The Bridgeville iron deposits in Pictou County were known as early as 1828 when ore from there was used in the new blast furnace erected at the Pictou Collieries of the General Mining Association. However, the transportation costs of hauling the ore to Pictou made the Bridgeville mine uneconomic and it shut down.

The area was idle until 1872-73 when extensive exploration was carried out by Dr. William Dawson. Born in Pictou, Dawson became Canada’s first scientist with a worldwide reputation when he discovered the fossilized remains of Hylonomus lyelli, the oldest known reptile in the world, in the Joggins fossil cliffs.

In 1891, the Pictou Charcoal & Iron Company leased the rights to mine iron on the Grant property and built a blast furnace on-site to produce charcoal pig iron. The limestone necessary for the process was supplied by McLean’s Quarry in Springville, five kilometres to the northeast.
In 1898, the Mineral Products Company of New York leased the blast furnace and converted it to produce ferromanganese, an alloy of iron and manganese that is used in the manufacture of steel. The iron ore was mined on-site and the manganese came from bog deposits in New Brunswick. The operation ceased late the following year.

During this period, the Nova Scotia Steel Company mined ore from an adjoining property and purchased excess ore from the Grant Mine for their furnace at nearby Ferrona.

In 1903, the Bridgeville Mining Company started a new shaft and shipped 2,730 tons of iron ore to the Nova Scotia Steel Company at Ferrona.

The Grant Mines extracted from three deposits. The Scotia Grant Mine produced 9,100 ton of ore. The Middle Grant Mine was worked by two adits (tunnels) with about 100 metres of horizontal tunnels underground. The Big Grant orebody was as much as 9.1 metres wide. Of the total 53,000 tons of ore extracted at the Grant Mines, 4,180 tons were smelted on-site and the remainder was sold to customers.

Some of the Grant workings eventually flooded with surface water and because the pumps were too small to handle the inflow, tools and mine cars were abandoned underground where they still are today.

There were several other irons mines in Bridgeville, including the following:

The McDonald Mine produced 36,400 tons of ore. Most of the mining was done via a decline tunnel 121 metres long.

The J.S. Cameron Mine produced between 36,400-45, 500 tonnes of iron ore.

The Cameron Mine (a separate one from the J.S. Cameron Mine) was worked to a depth of 61 metres and yielded 9,100 tons of iron ore.

The Black Diamond Iron Mine workings were 275 metres long, six metres wide and 12 metres deep. Approximately 9,100 tonnes of iron ore were produced from the mine.

The General Mining Association mined some ore at the Saddler Mine’s Monck Shaft in 1830. It was mined again in 1886 when some of the ore was shipped to the blast furnaces at Londonderry. The mine had two vertical shafts, one 10 metres deep and the other 55 metres deep. There are several crosscuts (horizontal tunnels) at different levels. The total output from the mine was 9,100 tons of ore.

Iron mining in Bridgeville came to an end in 1904 when the Ferrona iron works shut down.
It was well-known that the Bridgeville ores produced a high grade of pig iron. In 1904, several hundred pounds of Bridgeville ore were shipped to the Louisiana World Exposition and won a gold medal.

At the same time, the Bridgeville ores contained a lot of barite in some places which was a problem in smelting. The metallurgical technology did not exist back then to separate impurities like barite from the iron ore, so a mine was stuck with whatever other minerals and metals were mixed into its deposit. (Barite is itself an important mineral but small amounts of it mixed into an iron deposit are unhelpful.) Advancements in metallurgical technology give us much greater ability to scrub impurities out during smelting now.

In contrast, a main reason that the Londonderry iron mines were so successful is that the deposits were very pure.

The Bridgeville iron mining district was Nova Scotia’s second biggest iron producer after Londonderry. A total of 188,000 tons of iron were smelted from Bridgeville ore.

Below is a map of the Bridgeville mines taken from a 1926 government report. It’s an example of the hand-drawn maps that were often used in historical periods and it illustrates the challenges modern mineral explorationists sometimes have finding former mines and quarries. Old sites can be completely overgrown and the landscape can change over time. Maps were hand-drawn and there were no GPS coordinates. Directions to a site in historical records sometimes reference roads, buildings and other landmarks that no longer exist.