocks cover Prince Edward Island, and are found on the Magdalen islands in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, from which it may be deduced that strata of Carboniferous age underlie a large portion of the waters of the Gulf.

The Carboniferous area is all within the Maritime Provinces, and is contained within a parallelogram measuring roughly 300 by 200 miles, having at its four corners the mouth of Chaleur bay in the west; Fredericton, New Brunswick, in the south; Arichat, Cape Breton, in the east; and the head of St. George's bay, Newfoundland, in the north.

This parallelogram may be regarded as defining, very approximately, the shores of the pre-Carboniferous continent bordering the sea in which the Carboniferous sediments were laid down. With the aid of a geological map it is not difficult to trace the outline of this ancient shore; and from the soundings given on the Admiralty chart of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, some idea may be gathered of the course of the pre-Carboniferous uplands.

Alone among the coal deposits of Canada, the seams of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick belong to the Carboniferous, and are classed as true Coal Measure deposits. The basal rocks of the Carboniferous resemble the Millstone Grits of the European Coal Measures, and are doubtfully supposed to be of the same geological age.

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The first printed mention of the existence of coal in Nova Scotia was made by Nicholas Denys, in a work published in Paris in 1672. The presence of thick coal seams in the cliffs that lie between the Little Bras d'Or entrance and the Mira river is the most striking feature of this portion of the coast of Cape Breton; and it is rather surprising that earlier mention has not been made of the presence of coal seams.

Mr. Richard Brown--to whose writings all subsequent historians of the coal industry of Nova Scotia are indebted--says that from the discovery of the island of Cape Breton by Sebastian Cabot in 1498, to the year 1672--a period of nearly 200 years:--

Although numerous voyages were made to the coast by intelligent enterprising navigators, there is no mention whatever, in any of their narratives, of the existence of the coal seams, which, being plainly visible in the cliffs of almost every bay and headland, could not possibly have escaped observation.

During the French occupation, coal appears to have been obtained in small quantities from outcrops of the seams along the cliffs; and during the building of the fortress of Louisburg, around 1720, coal was dug to supply the needs of the workmen. After the final conquest of Louisburg in 1758, applications were made to the English Government, by English officers and others, for grants of the coal areas, but these were not entertained, and in 1766, the Privy Council absolutely forbade the mining of coal in Cape Breton, refusing to consider any applications having this purpose in view. Notwithstanding the advice of the Governor of Nova Scotia to lease the mines, the Government persisted in its very mistaken policy. Naturally a great deal of illicit mining took place, and it was found necessary in order to enforce the orders from England, to send troops to the coal-fields to prevent the mining of coal. The action of the authorities must have seemed cruelly foolish and inexplicable to those colonists who every spring saw the coal that the winter's frosts had loosened drop into the sea with the first thaws of spring, to be washed completely away by the first storm.

In 1784, Cape Breton was made a separate province, and the Privy Council reserved to the Crown all coal, together with other valuable minerals. Leases to mine coal were granted by the Crown on a royalty basis; but the industry did not flourish, partly because of the primitive methods of mining, and--to quote again from Mr. Brown, because the Government

... persisted in granting only short leases, at exorbitant rates of royalty.

Coal mining operations, on a comprehensive and systematic plan, date from the year 1825, when a Company known as the General Mining Association took over a lease

... of all the mines and minerals of the Province of Nova Scotia, which George IV., by an act of the royal prerogative, had granted to his brother the Duke of York.

The Duke of York, having become deeply in debt to his jewellers, was, to quote Haliburton:--

... saved from their importunities by the liberality of the British Government, which generously made them a present of our mines and minerals, the lease of which issued to the Duke, and was by him assigned to them.

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Indefensible as this action of the English Government appears to-day, the acquisition of these most valuable mineral rights led to the immediate development of the coal-fields, on a scale larger than had been previously attempted.

