Copper Lake

You might think that a copper mine at a place called Copper Lake must have been pretty successful, but a series of mishaps and challenges plagued the site for decades.

Problems started when copper was first noticed around Copper Lake, Antigonish County, in the 1850s by a Cornishman. He set sail for England, where he planned to raise capital for a mine, but he and his ship were lost at sea.

In 1867, a company was formed to explore the area but the company failed to find a vein and nothing came of it.

in 1872, the father and son geology team of George Mercer Dawson and Sir William Dawson visited the area and found boulders containing 10-13% copper. They predicted a vein should be found nearby since rocks containing metals like copper erode from bedrock deposits.

Alex McBain proved the Dawsons right - he discovered the Copper Lake Vein in 1875 and formed a company to pursue the project. Another company was also formed by an associate of McBain's, a Mr. A. P. Ross. In 1876 the two companies cooperated in a venture to sink two shafts 46 metres apart. Unfortunately, a disagreement erupted over property boundaries and operations ceased as court actions proceeded. This situation continued for 20 years until the two companies went bankrupt. At that time, the deeper of the two shafts had only been sunk 18 metres.

In 1890, the Copper Crown Company, and later the Lake Copper Mining Company, acquired and mined the property. The latter company developed a total of 244 metres of underground workings. By 1908, the main shaft was 41 metres deep, with levels (horizontal tunnels) at depths of 6, 11 and 30 metres.

In the years prior to 1908, a total of 325 tonnes of ore averaging about 5.5% copper were produced from the deposit. Nearly 100 tonnes of this ore, averaging 11.6% copper, were shipped in three lots to Swansea, Wales and Liverpool, England, and also to New Jersey, USA. Another lot of 136 tonnes averaging 3.5% copper was shipped to Pictou. The remaining 91 tonnes of 2% copper were left on the dump.

Between 1908-1910 further underground work consisted of deepening the main shaft and the air shaft, as well as the sinking of a new shaft and some horizontal tunnelling. It is reported that 1,090 tons of ore were on the dump by 1909.

Mining stopped in 1910 and did not restart until 1925-27 when some minor work took place. No record of any further work is known until 1937 when the Mining and Finance Company of Halifax partially dewatered and rehabilitated the workings and carried out a sampling program under the supervision of Donald F. MacDonald.

Some pits and trenches were dug in 1948. In 1951, H. L. Cameron, who had worked on the property in 1937, wrote a summary report concluding that the mine warranted no further development work. He did, however, recommend further exploration work. He also reported again in 1952 for Northern Mineral Limited that the mine was completely dewatered in 1951 and the lower levels were sampled. Bulldozing exposed the vein from the shaft to the old schoolhouse (which is no longer there), but the eastward extension of the vein was not found.

Exploration has continued at the site on and off since the 1960s, including in the 1990s when it was explored for gold. Work by the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources in 2002 suggests the deposit is an IOCG deposit, meaning it contains iron, copper and gold.

Sometime around 1994, material was removed from the waste dumps for road building in the area. This opened up a portion of the waste piles to expose new material for mineral collectors.

The Copper Lake deposit is one of many created along the Cobequid-Chedabucto Fault System by the collision of Europe and Northern Africa 400 million years ago.

The heat and pressure caused by two tectonic plates colliding and rubbing against each other for millions of years caused earthquakes and melted rocks in Earth’s crust. It also caused the concentration of many minerals. There are hundreds of known mineral deposits in the area, many of which were mined.

As shown in the map below, Copper Lake used to be called Polson Lake after William Polson who had a 200-acre land grant there in 1828. Today, there is another Polson Lake 6.5 kilometres southeast of Copper Lake.