Diogenes Brook

A sand and clay deposit was mined in River Denys, Inverness County, starting in the 1920s.

The deposit was discovered in the mid-1880s on Diogenes Brook (aka Glen Brook), about three kilometres northwest of Melford. Some minor work was done on it prior to 1911. However, it was not until 1917 when the River Denys Sand and Clay Company bought the 95-acre property that activity became more significant.

The company was headquartered in Melford. J. A. MacLellan was the president and managing director. D. J. Beaton was the mine’s foreman.

According to a 1926 report by the Geological Survey of Canada, production started in 1924 and the company excavated in six main areas, digging three tunnels (adits) and three pits (see the map below).

Mining was done from May to October each year. The company employed 25 men during the 1926 season, and used seven 1-ton Ford trucks with an average payload of a little over one ton per truck.

Extraction was done by hand and the sand was loaded onto tram cars in the tunnels and loaded directly into the Ford trucks at the open pits.

In the tunnels, sand of the desired quality was allowed to flow into the tunnel and was removed as required.

Because the sand and clay walls and roof were unstable, the company used a method called forepoling to dig the tunnels. Sharp-pointed poles were driven into the ground ahead of, or simultaneously with, the excavating and lumber was used to support the walls and roof. Forepoling has been used for centuries when excavating in loose, caving, or watery ground. Today, of course, it is much more sophisticated than how it was done at Diogenes Brook. Steel tubes are usually installed in an umbrella shape and then injected with cement to form a protective arch that is further supported with steel arches. This is not only done in mining but also in civil construction such as when digging tunnels under cities (see picture below).

The company produced 400 tons of sand in 1924 and 1,500 tons the next year.

The company built and repaired four miles of road to haul the sand and clay, completing the construction in 1924. The road connected with the highway near Melford. Another road was used to haul the material to the River Denys railway station from which it was shipped to customers.

The sand was used as moulding sand (aka foundry sand) in Sydney and New Glasgow. Sand is often used to make moulds that liquid metals are poured into to make castings. Some sand was also shipped to Montreal.

Clay from the operation was also used in Saint John, New Brunswick, to make pottery.

Companies that used the sand reported to the Geological Survey that “the sand is equal to the previously used imported sands” and the clay was also “perfectly satisfactory.”

Extraction took place until 1935 and a total of 13,000 tons of sand were taken.

The site was examined in the 1980s by Nova Scotia Department of Mines staff who found there was little remaining evidence of the old workings because the site was overgrown. A bulldozer uncovered one of the old tunnel entrances and some rails that were used in the tramway to move sand around the site.