The General Mining Association does not appear to have at first contemplated the mining of coal. An erroneous idea of the extent and value of the copper ores of Nova Scotia seems to have existed at this time, and it was not until detailed explorations by the engineers of the Association had shown that the chief mineral wealth of Nova Scotia was to be found in coal deposits, and not in copper ores, that the attention of the Association was devoted to the development of the coal-fields.

Between its formation and the year 1846, the General Mining Association expended £300,000 in opening mines, and developing the coal industry. The lease to the Duke of York did not include the mines already demised and working, but by purchase the Association eventually obtained possession of all the mines and minerals of the Crown in Nova Scotia. The operations of the Association were concentrated in the Sydney and Pictou fields, and the production of coal increased from 21,000 tons in 1828, to 294,000 tons in 1858.

The monopoly of the General Mining Association was a source of great irritation to the people of Nova Scotia, and the events leading to what was then known as "the breaking of the Duke of York's lease" form one of the most interesting chapters of the development of responsible government in Nova Scotia. After a fight extending over many years, the General Mining Association, in 1857, surrendered its claim to all the mines and minerals of the Province, and was given an exclusive right to all the coal seams in certain specified areas situated in the Sydney, Pictou, and Cumberland fields: coinciding more or less exactly with the areas owned by the Acadia Coal Company at the Albion Mines; the areas operated by the Dominion Coal Company at Springhill Mines; and the areas operated in the Sydney coal-field by the Dominion Coal Company and the Nova Scotia Steel & Coal Company.

It speaks well for the knowledge of the mining engineers of the General Mining Association that, with all the added knowledge gained by the prospecting activities of the fifty years which have since elapsed, the areas chosen by the General Mining Association are still the most valuable in the Province.

With the year 1858, a new phase of the coal industry commenced. By the settlement of the long-standing dispute,

... the Province was freed from the monopoly of coal, which the Association had enjoyed for thirty years; secured in the control and possession of all the other mines and minerals--now open to the enterprise of its people--and relieved from the constant discussion of an irritating subject, which had long disturbed the harmony of the Assembly, affected the peace and welfare of the country, and threatened to lead to a painful and injurious embroilment with the British Government.
(vide Brown).

The reservation of the minerals of the Province by the lease to the Duke of York proved, in the long run, to be of great benefit to the people of Nova

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Scotia, as the surrender of the Duke's reserved mines and minerals led to the vesting of all the mineral rights in the Government of the Province of Nova Scotia, thereby providing the Province with a source of revenue from mineral royalties; in striking contrast to Great Britain, the United States, and some portions of Canada, where royalties have been unwisely allowed to accrue to the benefit of private individuals.

After 1858, a number of independent companies began mining operations. The production gradually increased, with occasional temporary declines, due to changes in the fiscal relations of the United States and the British provinces.

The coal and steel industries in Nova Scotia, as elsewhere, have always been closely allied, and it is significant that the first really substantial gain in the annual coal yield of the Province becomes noticeable in the years 1880 to 1882, or coincident with the formation of the Nova Scotia Steel Company, and the commencement of steel manufacture near New Glasgow.

In 1893, a number of adjoining coal properties in the Glace Bay basin of the Sydney coal-field, operated by competing companies, were amalgamated to form the Dominion Coal Company. The Nova Scotia Legislature granted a ninety-nine years lease of the amalgamated areas to this Company, in consideration of an undertaking by the Company to pay a royalty of 12½ cents per ton--the usual royalty to other companies at this time being 10 cents per ton, and, further, to pay a minimum annual royalty not less in amount than the total royalty monies collected from all the independent companies operating the consolidated areas in the year preceding amalgamation. This last named provision has not proven difficult of fulfilment. In 1893, the output of the Province was 1,485,924 tons, and until 1900 but a small increase was recorded. In 1900, however, the influence of steel manufacture once more asserted itself, and a most notable increase in production commenced. By the formation of the Dominion Iron & Steel Company, and the acquisition by the Nova Scotia Steel Company of the areas of the General Mining Association at Sydney Mines--both events occurring in 1900--a local market was provided for coal to be used in the smelting of iron-ore imported from the unique and valuable deposit of red oolitic hematite, owned by these two companies, at Wabana, Newfoundland.

