History of Coal Mining in Nova Scotia
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Dept. Mines


Since the last report was written a complete change has taken place in the system of working the gold mines, and with the change there has been a great falling off in the number of men engaged, and a consequent decrease in the yield of gold. The change referred to, is the almost total discontinuance from operating by companies and the introduction of the system of working the mines by tribute.

Two or more practical working miners agree among themselves to take a mine, often one that an agent for a Company has failed to work at a profit, for a term of six months or a year, with the understanding that they pay to the owners a percentage of the value of the gold extracted. They then venture their time and money in the speculation. Trusting by honesty, economy and by faithful working not only to make fair day's wages but also earn a return on their capital, time, adventured.

The" tribute system" has become with but one or two exceptions general in all the districts, and although it is attended by some disadvantages, it promises to lead to excellent results.

Already it is shown that some of the leads abandoned by Companies can, in the hands of tributers working even under many difficulties, be wrought with profit and advantage.

The great objection to tributing, as now conducted, is the desultory method it introduces. The backs of the leads are stripped and the trenches thus made become reservoirs for water. No more timber than is absolutely necessary for the immediate safety of the mine is as a rule used, and in districts where the country rock is fissile, a crushing in of the walls sooner or later takes place.

Much has been written on the general want of method attending Gold mining in Nova Scotia and sweeping condemnations of the management and want of skill shown while working the mines have been published. Much doubtless most justly, and yet, somewhat hasty comparisons would seem to have been drawn between the wide and comparatively easily wrought leads of other districts and the thin leads of this Province enclosed in hard and tough country rocks.

The great expense attendant on the mining of the quartz has had as much if not more to do with the failures that have hitherto, with but few exceptions followed all ventures in the gold fields.

No manner of doubt, however, can be entertained that the treatment of the quartz after extraction is still crude and imperfect, and the results obtained in our mills are far behind those of other countries.

Professor Hind in his late report on the Renfrew, Oldham and Waverley Districts has ably treated on these causes of failure, and has shown the practise of Colorado, California and Australia. His report should be read, and read with care, by all who are interested in the gold mines. I wish to add merely as a foot-note to his remarks that the invariable experience on the Pacific slope has been, "that the best mill men always have been good mechanics."

In the methods of mining, the improvements that have taken place in other parts of the world, as for example in drilling and blasting have not been here yet applied. Three men may still be seen laboriously preparing a hole for an ordinary blast, using at least an inch and a quarter drill; while no stronger blasting material than black powder is consumed. Elsewhere small holes, single hand drills, and a powerful explosive are coming into all but general use. To introduce this system here merely requires the importation of suitable material. Our miners are fully alive to the advantages to be gained by a reduction in the cost of blasting, and seconded by their wishes on the subject, I spoke to Mr. J. Stairs who kindly undertook to make the necessary enquiries. He informs me that Dualin made in Massachusetts costs there $1.20 per pound while Dynamite manufactured in England can be retailed here for $0.90 per pound. The English manufacturers say that an ounce of their strongest powder is equal to one pound of the best black blasting powder. The advantage of using this material is at once apparent.

"It may be stated that the great advantage accru-ing from the use of Dynamite consists, not in diminishing the cost of powder as an item of expense, as in diminishing the cost of using it. The difference in the cost of powder is trifling in comparison with the difference in the cost of drilling, charging, tamping, convenience in wet work, and effectiveness of blasts.

Dynamite, as a general rule, throws rock less and breaks it more, and extends its effects much deeper than ordinary blasting powder; and those who use it soon learn not to judge of a blast by first appearances. It frequently happens that a blast which seems to have had no effect, proves to have done remarkable execution in cracking and loosening the rock and preparing the way for subsequent blasts."

As the method of using dynamite is novel to our miners I have appended to this report an account of dynamite and the manner of its use, extracted from the circular of Messrs.

Bandmann, Neilson & Co., of San Francisco, the agents of Messrs. A. Nobel & Co. Having had personally some experience of the use of dynamite, I feel sanguine of the success it will meet with in our mines, and trust the next report will confirm my anticipations.


Little attention has been given to mining in this district. The chief operations have been conducted on the lead worked by the United and Consolidated Mining Companies. The former company resumed work late in the Autumn, while the latter pursued mining steadily for several months and met with fair success. The shafts have been sunk to a depth of 121 feet and the ground on either side stoped to the boundary. The Johnston's brook mine was, to a small extent, worked in the Spring.


