Here is the story of “Iron Mine Farm,” also known as the Burns iron mine in Erinville, Guysborough County!

Nova Scotia has two halves geologically: The northern half came from Europe and the southern half from Africa. The Cobequid-Chedabucto Fault System (CCFS) is where they collided 400 million years ago.

People sometimes think of it as a single fault that cuts the province in half. In fact, it's a fault zone or system, not a single fault. (It’s like a broken phone screen that has a spider web of cracks, not just one.)

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.

For example, there are many iron deposits along the CCFS that were mined in the 1800s and 1900s. The colliding tectonic plates opened up a series of faults (fractures) between the plates. The faults tapped into Earth’s mantle and allowed huge amounts of iron-rich solutions to escape and rise toward Earth’s surface. As these fluids got closer to the surface – away from the heat of Earth’s centre and the heat of the tectonic collision - they cooled and solidified, forming iron deposits.

One of these deposits was first mined in 1882 when the Crane Iron Company of Philadelphia began working an outcrop on Robert Burns’s farm in Erinville.

A 2x2 meter shaft was sunk 15 metres deep, at the bottom of which a horizontal tunnel was driven 8 metres. Another tunnel was dug northeast for 18 metres and a third tunnel was dug southeast for 11 metres.

Two thousand tonnes of iron ore were extracted and hauled by horses along a private wagon road to Milford Haven bridge.

Another 1000 tonnes of ore were left onsite and were still there when, in the winter of 1900-01, the Dominion Iron and Steel Company dewatered the old workings, deepened the shaft and mined 486 tonnes of ore for shipment to the company’s smelter in Sydney.

Dominion hired George Farnan to manage the mining. Farnan was a contract miner who had worked in Londonderry, home of Nova Scotia’s largest iron mines ( He offered to mine the Burns property for 60 cents per ton but Dominion had to provide about $50 worth of materials for the whim (hoisting winch). Farnan was considered “reliable and made a good record at Londonderry, carrying out his contracts in good and poor times, but he has no financial backing.” Covering the cost of the whim up front was apparently more than he could afford.

Around this time, it was suggested that the original wagon road be turned into a tramway or light railway to facilitate transportation of the iron ore to tidewater. There was also hope that a Guysborough railway would be built and pass nearby the property, but delays contributed to Dominion backing away from the mine despite an estimated 20,000 tons of ore still being in the ground.

Interest in the property lapsed until 1941 when the shaft was dewatered by the Dominion Steel and Coal Company. The company examined the workings but did no additional exploration.

In 1953, the New Concord Development Corporation of Toronto drilled two exploration holes near the Old Crane shaft. Drill core recovery was poor, no doubt due to the presence of faults and, therefore, the results were inconclusive.

In 1960, the Nova Scotia Department of Mines drilled five holes near the old workings. In fact, the Department also examined the site in 1944, 1959, 1977, 1978 and 1987.

According to a 1922 book called Nova Scotia Place Names, Erinville was “so named by lovers of Ireland who settled in this district.” The author apparently did not think that required any further explanation in 1922 but it took us a little research to figure out what it meant: the name Erin is derived from Eire, the Irish word for Ireland.