Currie Mine

Steel is mainly iron and carbon, and the carbon is derived from metallurgical (steelmaking) coal. Nova Scotia got into steel production in the 1800s because it has vast coal deposits and the hope was that local iron would provide the second of the two key ingredients.

In the early 1900s, the operators of the steel mills in Sydney and Sydney Mines investigated a number of iron deposits in Cape Breton, including the Currie mine.

Iron ore was first mined in the MacAdam’s Lake area of Cape Breton around 1874 when several hundred tons were extracted.

The site was one mile south of the intersection of the Frenchvale and Bourinot roads, on the farm of Lauchlin Currie, about seventeen miles from Sydney. Messrs. Campbell, Moseley and Brookman were the operators of the Currie mine (also sometimes spelled Curry in historical records).

An American company tried to develop the property around 1890. The company dug several pits, trenches and a 22-foot shaft, and left 500-600 tons of iron ore on the property. The trench from which the ore was extracted was about 100 feet long, 15-25 feet deep and about 10 feet wide at the top.

Edgar Moseley again worked the site, likely in the 1890s. Most of the work was on two acres of land that Moseley had purchased from Angus Currie. (Some records also refer to the Currie mine as the Moseley mine.)

Moseley also sank a shaft at Frenchvale in that period, on the land of “Widow Campbell,” about three miles northeast of the Currie mine. The Frenchvale mine reportedly had very similar geology to the Currie mine. Both had iron ore in small pockets, not one large deposit, that made extraction more difficult.

The Dominion Iron and Steel Company, which ran the Sydney steel mill, worked at the Currie mine in the early 1900s. Dominion pumped out the workings and cleared out the pits to examine them. The company also sank four shafts in search of iron ore.

The pictures below are from a 1903 Dominion Iron and Steel Company memo. They show the site as it was at that time, following Dominion’s work on the property.

Dominion concluded that the mine’s “irregular pockets of ore” meant “there is not enough ore to be of value for mining purposes.”

Dominion also noted that the location of the mine would have made transportation expensive: “It should be borne in mind that this property is five miles from the nearest railroad and is about twenty miles from Sydney by carriage road. In order to deliver the ore at Sydney, it would be necessary to build at least seven miles of railroad or an aerial tramway of about five miles to connect with the I.C.R. [Intercolonial Railway] at a point about twenty-five miles west of the Sydney terminus.”

The other potential option was to ship the ore by water: “By building a railroad about eight miles or an aerial tramway of 3½ miles to East Bay, Bras D’Or Lake, it could then be transported by water to Sydney, a distance of about eighty miles.”

Nova Scotia’s Department of Mines drilled five holes in the area in 1913-1914. Four of the holes hit a showing of iron in the limestone. However, all work at the mine seems to have ceased by 1920.