The English company have continuously worked their property, and the yield for several months, from quartz taken from the Plough lead, was most encouraging. The shaft of the Plough lead is now 110 feet deep and under-hand stoping, 13 feet wide, has been carried down on a length of 100 feet.

The same company are continuing the main tunnel of the old Eldorado company with the intention of unwatering the leads that intersect the country within a distance of 560 feet of the DesBarres lead. When it is completed, the main tunnel will have a total length of 1360 feet.

Mr. Sprague, the manager, erected a direct acting steam stamp, which unfortunately has not proved as successful as was anticipated. He, however, hopes to make alterations which will greatly improve its efficiency.

The Phoenix Company, of Toronto, suspended operations early in the year, having developed the Eureka lead by two shafts, 118 feet apart, sunk to the depth of 100 feet and 24 feet, and by drifts to the east and west 55 feet and 26 feet respectively. They also worked the Charlotte lead which lies 29 feet to the rise of the Eureka, on which they sank a main shaft 110 feet deep and a shaft 70 feet to the east, 63 feet deep.


The property of the New York and Sherbrooke Company has been worked on tribute by Israel West, who, operating principally on the Harrison or South lead, employed on an average twenty-one men. The main shaft of the South lead is down 250 feet, and the east and west tunnels are driven to distances of 160 feet and 120 feet. The pumping and hoisting is done by steam power.

Mr. West prospected for many months the Hayden and Derby property, over which he has a tributing right, but met with very indifferent success until September, when he was fortunate enough to strike a lead, which promises very encouraging returns.

The Archibald lead on the Alexander property has been re-opened after abandonment for seven years. The old workings were found to consist of two shafts, eighty feet apart, sunk to depths of 45 feet and 35 feet.

The McLean or Little lead on the Wellington and Alexander properties which had remained unworked for eight years was re-opened by tributers in September. The previous operations had been conducted to a depth of 125 feet. The mining on the Wellington lead which had been continuously carried on for a number of years past was discontinued in August, when the excavations had reached a depth of 500 feet. It was found that the machinery on the ground was insufficient for working the mine profitably at that depth, and the owners not deeming it advisable for the present to supply heavier pumps and a more powerful engine the mine was allowed to fill with water. The tributers on the property then turned their attention to the Dewar lead and put a 9 inch pump in the west shaft which had previously been sunk to the depth of 140 feet. In connection with the 400 feet on the Dewar lead in the Wellington property, the tributers are working the 100 feet of the same lead in the Rochville property adjoining on the east.

The further continuation of the Dewar lead to the east is worked by other sets of tributers on the properties of "Rochester" and "Try Again" companies which had lain idle for many years. Each party work their section separately and distinctly from those of their neighbours, and each have one, if not two, sinking shafts from which the faces of work are carried along the stope to the boundaries. It is proposed, when the workings are in such a shape as to allow all the water to flow to the west shaft on the Wellington property, that the expense of pumping, which will then altogether fall on the adventurers on the Wellington, be proportionately borne by the several parties interested.

The Palmerston Company. one of the most energetic companies that hitherto have carried on mining operations in Sherbrooke, have ceased to operate. Their property has been let to tributers, who abandoning the workings on the Palmerston, Snow and Stryker leads, opened a new lead they discovered 18 feet to the south of the Snow lead. On this lead they sank two shafts, 53 feet apart, to a depth of 40 feet, and stoped the intermediate ground. From the lead, 14 inches wide, they took 78 tons of quartz which yielded 60 oz. of gold. Encouraged by such a promising return, they removed the machinery that had been in use on the Palmerston lead and applied it to the further development of the new lead.

The Meridian Company, after working the Stryker lead for the greater part of the year, suspended their operations on it, to prospect for the new lead discovered by the tributers on the Palmerston property.

On the Cleverdon property, the British Company have been also prospecting for the continuation of the same lead.

The Hamilton Company sank a shaft 80 feet deep on a small lead 150 feet to the north of the Ferguson lead which they had previously abandoned, but finding the lead too small to pay expenses, they have suspended all work. Operations have altogether ceased on the property of the Caledonia Company.


