Barrachois Mine

We love getting questions about mining, minerals and geology! We were asked about the Barrachois coal mine in New Waterford.

The Barrachois mine was opened in 1867 by the General Mining Association (GMA) at Barrachois Cove, at the bottom of Mahon Street. The site is a backyard today.

The GMA had a monopoly on most Nova Scotia mineral rights from 1827-57 because the Duke of York, in debt to his jewellers, gave them Nova Scotia’s mineral rights in exchange for clearing his debts and 25% of the GMA’s profits. The jewellers, Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, formed the GMA to mine in Nova Scotia ( The GMA continued to operate in places like New Waterford after its monopoly ended.

The Barrachois mine had two decline tunnels (slopes) and was only worked until 1873 before closing.

The main tunnel was 370 yards long in 1871, according to Richard Brown, Cape Breton manager of the General Mining Association, and had a 30-horsepower engine for hauling.

Brown wrote, “When this colliery is fully opened out, its produce can be sent for shipment to Lingan Harbour, by a railway for two miles in length; or to Sydney Harbour, by a railway three miles in length, in connection with the railway of the Victoria Colliery at Low Point.”

Note that Brown described the mine in 1871 as not fully open, unaware at that time that it would close just two years later.

Charles Monserratt Odell (1861-1924), who was Resident Engineer of the Sydney and Louisburg Railway and the Dominion Coal Company, wrote in 1922 that there had been a different plan for transporting the coal. He said the mine’s tunnels were on opposite sides of “the pond” and the haulage engine was built on the south side. “The two were connected by a trestle across the upper end of the pond. The idea was to dredge the pond to a depth sufficient to float schooners, which were to be laid up alongside of the trestle. Here they were to be loaded direct from the mine tubs, as they came from the slope mouth.”

However, Odell wrote, rather poetically, that the plan was not implemented: “This proved to be another bright idea, which drifted out on the fogs off the coast and was lost in the blue haze.”

While we know that neither of these transportation plans came to fruition, records are not clear about how the Barrachois’ coal was actually transported. It was likely a combination of boats and horse and wagon, since a proper dock facility was never built and rail did not reach the mine site.

The mine was operated again between 1884 and 1886 when another 300 tons of coal were removed.

The Barrachois Mine worked the Barrachois coal seam (sometimes spelled Barrasois and Barachois in historical records). This is actually the Hub seam but the Hub seam is called Barrachois in New Waterford because the settlement itself was originally called Barrachois. The Hub seam is also referred to as the Stubbart seam further west in the Little Pond/Point Aconi area.

The Hub seam splits into a number of smaller seams between Point Aconi and Sydney Harbour and it comes together again as one seam near New Victoria. The coal was, on average, 5.5 feet thick in the New Waterford area but the mine made a lot of water - significant amounts of water seeped in from the surrounding rock - and it was difficult to keep the workings pumped out.

In the 1940s, the Geological Survey of Canada, in cooperation with the Dominion Coal Company, identified a significant resource on the Hub seam of more than 100 million tonnes of coal between New Victoria and Donkin.

The Barrachois Mine was likely intended to be the first major subsea exploration in the New Waterford district, but that did not pan out given the mine’s short life. Instead, it was the Dominion No. 12 mine that became the main producer in New Waterford, even though the Hub/Barrachois coal seam’s reserves in the area were greater than those of the other major seams, the Harbour and Phalen seams.

The No. 12 worked the Harbour seam, which is called the Victoria seam in the New Waterford area (

The only offshore mines on the Hub seam were the Prince Colliery in Point Aconi ( and the Dominion No. 7 Colliery in New Aberdeen (