Gold mining in Nova Scotia

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A particularly fine example of Nova Scotia gold

Gold mining has been a part of Nova Scotia's heritage for 150 plus years and continues to this day. Over a million ounces of gold have been produced in the province since mining began in 1861. Although not as well known as the gold rushes of California, the Klondike, Australia, and South Africa, three distinct rushes resulted in an economic boom in the province and saw the birth and sometimes demise of many new communities.[1]


Most gold mining in the province has taken place south of the Minas Fault Zone in Meguma terrane, with three more mines in Cape Breton.[2]

Discovery and production[edit]

Richardson Gold Mine ca 1900

Gold may have been sighted as early as 1578 when explorer Sir Humphrey Gilbert was given a patent to explore for gold and silver in the New World and explored along the coast.[3][4] Additionally, village names such as Bras d'Or, Cape d'Or, and Jeddore (Jet d'Or) indicate that French settlers may have found gold, but no ancient workings or proof has been found.[3]

Gold was officially discovered in Nova Scotia in late May 1860, by John G. Pulsifer at Mooseland, Halifax County.[3] Prior to this, unofficial discoveries were made in the Musquodoboit and Fort Clarence areas in 1857. The first authenticated discovery was made by Captain Champagne L'Estrange of the Royal Artillery in 1858 in Mooseland, the same area where Pulsifer made his discovery two years later.[4]

First Gold Rush (1861–1874)[edit]

The first gold rush in Nova Scotia began in 1861 and lasted until 1874. Gold hysteria attracted thousands to the gold fields. This was the most dramatic of the rushes, initially characterized by the frenzy of inexperienced miners with dreams of striking it rich.[5]

In the beginning, the miners panned for gold or smashed quartz rocks with hand tools at small individual claims. Within a year, companies began arriving in the area with heavy machinery to construct shafts, dig ore, crush rock, and process the gold. They had the capital to finance underground mines and bought up smaller claims, consolidating them into larger holdings.[5]

In an effort to control the gold hysteria in April 1861, the government of Nova Scotia intervened and declared the Mooseland and nearby Tangier gold districts.[6] After the declaration, other discoveries along the Eastern Shore were quick to follow in the next half year. The communities of Tangier, Lawrencetown, The Ovens, Wine Harbour, Sherbrooke (Goldenville), Waverley, Country Harbour, Isaacs Harbour and Gold River sprung up ‘overnight’ and the miners and their families moved in.[3]

Second Gold Rush (1896–1903)[edit]

1906 map of gold districts

The second gold rush period was dominated by large companies, who continued buying up smaller claims, and hiring locals to mine and operate the stamp mills and machinery. Individual consignment miners, known as tributors, worked claims as well. The province became known as the place of "rich man’s diggings" due to the large costs involved in deep mines working lower grade ore. Capital investment, often American and British, and the improved technology needed to build and operate the mines ballooned into a multimillion-dollar industry. This period is considered the golden age of gold mining in Nova Scotia. Production exceeded 20,000 ounces per year for sixteen years and in three of those years exceeded 30,000 ounces annually (1898, 1900, 1901). Along with racking up the highest yields per year, this period is noted more for organized planning than feverish hysteria.[5]

Third Gold Rush (1932–1942)[edit]

The demand for arsenopyrite, a mineral associated with gold in Nova Scotia, along with cheap energy costs and an increase in the price of gold (US$20.67 to US$34 per ounce), created an impetus for Nova Scotia’s third gold rush. The rush spanned ten years (1932-1942) and 158,000 ounces (4,479,300 g) of gold were produced.[3]

Recent activity[edit]

Atlantic Gold (previously DDV Gold Ltd.) opened an open pit gold mine at Moose River Gold Mines in 2017. Deposits at the project named Touquoy hold an estimated 635,000 ounces of gold, worth $700 million in 2012.[7] The Moose River Gold Mines site will also process ore from the company's mine at its Beaver Dam deposit, 37 km away, which has an estimated yield of 426,600 ounces.[8] The Moose River mine will have a life of five years and Beaver Dam just three.[9] Production at the Touquoy deposit began in 2018. See also: Orex Exploration.

In 2018 the Government of Nova Scotia initiated the process of closing former gold mining sites in Montague Gold Mines and Goldenville that are heavily contaminated with arsenic and mercury.[10]

Gold districts[edit]

There are 65 declared gold districts in Nova Scotia. There were around 350 mines worked in these districts.[1]

