History of Coal Mining in Nova Scotia
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Dept. Mines



For the Year ended 31st December, 1873, --By HENRY S. POOLE. F.G.S.;


HALIFAX, January, 1874.

Sir,--In the following report which I have the honor to transmit, I have added, beside the customary references to the present condition of the mining industry in the Province, certain suggestions for your consideration regarding matters which generally affect the working of Crown property. Most of these are in connexion with the Act for the Regulation of Mines which the Legislature last session enacted to come in force with the present year; and a few bear on the practice of mining in other countries and the recommendation they have for our attention.

Some of the statements hitherto scattered throughout the body of the report are collected in the form of a table and placed in the Appendix. Information respecting the several coal areas held by lessees, the names of lessees, the names of their agents, the extent of the areas held, &c., is for the first time published. Tables of the coal trade of Great Britain and the United States are also given for comparison, that our exporters may readily see which markets are open to our competition. It will be observed that while the United States export into Canada 428,455 tons they import from us but 264,760 tons. The details of our trade are given in the appended tables, and although the information stated is in a more abstract form than hitherto, I trust it will be found to contain all that is required, and be useful for comparing the extent of the trade with that of other countries.


Number	  Minerals,                          Quantities.         Value.
of Mines
28        Coal                        tons    1,051,467      2,699,347
33        Gold (17708 tons quartz,)   oz.        11,852.4      219,270
3         Iron                        tons        3,485         10,455
          Plaster                       "       120,693        120,693
          Freestone 	                "         2,820         34,532
          Moulding Sand                 "           130            260
          Plumbaginous Shale            "            11            110

The active demand for coal which sprang up in the autumn of 1872 was immediately renewed on the opening of navigation and was maintained until late in the year. Even in August, when there is usually a slackness of trade, the demand remained as great as before and prices continued to rise as contracts previously made became filled. The best qualities of screened coal which a year before were selling, free on board, at $2.25 per ton with a discount of 10 per cent., sold at the close of the season at $3.25 to $3.50 per ton; other varieties of coal, less in demand, at, rates ranging downward to $2.50 per ton. The total produce of the country amounted to 1,051,467 tons, an increase of 170,517 tons over that of the previous year. The trade was increased by 95,198 tons, 12 per cent.; the sales amounting to 881,106 tons. Though still of no grand proportions its comparatively prosperous condition is shown in the following tabular statement.

               Produce.      Sales.   Royalty.
1871   Tons    673,242     596,416    $52,846.65
1872     "     880,950     785,914     69,722.69
1873     "   1,051,467     881,106     78,874.36

PROSPECTS.--The prospects for the present year are good, for a ready demand is generally anticipated. Possibly the output may be as much as 1,250,000. It is not likely, however, to exceed this quantity, even if the demand is greater, for the capacity of most of the collieries is limited and cannot readily be expanded without a further outlay, which operators who invested during the dull times and have had to wait so long for dividends, are naturally averse to make. The great demand for coal and the remunerative prices obtained for all the established collieries caused many enquiries to be made by promoters of mining speculations for property in the Province, but up to the present time no scheme that; may have been set on foot has yet taken tangible shape. Although the attention of capitalists has been drawn to the undeveloped property of the Crown, they have been largely deterred from embarking in fresh schemes by the heavy expenditure known to have been incurred at many of the existing establishments, where it had been found necessary to supplement the sums of money actually required to develope the mines by large outlays on railways, artificial harbors, and shipping wharves. The country having been to some extent opened up by these expenditures, facilities may now be acquired in certain localities by less pretentious concerns for coal mining on a moderate capital.

PROSPECTING.--Much attention was given during the year to prospecting for all minerals expected to occur in the Province, the labor expended being more particularly directed to the discovery and extension of seams of coal and beds of iron ore. An unusual number of licenses to search and work were taken out, and by the end of the year, with those previously granted and still in force, ground was covered by applications of the various denominations to the following extent: First rights of Search 313; Second, 111; Third, 50; Fourth, 23; Fifth, 7; Licenses to Work, 95: in all covering an area of 1565 square miles. Applications were taken out most numerously in the following named counties in the order of their priority; Cumberland, Pictou, Cape Breton, Inverness, Colchester, Richmond and Antigonish.

