Clam Harbour

It is not known when gold was first discovered in Clam Harbour, Halifax County, but it was sometime prior to 1880 since a government report written that year mentions gold being having been found on Clam Harbour River.

The gold discovery in the river, then-called Mary's River, was a couple kilometres east of where the Clam Harbour gold mine would later be located.

An 1897 geological map indicates the existence of some prospecting pits and gold-bearing quartz veins in the area. However, it was not until 1901 that serious prospecting took place on the Clam Harbour property. Several shafts were sunk, an arrastra mill constructed and small-scale mining started.

An arrastra was a simple machine that used a giant stone attached to a wooden arm to crush gold-bearing rock. Arrastras were powered by animals or motors. The ore was placed in the bottom of the arrastra over which were placed large rocks. The rocks were ground over the ore, crushing it and releasing the gold.

The arrastra in Clam Harbour (also spelled arrastre) was a circular structure, four metres in diameter, with a granite slab base and 70 centimetres-high stone and concrete walls. The pictures below show what it looks like today. The drawing shows what it looked like when operational.

Given that this was the level of technology Nova Scotia’s early gold miners had access to, it is not surprising that they did not take proper care of the environment 100-150 years ago. Misconceptions about modern gold mining stem from historical mining practices that we agree were not good enough. Fortunately, historical practices have nothing to do with modern mining which is a sophisticated, science-based activity that takes proper care of the environment. You can learn more about the differences between historical and modern gold mining at

In 1903, the Clam Harbour operation produced 52 ounces of gold from 57 tons of quartz crushed, a solid return.

However, by the following year, mining appears to have ceased and the property remained idle until 1930-1935 when there was some exploration activity but no mining.

The arrastra used at Mooseland, the site of Nova Scotia’s first documented gold discovery in 1858, was the first gold mining crusher in Nova Scotia and one of the earliest in Canada. See the story of the Mooseland gold district at