Central Rawdon Consolidated Mines

Central Rawdon Consolidated Mines Ltd. had big plans, but things did not work out.

Gold was discovered at Centre Rawdon, Hants County, in 1884. Mining took place on two properties: the Northup Mine at which the Cope and West gold-bearing quartz veins were worked, and the East Vein, so named because it was to the east of the Northup Mine. (See the full story of the Centre Rawdon Gold District at https://notyourgrandfathersmining.ca/centre-rawdon).

After years of relatively steady work in the district, it was mostly idle after 1897. This is when Central Rawdon Consolidated Mines Ltd. bought both properties and set about raising money and making plans.

The company’s management included Clarence H. Dimock as president, who had worked in the district since 1887, E. N. Dimock, manager at the Wentworth Gypsum Company (https://notyourgrandfathersmining.ca/wentworth-creek-quarry), and Henry W. Cain, vice president of the Micmac Gold Mining Company (https://notyourgrandfathersmining.ca/leipsigate).

In a 1903 prospectus, Central Rawdon Consolidated Mines Ltd. printed two consultant reports that laid out very different visions for how the company could proceed.

The first was written in 1897 by Robert G. Leckie, who was born in Scotland in 1833 and immigrated to Canada in 1856. Starting in the early 1880s, he was managing director of the Cumberland Railway and Coal Company which ran the No. 1 and No. 2 coal mines in Springhill. In 1890, Leckie became general manager of the Londonderry Iron Company, a post he held for three years (https://notyourgrandfathersmining.ca/londonderry).

He also consolidated several smaller coal companies in Cumberland County into the Canada Coal and Railway Company (https://notyourgrandfathersmining.ca/joggins-colliery), which later became the Maritime Coal Power and Railway Company (https://notyourgrandfathersmining.ca/thomas-edison-chignecto-coal-mine). Before his departure from Nova Scotia in 1898, Leckie also ran the Torbrook iron mines (https://notyourgrandfathersmining.ca/torbrook).

Leckie’s 1897 report spoke highly of Central Rawdon Consolidated Mines Ltd.’s property. He concluded that a mine producing 20 tons of ore per day would generate a net profit of $2500 per month.

His report also included this warning: “In very few mines is the development work carried to the proper extent. Lack of adequate capital is mainly responsible for this state of affairs. I venture to say that very nearly all of the abandoned gold mines of Nova Scotia would be to-day in successful operation, had they in the first place been opened up under able management, with sufficient capital to allow of a proper system of development and underground working.”

Leckie, based on his extensive experience running successful mines, advocated for a conservative but likely-profitable approach.

The second report was written in 1903 by B. C. Wilson, who had worked in the Central Rawdon district for a dozen years. Wilson wrote, “To merely put the property in working order so as to be a gold producer and make it work out its own salvation does not involve a very large outlay.” Wilson suggested a plan like Leckie’s would cost about $8000 to implement.

However, Wilson argued for making a bigger investment in order to realize bigger rewards: The Leckie model “would put the Mine on a working basis of 20 tons a day increasing as the opening progressed, and the reduction plant on the ground would take care of this amount. But this would involve slow development compared with the quantity of ore in the property, and to bring the Mine into full and economical operation.”

He argued instead for a more aggressive approach – mining the East Vein while at the same time extending the main tunnel to other previously-discovered veins and digging new shafts to raise their ore to surface, “putting each vein into commission as reached.” He said this approach “would call for capital account of not less than $50,000 to $75,000, but not necessarily all called for at once.”

Wilson estimated that “half to three quarters of a million tons of ore” could be extracted at a cost of $3.00 per ton. (Leckie said the cost per ton would be closer to $5.00).

Wilson suggested - conservatively, he claimed - that the company could generate $2-3 million in revenue, compared to the net $2500 per month Leckie estimated. Wilson said the property was “second to none in Nova Scotia as a gold mining proposition,” and was a “safe and profitable investment.”

At the time that Wilson wrote his report, he was acting as a consultant to the company. However, he became its vice president not long after, and the company followed his recommendations.

In May 1904, work started on extending the main tunnel and by the end of September the vein was reached at a distance of 926 feet from the tunnel mouth. The workings were dewatered, but little mining was done, and a mere 13 ounces of gold was produced from 30 tons of ore in 1906.

Central Rawdon Consolidated Mines Ltd. shut down, its expenses having far exceeded its revenues.

This was a common outcome for many of Nova Scotia’s historical gold mining companies. They frequently spent too much and generated too little in revenue. Where small, conservatively-run mines would likely have been steady earners, company management was often blinded by visions of tremendous riches.

In fact, the province’s historical gold mines often did not close because the resource was depleted. Other factors were often the cause of gold mines shutting down, including bad business decisions, inefficient historical mining and milling techniques, lack of capital, lack of access to inexpensive electricity, challenges associated with transporting equipment and supplies through the wilderness, and lack of labour.

That is why many historical gold districts have potential to be returned to production in the modern era since all of the above challenges are now easily addressed. In fact, almost all the activity in Nova Scotia’s gold sector is at historical mines where deposits were proven during our early gold rushes, but modern science and technology make it possible to mine profitably while, of course, taking proper care of the environment.