What the results of the prospecting, in the several localities mentioned have been, I am but in few cases able to state, as few reports of the explorations were made to the Department as required by the terms of Licenses; in most cases because the licensees have made no discoveries and consider they have no information to transmit, or are "middlemen" who have done no work; in some, because ignorant of the kind of information required, and in a few, because the licensees fear advantage may be taken by persons holding contiguous areas, of any information they may impart. The value of this last excuse is altogether imaginary, for the rights of licensees are well protected; but to facilitate the making of the required reports of exploration it might be advisable to supply a form of Return to accompany the license.

DYNAMITE.--In the last report reference was made to the advantages accruing in other countries from the use of powerful explosives for blasting, and to the probable benefit to be derived in this by the introduction of' dynamite. It was expected that a supply could be obtained from England and a trial made in the gold mines and in colliery sinkings, but on further enquiry it was found that the new regulations respecting its transportation recently issued by the Home Office, threw insuperable obstacles in the way of its importation. The previously existing restrictions were imposed when dynamite was little understood and thought to be akin in its dangerous qualities to nitro-glycerine, and the new regulations were made, it was expected for the purpose of removing instead of augmenting the legal obstructions thrown in the way of its introduction into general use. instead of doing so they are practically prohibitory of its exportation, and causing, as they do, so much annoyance to the miners and quarrymen using it in England, have produced an outcry which has extracted a half promise that they will shortly be entirely removed, As we must for the present rely on foreign countries for our supply, since the Dualin, a somewhat similar material manufactured in the Dominion, has not so far given satisfaction, it is to be hoped that this will be done. Closely connected with the use of powerful explosives is that of

DRILLING MACHINES.--Abroad a great deal of attention is now bestowed on the invention of and perfecting machines al-ready invented to substitute for the slow and expensive method of drilling by hand. Much success has already attended the use of rock drilling machines in undertakings of magnitude where time is the great element of consideration. For boring holes to prove the nature of underlying strata the Diamond Drill stands unrivalled, since in its operation it is more expeditious, cheaper and satisfactory than any system yet invented. In the sister Province of New Brunswick two such drills are in use--one owned by the Government exploring for coal at Grand Lake, and the other in the hands of Mr. Bligh searching for the continuation of the celebrated vein of Albertite near Hills-borough. Mr. Bligh has handled his machine with great success as regards the boring, having put down--so far as I can learn--the deepest hole yet made by a drill of this kind. His boring reached a total depth of 1040 feet.

What is now more particularly wanted is a cheap, simple and efficient machine that can be readily applied to the ordinary work of a mine, sinking and drifting. More particularly do we require such an apparatus in our gold mines, where the successful adoption, attended by economy of time and labour, would enable mines now lying idle, or merely paying working expenses, to yield a handsome profit. Many machines invented for this purpose have met with considerable success. For soft bituminous shales the McDermott handborer has been found most, serviceable. For border rocks, the McKeen and Burleigh Drills have proved efficacious, but will be surpassed, it is expected, by a new borer called the Kainotomon, which lately tested, has received a practical approval in Cornwall. It is described as much simpler and cheaper than any one hitherto brought out, and should it fulfil its promises will augment the facilities for mining which the scarcity of skilled labour now restricts. At the Albion Mines, Montagu, Mr. Lawson has introduced one of Burleigh's drills. He finds it very efficient, but on account of the multiplicity of parts and the inexperience of his workmen in its use, he does not feel warranted at present in purchasing any more.