The provincial production in 1900 had risen to 3,000,000 tons, and reached its present maximum in 1913, when for the 12 months ending 30th September, the tonnage raised, by counties, was as under:--

County                                 Coal output (long tons).
Cumberland ..........................      621,864
Pictou ...............................     703,583
Inverness ............................     284,274
Cape Breton .........................    5,594,192

                                         7,203,913 tons.

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The progress of the coal industry can be followed from the following table, abstracted from the Nova Scotia mines reports, and covering the sales of coal. Unfortunately, no reliable figures exist of the actual production tonnages.

Sales of Nova Scotia Coal from 1785 to 1915.

 Years.                                         Tons (long).
1785-1790 ...........................               14,349
1791-1800 ...........................               51,048
1801-1810 ...........................               70,452
1811-1820 ...........................               91,527
1821-1830 ...........................              140,820
1831-1840 ...........................              839,981
1841-1850 .......... .................           1,533,798
1851-1860 ...........................            2,399,829
1861-1870 ...........................            4,927,339
1871-1880 ...........................            7,377,426
1881-1890 ...........................           13,910,136
1891-1900 ...........................           20,552,536
1901-1910 ...........................           45,898,410
1911-1920 (estimated) .................         61,000,000
1911-1915 (actual) ....................         30,135,295

An interesting feature of the increase in coal sales is that the succeeding decades from 1830 to 1910 show a geometrical progression increasing at a rate of 78 per cent per decade. On page 8 is shown a plotting of the curve of the actual recorded sales, and the mathematical curve closely approximating. The equation of this curve and the plotted diagram have been most kindly furnished by Mr. J. W. McLeod.

The continuation of the rate of progression shown by the record of the past eighty years would indicate a probable sales tonnage for the decade ending 1920 of 61,000,000 tons, but it is not to be anticipated the current decade will show the same rate of tonnage increase as the decades preceding.

The war which commenced in 1914, and the resultant disorganization, first of trade conditions, and afterwards of the labour supply by reason of the needs of the Army, has caused a lessened rate of production that will in all probability persist over several years to come.

Such a rate of increase as is shown by the foregoing table cannot, of course, continue indefinitely, and it seems probable, for many reasons, that the large output of the year 1913 will not again be materially exceeded within the current decade, and that for several years to come at least, the coal production of Nova Scotia will not be greater than seven million tons per annum.

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A calculation of the unexpired five years of the current ten years period, allowing for the effect of the war conditions, and the present capacity of the existing mines for output, would indicate a probable tonnage of 61,000,000 tons for the ten years ending 1920, and this estimated figure has been included in the foregoing table merely for purposes of comparison with previous records.

The revenues of the Province of Nova Scotia are in large part derived from the royalties on coal, which, in the fiscal year 1913, realized $799,200. On January 1, 1913, the general coal royalty--that is, other than the royalties paid by the Dominion Coal Company on coal extracted from that Company's areas as especially enacted--was raised from 10 cents per ton to 12½ cents per ton, so that all coal now mined in Nova Scotia pays royalty at the rate of 12½ cents per ton. The royalty payment is calculated on the coal sold, and exemptions are made by the law to cover coal used at the collieries and the coal sold at reduced rates to the colliery workmen. Allowance is also made for refuse taken from the coal in the process of cleaning and preparation for the market.


The geographical position of the Nova Scotian coal-field gives it an exceptional economic value, further enhanced by the political frontiers of North America.

Nova Scotia has the only coal deposits on the entire Atlantic sea-board of North and South America.

In Canada, there are no coal deposits between the Grand Lake coal-field in New Brunswick and Alberta; a distance of over 2,000 miles; while the nearest coal-fields in the United States--regarding the Pictou coal-field as the centre of the Nova Scotia deposits--are 800 miles away.