Region[3] District Production Start Production Finish Production Comment
Yarmouth Carleton 1879 1940 190.2
Yarmouth Chegoggin 1883 not available ca. 1883
Yarmouth Cranberry Head 1870 1900 249.3
Yarmouth Kemptvllle 1885 1939 2487.90
Kejlmkujlk Brookfield 1887 1936 43147.50
Kejlmkujlk Fifteen Mile Brook 1902 1934 880.6
Kejlmkujlk Molega (Malaga) 1888 1950 33460.20
Kejlmkujlk Pleasant River Barrens 1890 1913 111.8
Kejlmkujlk Stanburn 1933 1936 12.7
Kejlmkujlk West Caledonia 1925 1.7
Kejlmkujlk Whiteburn 1887 1955 11906.70
South Shore Blockhouse 1896 1938 3588.50
South Shore Gold River 1889 1940 7610.40
South Shore Leipsigate (Millipsigate) 1884 1946 13563.20
South Shore Mill Village 1901 1951 909.8
South Shore The Ovens 1862 1958 550.4
South Shore Voglers Cove 1905 43.4
Central Ardolse 1890 1904 6.8
Central Central Rawdon 1888 1939 6920.50
Central Chezzetcook 1883 1944 5528.10
Central Cow Bay 1896 1937 1483.50
Central East Rawdon 1884 1932 13501.00
Central Elmsdale 1890 1.4
Central Gays River 1870 1968 2268.20
Central Lake Catcha 1887 1961 17961.50
Central Lawrencetown 1862 1912 866.7
Central McKay Settlement 1904 1910 13.5
Central Montague 1863 1940 65196.90
Central Mount Uniacke 1867 1941 27737.00
Central Oldham 1862 1946 85177.50
Central Renfrew 1862 1958 51595.50
Central South Uniacke 1888 1948 20762.10
Central Waverley 1862 1940 72566.60
Central West Gore 1905 1939 7148.80
Eastern Shore Beaver Dam 1889 1949 966.7
Eastern Shore Caribou 1869 1968 91335.80
Eastern Shore Clam Harbour 1904 53.9
Eastern Shore Ecum Secum 1893 1935 1300.00
Eastern Shore Fifteen Mile Stream 1878 1941 21291.60
Eastern Shore Gold Lake 1890 1899 38.6
Eastern Shore Harrigan Cove 1874 1961 8071.30
Eastern Shore Killag 1889 1951 3583.60
Eastern Shore Lake Charlotte 1938 1964 77.5
Eastern Shore Little Liscomb Lake 1893 1935 51.9
Eastern Shore Lochaber 1883 2.3
Eastern Shore Miller Lake 1902 1951 538.8
Eastern Shore Moosehead 1899 1935 431.1
Eastern Shore Mooseland 1863 1934 3865.10 1860, First Discovery in Nova Scotia
Eastern Shore Moose River 1888 1939 25917.20 Production before 1888 included with Caribou
Eastern Shore Quoddy 1906 1
Eastern Shore Salmon River (Darrs Hill) 1881 1939 41805.40
Eastern Shore Sheet Harbour 1898 1935 3.9
Eastern Shore Ship Harbour 1935 1937 7.4
Eastern Shore Tangier 1862 1919 26286.50
Eastern Shore Upper Stewiacke 1906 1907 43.9
Stormont Caledonia 1934 1956 3.6
Stormont Cochrane Hill 1877 1982 2081.30
Stormont Country Harbour 1871 1951 9959.70
Stormont Forest Hill 1895 1957 25102.40
Stormont Goldenville (Sherbrooke) 1862 1941 209383.30
Stormont Isaacs Harbour 1862 1958 39694.30
Stormont Lower Seal Harbour 1894 1949 34188.20
Stormont Upper Seal Harbour 1893 1958 57845.70
Stormont Wine Harbour 1862 1939 42346.50
Cape Breton Wagmatacook (Middle River) 1864 1943 1729.40
Cape Breton Stirling 1936 1956 16681.10


  1. ^ a b "The History of Gold Mining in Nova Scotia - Introduction". 2013. Retrieved 2014-04-17.
  2. ^ "Gold map". Nova Scotia Gold. Art Museum of Nova Scotia. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f *Bates, Jennifer (1987), Gold in Nova Scotia (pdf), retrieved 2014-04-15
  4. ^ a b "The History of Gold Mining in Nova Scotia - A Golden Discovery". 2013. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
  5. ^ a b c "The History of Gold Mining in Nova Scotia - Drop the Plow and Grab the Pick: Gold Fever Hits Nova Scotia". 2013. Retrieved 2014-05-13.
  6. ^ "The History of Gold Mining in Nova Scotia - A Misconception". 2013. Retrieved 2014-05-13.
  7. ^ "Moose River gold mine project gets green light. Natural Resources Minister says decision 'difficult' to make". CBCNews. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Jun 15, 2012. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  8. ^ "Atlantic Gold Announces Updated Mineral Resource Estimate for Beaver Dam Deposit, Nova Scotia". Market Wired. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  9. ^ GORMAN, MICHAEL (July 6, 2015). "Moose River mine rule change approved". The Chronicle Herald. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  10. ^ Willick, Frances (Oct 13, 2018). "N.S. plans to close 2 sites contaminated by old gold mines". CBC News. Retrieved 13 October 2018.

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