BARRIERS AND PLANS.--In my report of October 27th, 1873, written in pursuance of the Mines and Minerals chapter, section 5, I alluded to the troubles consequent on the inaccuracy of the plan of the Acadia Co's pit workings, and the neglect to maintain the barriers of coal reserved between the excavations in adjacent leases. Much of the trouble arose from the disregard paid to the express stipulation in the leases respecting the maintenance of barriers, aggravated by the imperfect state of the plans; and excuses were found in the absence of a precedent showing the value of the stipulation requiring the reservation. The trouble thus occasioned has raised a question regarding the correct position of certain lease lines which has not hitherto been defined by posts or monuments of durable material and of a permanent character. Of these two difficulties the first will be met by the new act, the Mines Regulation Chapter, which requires that correct plans should be kept, and compiled from accurate surveys made at least once in every twelve months. It also indirectly requires data to be taken and kept by which the extent of all the leading places, levels and head-ways can be at intermediate times laid down with approximate accuracy.

The second still requires a remedy; the leases not having hitherto stipulated for the establishment of permanent marks to define beyond cavil the metes and bounds of each area leased. Dispute must be expected, and will without doubt arise whenever the workings of rival companies approach each others' boundaries. To avoid as far as possible disputes arising in the future, many lessees have expressed their anxiety to see some well considered plan, requiring the establishment of such permanent marks defining the boundaries of all leased mining areas, approved by the Legislature. Many of the areas are very irregular in shape and the temporary stakes placed to mark the corners when the original surveys were made cannot always now be found, and unless some uniform system of maintaining undisputed the side lines as originally surveyed, is devised, conflicting interests will sooner or later lead to litigation. I therefore beg to suggest that this subject receive the consideration which it appears to require.

WEIGHING.--When it was proposed to require that all coal on which royalty is payable should be weighed, representations were made by interested parties that the requisition would entail a large outlay on the part of the lessee, and occasion grievous detention when the business was large. By such representations a wrong impression was produced as to the object of the clauses. The subject seemed to me of sufficient importance to bring it to your notice in my report, and I did so, but briefly, hoping that those interested would acquiesce in the justice of my suggestion and not raise an opposition that might make it necessary to investigate and expose previous shortcomings and inaccuracies. As, however, they thought otherwise, I may, without bringing a direct charge against any one, be more explicit. The terms of the leases distinctly state that the royalty shall be so much per ton, and that ton to weigh 2240 lbs. Several of the companies and their agents accepted the terms literally, and called my attention to the practice of others who did not, as they did, weigh all the coal they sold. Others were in the habit of averaging the quantity and I have no reason to believe otherwise than fairly, while some roughly guessing at the amount, took care to allow a sufficient margin for loss.

It was to put all on the same tooting and to do justice to those who, sending accurate returns, considered it but fair to them and the Crown, that all in like positions should be required to weigh all coal paying royalty. It was argued that it was absurd to say that the owners, to save seven or eight dollars royalty, would give away seventy or eighty tens of coal, the impression being that the Quarterly Returns sent to the Department, were made on the quantities actually sold and paid for. Such, however, has not always been the practise, for in some cases the returns have been made by colliery officials who never saw the sales account kept at the head office of the company, it may be, in some principal and distant city. To the company it is of no consequence what amount the colliery charges the head office with, so long as it is under the quantity actually received. The royalty has thus been paid on the total quantities compiled from the several amounts stated on the bills of lading, which in known instances have been 70 tons short on a cargo of 900 tons and 30 tons on a cargo of 400. To the shipmaster as a rule, it matters not what the quantity invoiced be, for the freight is made payable on the amount delivered, his bill of lading being made out so many tons more or less.

Last year I was not in a position to know that any owner or agent had previously sent either intentionally or through negligence sworn returns which were inaccurate, but I am now prepared to show that the Returns on a large output for the year 1872 from one concern were 20 p. c. incorrect; and I have the best authority for stating that the returns of another were not within 5 p. c. of the quantity sold.

As I before remarked, had custom sanctioned a uniform discount which was recognized and acted on by all without any distinction, I should not have regarded the question of so much importance or considered it necessary to do more than report the practice of such discount but as I believe it is one more between lessee and lessee than between the Crown and the lessees, I feel justified in writing thus plainly.