The production of the New Brunswick collieries has increased quite rapidly within the past few years, and in 1915 reached 122,422 tons. The output of New Brunswick is, however, not likely to increase beyond the quantity required for local needs, as the deposit is a strictly limited one, and the thinness of the single seam available will not permit of future large production.

The output of the mainland collieries of Nova Scotia is almost entirely absorbed by domestic, factory, and railway use, in the Maritime Provinces; but about one-third of the Cape Breton production is customarily sent to Montreal and points along the St. Lawrence river.

The distribution of the produce of the Nova Scotian collieries may be gathered from the following table, given in the Nova Scotia Mines Report for the year ending September 30, 1913. This year is selected, as showing not only the largest tonnages in the history of the industry, but as showing, also, more normal conditions than those which have obtained since the commencement of the war.

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A perusal of the foregoing table will show that the major part of the coal used outside the Province of Nova Scotia is exported from Cape Breton island; which includes the counties of Cape Breton and Inverness. The coal sent from Cape Breton island during the fiscal year 1913, to points outside the Province, totalled 3,383,140 tons, against exportations from the mainland collieries of 496,526 tons.

The coal consumed in the various processes and operations connected with the manufacture of steel in Nova Scotia, during 1913, absorbed 60 per cent of the total coal consumption of the Province, showing how important a factor steel manufacture is in relation to the coal industry.

At the present time (1916), the percentage of the coal production used in the steel industry is still greater, owing to the demand for steel for war requirements.

The production of the individual coal companies operating in Nova Scotia for the fiscal years 1913 and 1915, was as under. The year 1913 is given because of the high production realized in that year, and 1915, for comparison as to present conditions.

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Production of the Coal Companies of Nova Scotia

                                                Fiscal Years

                                             1913          1915
                                        Long tons     Long tons

Dominion Coal Company ................  5,111,546     4,728,359
Nova Scotia Steel & Coal Co ..........    811,434       576,381
Acadia Coal Company ..................    509,376       324,479
Inverness Railway & Coal Co ..........    284,274       233,259
Intercolonial Coal Mining Co .........    194,207       189,818
Maritime Coal Ry. & Power Co .........    169,891       160,483
Minudie Coal Company .................     63,327        82,056
Colonial Mining Company ..............     57,707        57,208
Sydney Coal Company ..................      5,437         5,375
Various small companies ..............      2,714        22,054

                                        7,203,913     6,379,463

There is keen competition in the Montreal market between the coal sent from Nova Scotia and coal imported from the United States. The Canadian product is protected by an import tariff of 53 cents per ton of 2,000 lbs. on bituminous round coal, and 14 cents per ton of 2,000 lbs. on slack coal. Anthracite is admitted duty free.

Although United States coal must be carried long distances before it can be sold in Montreal, the cost of transportation is lessened by the opportunity the exportation of coal from Pennsylvania to Canada gives for utilizing the cars that carry iron ore from the Michigan and Lake Superior iron ranges to the great steel works of Pittsburgh and its vicinity. Coal exported from the United States over the Canadian border provides an outward freight for cars that would otherwise be hauled northwards empty, and enables an extremely low freight rate to be quoted for the long rail haul from the United States coal regions to the shores of the Great Lakes. From such points as Cleveland and Ashtabula the transportation of coal to Montreal can be cheaply effected by water. The bituminous coal-fields of Pennsylvania and West Virginia present ideal conditions for cheap extraction, and possibly nowhere in the world, where markets are available, can coal be mined at such little cost. The cost of mining coal in Nova Scotia must always be considerably greater than the cost in the United States fields with which the Canadian product comes into competition.

These considerations explain the necessity for the protective duties imposed on bituminous coal imported into Canada.