This new district is situated about three miles to the westward of Mosher's River ferry, and about half a mile back in the woods from the main shore road. Attention was drawn some years ago to this locality by a large boulder of quartz full of sights being found on the surface. It has been prospected in a very systematic manner and a belt of numerous ledges some 20 inches wide has been exposed. From the croppings of such leads as have been stripped, many specimens have been broken which show both fine and course gold. In the Galena belt many small pockets of iron pyrites held together by threads of gold, have been found. Mr. Smith, who controls most of the areas prospected, has erected a small mill, but it had hardly been started before severe weather put a stop to all operations.

The general course of the leads is N. 68 W. Mag.

Prospecting has been also made near the road about half way between Harrigan Cove and Mosher's River.


The property of the Burlington Company was, in the early part of the year, let to tributers, who worked a little on the Leary and South Lake leads, and also prospected for the Big South lead, which they proved on the property. Subsequently all work was suspended.

Operations have been resumed on the oldest location in the Province, after a suspension of seven years. Mr. Forrest, as a tributer, has been working the areas of the Tangier Mining Company, and has stoped the Little South lead 300 feet in length to a depth of 25 feet.

On Froud's property but little was done on the Hill lead while work was steadily prosecuted, though on a small scale, on the Dunbrack lead, which was opened on a length of 160 feet to to a depth of 50 feet.

The Strawberry Hill Company, having bought the Forrest or Confederate property worked both together for a short time in the early part of the year; but finding the quantity of water to be drawn was so great that it required two horse gins, working night and day, to keep the mine free. they abandoned the mines until late in the Autumn, when the required pumping machinery was erected.

No other work of any moment was done during the year in this district.


Mr. J. Irving has since June been steadly working on trib-ute the mines of the Humber Gold Mining Company. He has stoped along the Irving lead above the water level over a length of 180 feet, reopened the Furnace lead and sunk the shaft on it 20 feet additional, and has erected a water wheel to do the pumping at the eastern end of the Irving belt of leads.


Operations were not resumed in this district until September when some tributers took hold of the Waddelow Lead which had lain idle for three years, and satisfied with the prospects made preparations to work it steadily during the coming winter.


DeWolf & Co. have been working on a property that contains the old Fisher lead or the North lead as it is now known. This lead they opened on a length of 100 feet by three shafts to a depth of 25 feet and found it about 14 inches in thickness. They also opened the South lead by two shafts 60 feet apart, and found it composed of two leads 8 inches and 22 inches thick separated by about a foot of slate. They have erected a mill of 8 stamps close to their mines.

Some tributers in the Spring worked on the St. Patrick lead on the Montagu Company's property, but as they did not sufficiently secure the hanging wall at the bottom of the mine, where the lead flattens considerably, it crushed upon them and the men lost the fruit of their labor.

Mr. Lawson has steadily continued to work his well known mine and has sunk the main shaft to the depth of 250 feet.

His principal operations have been on the western extension of the lead; while to the east, where the lead is pinched and faulty, the workings have been of a more exploratory character. He has erected a 10 stamp mill and fitted it in a very efficient manner. The stamps weighing 550 lbs. each are run at a speed of 60 drops per minute. The auriferous pyrites, of which the mine yields a considerable quantity, is as far as possible separated by hand, to be subsequently treated, For the collection of' the remainder, more intimately mixed with the quartz, and which cannot be so picked out, arrangements will shortly be made.

The Montagu Company have suspended operations.


By DeWolf & Co., mining operations have been steadily conducted on the Union lead, the working of which was resumed in the beginning of the year, when they abandoned the operations on the Brodie lead.

The American Hill Company let their property on tribute to a company of miners who have employed, altogether, some 16 men and worked continuously during the greater part of the year. The pump at present in use being unequal to command all the water made to the deep, operations were chiefly carried on by stoping the ground between the two shafts on No. 6 lead.


During the Summer months several small parties of men worked on tribute among the mines of this district. The principal operators were Messrs. Donaldson and Shaffer. The former continued working on the lead, which has principally occupied his attention of late years, and erected a vertical boiler with engine attached, to meet the increased requirements of the mine.

The latter, Mr. Shaffer, at first operated on the Britannia lead, but having met with a fault, which a cross cut of 30 feet through country rock failed to prove, he subsequently directed his energies to the working of the McKenzie lead, in which he placed a pump, 5 inches in diameter, 22 inches stroke, and drove it by power obtained from the Napier mill 1300 feet away, by means of wooden rods suspended on trestles. The extension of the McKenzie lead was worked to a small extent by Mr. Andrews.