It must be acknowledged that some companies would be put to the additional expense of erecting proper weighing scales, but their complaints of the hardship of complying with this requirement should have little weight when it is due to their own mismanagement that they are unable to comply with the terms of their leases. The objection 'that grievous detention would be caused when the business is large' is one that it appears to me a practical man should hesitate to raise. What is done at a thousand collieries in England and at some of our mines, can surely be also done at every other well regulated colliery in this country. While I am still of opinion that where the business is large every ton should be weighed, I at the same time think it might be advisable to have the following proviso attached to the section. Provided that when the output of any mine to which this section applies is irregular, and written representations are made to the Commissioner that by reason of the temporary character of the arrangements at the mine, or the smallness of the output, the lessee would be subjected to great inconvenience and expense by strictly complying with the provisions of this section, then the Commissioner may, if the Inspector is satisfied that the lessee has adopted a reasonably satisfactory system of estimating the weight of the mineral by measurement; or by averaging, grant, if he think fit, an extension of time for complying with the provisions of this section.

SPECIAL RULES--An important decision was recently given in England relative to the liability of colliery owners for the default of their servants under the Mines Regulation Act, 1872. This decision is of interest to owners and managers in this country, for it turns on the wording of a certain clause of the Act which is identical with a similar clause in the Mines Regulation Chapter of the Revised Statutes of this Province.

One of the General Rules having been broken, an action was brought against the owner, who, it appears had made Special Rules under the Act and had properly appointed subordinates to carry out the provisions of those Rules. After summing up the evidence, the judges stated in their decision:--That the colliery owners, however, are not liable where all ordinary precautions are taken for any negligence, we think, is sufficiently shewn by the last paragraph of the "General Rules" by which it is provided that, "in the event of any contravention or non-compliance with any of the said General Rules in the case of any mine to which this Act applies by any person whomsoever being proved, the owner, agent and manager shall each be guilty of an offence against this Act, unless he prove that he had taken all reasonable means, by publishing, and to the best of his power enforcing, the said rules and regulations for the working of the mine to prevent such contravention or non-compliance." Therefore having employed properly qualified persons to fill certain positions, defined their duties, and enforced in every way the rules and regulations for the working of a colliery, it is evident that the liability of the owner and manager ceases and responsibility rests with those who, by negligence, commit an error interfering in any way with the safety of the workmen.

This decision, exonerating the owner who has made Special Rules, clearly leaves him amenable where he has not done so, and a General Rule is broken by servants on whom no responsibility is made to rest. Hence, the necessity for owners and managers establishing Special Rules in order to relieve their own shoulders of as much of the burden imposed by the Act as the Act will allow, and impose the due share of responsibility on those in subordinate positions in whose hands, to a large extent, rest the safety of their own lives and the lives of the working men.

But fatalities also occur and accidents are caused by the want of discipline not directly required by the Chapter and not readily made controllable by general rules but easily so by special rules made suitable to the peculiar requirements of the particular colliery they are intended to govern. At the present time, some of our best regulated mines have been alone managed by verbal rules--in some with good effect--but as it is impossible to maintain discipline as strictly as is often advisable on account of the difficulty of imposing or rather of enforcing penalties not legally imposed, the advantages of special rules legally constituted are very apparent.

To instance a case not directly governed by the General Rules of the Chapter, but which occurring in England would have been controlled by Special Rules, I will here notice in detail the occurrence of an accident at the Vale colliery on the 22nd of November.--On the evening of that day, two countrymen, strangers to the mine, appeared on the "bankhead" and asked permission to visit some friends of theirs who were below. It is said that the Banksman demurred at first but finally permitted them to go down. They remained below for some time and on returning were accompanied by one Daniel McDonald, a young man about twenty years of age, who undertook to see them to the surface. On arriving at the bottom of the slope they found the trolly loaded with coal and jumping on it one of them gave the signal to hoist. The trip started and when about 400 feet up the slope--which is very steep--the drawbar bolt broke and the trolly with its load rapidly descended to the bottom. McDonald was instantly killed, Wm. Hendrickson so seriously injured that he died in a few days and Andrew Walsh got his leg broken, and was otherwise injured.