Up to 1913 the United States imposed a duty of 67 cents per ton of 2,000 lbs. on round coal, and 15 cents per ton on slack or culm coal from Canada, but since 1913 Canadian coal has been admitted into the United States, duty free. As the coal production of the United States now exceeds 600,000,000 tons yearly, and is annually increasing at a very rapid rate, and as the importation of Nova Scotian coal into the United States has not exceeded half a million tons per annum during the past ten years, it must be conceded the competition of Nova Scotia coal in the United States is not a factor of importance to the American coal operators. As a compensating factor, the importation of United States coal into Canada was in 1914,

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14,721,057 tons, and in 1915, 12,465,902 tons. The normal importation of United States coal will average 15,000,000 tons annually.

The total estimated coal reserve of Nova Scotia, according to the recently published calculation of the Geological Survey, represents 9,719 million tons of coal, out of a total reserve for Canada of 1,234,269 million tons, or less than one per cent.

Compared with the enormous reserves of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia, the reserves of Nova Scotia are meagre, but the excellent quality of the Nova Scotia deposits, their remoteness from other coal-fields, their accessibility, combined with their nearness to the sea-board and to important centres of population, will, for many years to come, retain Nova Scotia in its hitherto unchallenged position as the chief coal-producing province of the Dominion, although, eventually, it may be anticipated that Alberta will overtake Nova Scotia.

The combined production of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, compared with the total Canadian coal output for the past three years, was as follows :--

                                      1913         1914          1915
Nova Scotia                       7,980,073*   7,370,924     7,429,888
New Brunswick                        70,311       98,049       122,422

                                  8,050,384    7,468,973     7,552,310
Total Canadian output            15,012,178   13,637,529    13,209 371
Percentage of production from            53%          55%           57%
   eastern Canada
                                 *  Short tons.

The foregoing table would seem to indicate a steady increase in the percentage of Canadian coal production to the credit of the Maritime Provinces; but this tendency is merely temporary, and has been occasioned by the trade depression in western Canada, and the relatively prosperous condition of eastern Canada when compared with the west, since the commencement of the war. When normal conditions again prevail in western Canada, an opposite tendency will manifest itself.

The main outlet for Nova Scotian coal, and more particularly for the production of Cape Breton island, is the St. Lawrence market. As this trade has been developed and rendered possible by inexpensive water-freights, the coal is, of course, exclusively water borne. The St. Lawrence river is usually closed to navigation by ice from the end of November until the beginning of May. Of late years it has been found possible to lengthen the open season by the use of ice-breaking steamers, and there is no doubt that much can be achieved in this direction. These experiments have been temporarily interfered with by the sending of all the ice-breakers that could be spared to do similar work in the approaches to the port of Archangel.

These limiting climatic conditions make it necessary to send coal up the St. Lawrence river during the summer in quantity sufficient to cover the entire requirements of the market for the whole year. Similarly, the cessation of water shipments up the St. Lawrence during the winter; the disproportionately large shipments required during the summer; and the necessity of keeping the working organization of the mines intact during

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the winter months, compel the coal companies to store large quantities of coal at the mines in the winter, notwithstanding the "balance-wheel" provided by the consumption of the steel works. Thus there has been evolved an unusual and very specialized trade, which has required a large initial capital expenditure, and necessitates the handling of enormous quantities of coal, in a minimum time, with the provision of correspondingly large financial reserves to carry the expenditure on the winter stocking operations, until payment is received for the coal delivered during the summer months.

The Dominion Coal Company and the Nova Scotia Steel & Coal Company are the largest individual coal shippers in Nova Scotia. In the summer of 1913 these two companies shipped to St. Lawrence ports about 2¼ million tons of coal, and this figure has not since been exceeded.

The steamers used in the coal carrying trade are specially built for the purpose. They have large unobstructed holds. The hatch openings are unusually large, and a sufficient number of steam operated derricks are provided to enable these to be quickly removed or replaced. Specially large provision of water ballast is made, as the return journey from Montreal has to be made with empty holds. The ordinary vessel in this trade has a cargo capacity of about 8,000 tons, but vessels of recent construction have cargo capacity of between 11,000 and 12,000 tons, and a speed of up to 12 knots.

