Cape d’Or

Nova Scotia had a number of historical copper mines and has the potential for copper mining in future. Here’s the story of copper mining at Cape d’Or.

The first miners at Cape d’Or, Cumberland County, were the Mi’kmaq who extracted copper and made tools and arrowheads from the metal, long before Europeans came to Nova Scotia. Mi'kmaq also gathered chert at Cape d’Or, a rock whose sharp edges made good tools.

In 1876, there was an attempt to sink a shaft to mine copper at Bennett Brook but the effort was not successful.

In 1897, J. A. Hanway formed the Colonial Copper Company which, from its New York City offices, invested several million dollars in developing mining operations at Cape d’Or.
There were few roads in that parts of the province in those days, so a wharf was built in Horseshoe Cove and most people and materials came and went by water.

By 1900, three areas were being mined at Cape d’Or. Shaft No. 1 was sunk to 113 metres and had two short drifts (horizontal tunnels off the shaft) at depths of 66 metres and 110 metres.
The Hanway (aka No. 2) mine consisted of two inclined shafts, one toward the north for 150 metres and another toward the south for 200 metres. There are upwards of 243 metres of underground tunnels at the Hanway workings, one of which opens on the basalt cliff face south of the shafts. Hanway was the main area of mining activity.

A third mine, at Bennett Brook, was 55 metres deep with 90 metres of drifts. Its workings were in a deep ravine immediately adjacent to the brook, which caused water leaks that hampered mining.

In addition to these three sites, there were several other copper prospects discovered in the area, but none were explored to a significant extent.

Mine infrastructure for the district consisted of a crushing and concentrating plant, mine offices, assay lab, numerous miners’ homes, boarding houses and a lodge. In addition, a narrow-gauge rail line connected all three areas to the concentrating plant.

Despite the extensive workings, Cape d’Or produced only modest amounts of copper and the company ran into financial trouble. An article in the Copper Journal foreshadowed the company’s challenges: “Company seems honestly managed, but is suffering from lack of needed funds, the development and equipment of a mine upon a large scale having proved much more costly than was anticipated when work was begun.”

Mining stopped in December 1907 and never restarted. A total of 1,971 tons of ore had been mined and processed, yielding a mere 12,320 pounds of copper. This was a poor return for the significant investment and extensive workings.

After the mine closed, some of its buildings were barged to locations around the Bay of Fundy. Other buildings were torn down for their timber or brick, and the mine’s train was sold to the Newfoundland Railway. The equipment in the mill was sold for scrap.

Detailed production records and other documents about the site were destroyed when the caretaker’s house later burned. Eli James of Advocate had worked at the mine from its inception and took care of the site after the mine closed.

The Colonial Copper Company also had a small mine in New Annan, Colchester County, on the French River that was similarly unsuccessful. It also owned the Chandos Mine in Peterborough, Ontario.

Champlain called it Cape d'Or (Cape of Gold) because he thought copper in the cliffs looked golden. Champlain was not entirely wrong – there was reportedly some gold in the area.
An 1866 report says gold was discovered and mined to a small extent in Cape d'Or.

Also, the Industrial Advocate newspaper wrote in 1906, "It is reported on what appears to be good authority that the ore that has recently been mined at the Colonial Copper Mines, has considerable quantities of gold mixed with the copper." If true, the gold was not enough to turn around the company’s fortunes.

According to the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbour, Maine, the Mi’kmaq name for Cape d’Or is L'mu'juiktuk (place of the dogs) because Kluskap's dogs chased a moose there that Kluskap turned into Isle Haute.