Now it is generally understood in this country and is an established special rule in England, that the Banksmen and Onsetters in charge of shafts and steep inclines are not to allow any person to descend or ascend without permission from the proper authorities, nor to allow any one to ride with full tubs. Here, then, was a manifest breach of good discipline attended by disastrous results, and it appears to me, that this one case alone, is sufficient to show why special rules should be framed to make those in the position of Banksmen and Onsetters, responsible to the extent of their duties.

CERTIFIED MANAGERS.--The products of the mine being either absolutely or practically limited in quantity, once extracted cannot be reproduced by cultivation as the products of the soil; they should therefore be regarded as property held in trust by the present for the public benefit of this and future generations, and should with watchfulness be protected from waste and lavish consumption. Though there is a natural tendency for all corporations holding but temporary lease of such property to endeavor to reap as speedily as may be the largest present gain, without respecting the true welfare of the property they hold, we cannot yet complain of a lavish expenditure of our mineral products, but we can of wastefulness connected with the management of many undertakings. Without any exaggeration it can be said that large sums of money have been uselessly expended on the developement of our mineral resources while yet the businesss is comparatively insignificant. In referring to this waste it is not advocated that it could for the future be entirely prevented by the employment of certificated managers, but the advantage to the country and to the lessees of Crown property to be derived from the employment of thoroughly efficient men is only too apparent to capitalists and others familiar with the past history of our mining enterprises.

It has been deemed expedient in this country that the law should interfere and require that the masters and mates in charge of our marine shall be men in whom trust can be placed, men who by practical experience and professional education, are, up to a certain standard, fitted to fill the positions they occupy. If this then has been considered necessary, where the property concerned is not directly owned by the Crown, how much more should some prudent supervision be exercised in the case of our mines, which are ?

In England where the mineral rights are held by private owners the law requires a certificated manager to be in charge of every mine, and although there has been a good deal of doubt expressed as to the thoroughness of the present system of granting certificates there adopted, it is evidently a move in the right direction, and naturally suggests a similar movement in other mining countries. Since the law has been in force and an opportunity given to observe its working, it has been suggested by some of the Prize Essayists writing "On the Prevention of Catastrophes in Mines" that it would be an improvement were all colliery officials required to possess certificates, not only the manager or chief person in authority, but also that the overmen, deputies, and firemen, should be required to possess certificates of 1st, 2nd or 3rd class according to the positions they hold. There can be no doubt but that men in such positions as deputies and firemen should have that amount of book learning essential for the proper performance of their duties. An efficient fireman should be able to say why fire damp collects near the roof and choke damp near the pavement, and explain how atmospheric changes of temperature and pressure affect mines, and increase or check the outflow of gases from the measures. Few can do so; but were it made compulsory by law that after the lapse of a certain number of years all officials should hold certificates of competency, obtained by passing examinations on mining matters relating to their special duties, we might then hope that great improvements would take place in the safety of our mines.

Certificates of service might be granted to all officials who have held their positions for one year previous to the commencement of the regulation; which certificates should be only of service so long as the holders remained at the mines in which they were at the time of the granting of the certificates.

There are many among the working miners, who, possessed of the requisite natural ability and determination to succeed, would strive to improve their position, by strenuous efforts in their spare hours, did they have before them the inducement to supply their lack of early education, which the opportunity to earn certificates of competency would hold out to them. There are men now holding responsible positions at some of our mines, who have made their way by the determined exercise of their natural energy of character, and the success that has crowned their efforts, should give much weight to any opinion they may form on this subject, and I believe their opinion is generally in favor of such a scheme as is shadowed forth above. While there are few men possessed of the indomitable pluck requisite to induce them to strive against years of discouragement, there are many of natural ability who would, could they work their way by easy stages, gaining well defined positions of advancement as they strove, be induced to improve their leisure time and endeavor to fit themselves for positions of trust and greater emolument. Were such an opportunity given, then would the general standard of education in the mining community be elevated and the moral tone improved.


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Last Modified: 2000-12-26

Originally Printed by: The Citizen Publishing Company

The information contained on this site is not provided for the purpose of factual
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of the published Nova Scotia Department of Mines annual reports.
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