The transportation of the large quantity of coal handled during the six months of open navigation requires a continuous procession of steamers coming and going between Sydney and Montreal throughout the whole season, and work at the loading piers and discharging plants must proceed without intermission day and night. The tonnage engaged in coal freight-ing in the St. Lawrence, largely exceeds all other shipping tonnage using this route. The "colliers" have been largely requisitioned by the Admiralty for war purposes, because their special construction and large carrying capacity have rendered them especially valuable for the requirements of the Admiralty, with consequent temporary derangement of the coal freighting business.

The most extensive storage yet undertaken was in the winter months of 1913-1914, when 650,000 tons of coal were "banked" by the Dominion Coal Company at their Glace Bay mines, The coal is lifted in the summer by steam shovels, re-screened and shipped. There has never yet been an actual fire in the round coal banks, although the first coal banked out must remain in the centre of the pile for over six months before it is lifted. Heating sometimes takes place, but with proper methods this can be speedily checked and dissipated. The temperature of the air at the actual time of banking is an important consideration, as generally speaking the banked coal seems to remain at about the same temperature as that which it had when placed in the bank. The bulk of the coal placed on the ground is, of course, put there in cold or freezing weather. If a thermometer is lowered down a pipe into the interior of the bank it will usually register a temperature

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near to the freezing point, a fact that it is interesting to observe on a hot summer day, when the surface of the banked coal is quite warm to the hand. The coal is banked up to a height of from 40 to 46 feet, and over 300,000 tons has been stored in a continuous pile.

The cars used in taking the coal from the mines to the loading piers are mostly 50 ton steel hoppers--taking a load of about 35 long tons, and fitted with bottom doors for discharging. At the piers the coal is lowered into hoppered bins, discharging into long metal chutes, descending into the holds of the vessels loading. Coal is shipped in this manner very quickly, the loading of a 7,000 ton steamer occupying only five hours. At the discharging plants in Montreal, Quebec, Halifax, and St. John, N.B., the coal is lifted out of the holds by huge "clams" or grab-buckets, suspended from discharging towers, and is either loaded into railway cars for immediate disposal, or is stored in piles for winter distribution.

From the standpoint of the investor, the operation of coal mines in Nova Scotia in the past has not been encouraging. Some of the coal companies, during prosperous times, and in the earlier and less expensive operation of their collieries, paid regular and handsome dividends over many years.

In very few instances, however, in the history of coalmining companies in Nova Scotia has there been any likelihood of a redemption of the original capital outlay, and a very moderate interest return is all the investor has been able to hope for. The majority of the companies now operating have been compelled to undergo financial reorganization. Several companies have suffered complete financial disaster, in some cases brought about by physical conditions beyond control, and in other cases by unskilful management, or the unjustifiable optimism of promoters.

Generally speaking, however, the mines of Nova Scotia have been well managed from an engineering point of view, and the meagre financial return in the past has been due to alterations in the fiscal policies of Canada and the United States, resulting in temporary disorganization of markets, to the remoteness of the principal markets, the interference, or stoppage, of coast-wise shipments by ice in the winter, and the comparatively low selling price of coal in eastern Canada.

Within the past twenty years the price of coal has varied very little, it being one of the few commodities that has not materially increased in selling value.

It is doubtful whether the market for Nova Scotland coal has ever yielded the operators a greater price than $2.50 per ton at the pit mouth, and the average price realized, after allowing for waste and slack coal, is very much less than this figure. A comparison with normal European pit mouth selling prices will show how moderate this figure is, if due consideration is accorded to the higher cost of labour and materials in Canada.

The margin of profit has been too small to permit of the accumulation of proper reserves to provide against the troubles inseparable from mining coal, or to allow of adequate depreciation reserves for the amortization of

Plate II

Winter stockpile at No. 21 Colliery, Birch Grove: Dominion Coal Company.