Mining in this district has been almost altogether abandoned. The Ophir and Hartford Companies have both suspended operations. On the property of the former, Mr. McClure has worked the McLeod lead to a small extent on tribute. By other parties, the Peifer lead has been re-opened after an abandonment of five years, and a water wheel erected to pump and hoist. The lead lies very flat, not greater than an angle of 60, and the stoping is carried on at a depth of 150 feet from the surface.


A few tributers worked in a desultory manner among the leads on the Lake side, Montreal and Uniacke properties, stripping the surface and removing patches of ground left unstoped and easily accessible. The result of their unsystematic method of working will be to render future operations on the leads worked by them to be attended by great expense for timbering and pumping. On the Uniacke property two men, it is said, took out in the work of only a few days' quartz which yielded $800 worth of gold.


The principal operations in this district have been on the areas owned by Mr. McDonald, who has driven a slope in the hill side for 270 feet, at the bottom of which, levels have been driven to the right and left for 40 and 80 feet. The conglomerate and slate have been removed by long work in places to a height of 9 feet, and the workings have been carried back from the levels toward the crop.

On the adjoining area; work was commenced in the Autumn, and a slope is in course of being driven to develope the claim in a similar manner. An 8 stamp mill has been erected.


Mining operations were conducted in this locality during the year on a more limited scale than usual.

Mr. Touquoy did not mine with as much vigor as in former years. His workings were chiefly confined to the North and South leads. On the former the west shaft was sunk 17 feet and the east 42 feet deeper, and the ground between them stoped a distance of 60 feet. From the East shaft a tunnel was driven 23 feet in length at a distance of 20 feet from the surface, and the lead there sloped to within 12 feet of the bottom of the shaft.

The South or Flat lead has been stripped in an open cut-ting about 100 feet in length to an average depth of 10 feet.

At the Pioneer Mine, from January to April developments were continued on the Ritchie lode which maintained its wavy horizontality within a few feet from the surface; and a space of 30 by 52 feet was stoped from its eastern extension without discovering any inclination to dip. Its thickness varied from 3 to 14 inches.

On the main lode a new shaft, was sunk 20 feet and fitted with a pump connected by flat rods with the driving gear in the mill. An elevated tram road from this shaft to the mill was begun, a substantial shaft house built, and much of the machinery in the mill renewed.

Operations were wholly suspended from the latter part of April until the middle of November, when the property was let on tribute to Mr. Touquoy.

During the months of November and December about 400 feet of trenches were cut in search of new and in examining already known leads, and the pump was removed from the intended main shaft to the so-called Lake shaft 160 feet further east. On the Free Claim lead Messrs. Jennings and Wilson sank the west shaft 20 feet deeper and the east shaft 30 feet deeper or to an even and total depth of 53 feet. The Taylor lode has been stoped to a further length of 50 feet and to an average depth of 10 feet.

At the Irving and Miller mine 3 open cuttings were made. The whole amounting to about 60 feet in length, and to an average depth of about 8 feet.

The rest of the work done in other sections of the country was merely of an exploratory character.


The only district where the washing of tailings has been conducted is Sherbrooke, where Mr. Twist has successfully treated the refuse from the Palmerston mill. He first tried a buddle, but the results were net satisfactory. He then erected three parallel tables 8 feet long, 2 feet wide covered by seven copper plates each terminated by a riffle.

The tailings, first well mixed with a small quantity of water, are passed through a revolving screen of one eighth inch mesh and the coarse material separated. The fine then flows over the tables, on the two upper plates of which numerous small jets of water impinge to stir up the sand and keep it from settling.

From 675 tons washed, 41 ounces of gold were extracted; a saving of nearly three quarters of a pennyweight per ton. More than enough mercury required to amalgamate the copper plates was recovered from the tailings, and during ten weeks operations 70 lbs. weight were saved.

Mr. Twist, encouraged by the success attending his operations, hopes, next season, by lengthening the tables and making other alterations, to effect a farther saving of the gold in the tailings.

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Last Modified: 99-05-26

Originally Printed by: The Citizen Publishing Company

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 the published Nova Scotia Department of Mines annual reports.
Nevertheless, no warranties are provided in any respect.

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