Plate III

Coal discharging plant at Halifax: showing elevator barge for bunkering steamers, with discharging towers and barge--Dominion Coal Company. (There are three towers, but only two are shown in the picture).

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capital liabilities and the depletion of coal areas. Therefore, periods of financial depression or mining accidents, have too often forced the abandonment of mining operations, and have involved investors in losses.

The formation of the Dominion Coal Company was an evolution from these conditions, and whether it be a retrograde tendency or not, the logic of events has indicated the chief hope of settled prosperity in the Nova Scotian coal trade to lie in the further development of strong corporations, with adequate financial reserves. There is no reason to anticipate anything but a long and successful career for the coal companies of the Province if these essential qualifications are given the consideration they deserve.

Whatever financial stability attaches to the coal companies of Nova Scotia to-day, is a testamentary benefit conferred by the General Mining Association; a monopoly that, with all its faults, rendered it possible to conceive mining operations on a comprehensive basis, eliminated suicidal competition in selling prices; and enabled mine workings to be laid out with the maximum of economy, with due regard to the conservation of the vast coal reserves which sporadic individual operations have tended to endanger by uncoordinated effort.

The price of coal in eastern Canada has always been dependent on the selling prices in the United States, but it is candidly admitted, to-day, that coal has in the past been mined in the United States, and sold there and in Canada, at a price actually below the cost of production, when all the factors of that cost are taken into consideration.


Nova Scotia, as a province, has not reached the stage of industrial and manufacturing activity that should have accompanied a coal mining industry 100 years old; an industry that up to 1890 produced three-fourths of the coal mined in Canada, and, today, notwithstanding the vast coal resources of the west, is producing well over half the coal tonnage of Canada.

A perusal of the pages of Dawson, Haliburton, and other great Nova Scotians, reveals a tremendous optimism concerning the commercial possibilities of Nova Scotia; and even, today, it is not easy to find any flaw in the reasoning of these far-sighted men. Yet it must be confessed the potentialities of Nova Scotia have been but meagerly realized. Take away the steel industry from Nova Scotia, and what other manufacturing activity has the Province to show as a reflex of the production of 7,000,000 tons of coal annually ?

In the progressive communities of New Glasgow, Truro, and Amherst, there exists the nucleus of manufactories, textile, wood-working, and leather trades, but how poorly they compare with the industries of Montreal and Toronto.

The coal mined in Nova Scotia has, for generations, gone to provide the driving power for the industries of New England, Quebec, and Ontario, and has, in large part, been followed by the youth and energy of the Province. For almost a century, Nova Scotia has been exporting the raw material that

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lies at the base of all modern industry, and it is at least a legitimate subject for thought whether it would not have been possible to export manufactured articles, and to have utilized the raw material within the Province, to some extent at least, where safe and roomy harbours, and inexpensive water transportation give facilities for thc assemblage of raw materials, and for the distribution of manufactured goods, in no way inferior to the other ports that border the North Atlantic coast.

What combination of physical and political causes has brought about this condition of affairs cannot here be dealt with, but no consideration of the economic aspects of the coal industry of Nova Scotia would be just which did not point out the fact that the coal districts of Nova Scotia have not evinced the manufacturing enterprise that is a commonplace feature of coal-fields situated in civilized countries, as for example, Pennsylvania, the British Midlands, Westphalia, Silesia, and Belgium.

Briefly, Nova Scotia has achieved the status of a mining camp, whereas its full stature should be that of a metropolis of industry.

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Last Modified: 2004-11-03

Originally Produced by: Canada Department of Mines, Government Printing Bureau

The information contained on this site is not provided for the purpose of factual
representation. Instead, it is provided in an historical context. Every effort has
been made to ensure that this information represents the actual content of
Bulletin No. 14, The Coal-Fields and Coal Industry of Eastern Canada.
Nevertheless, no warranties are provided in any respect.

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