Eureka Mine

Nova Scotia has had a series of barite mines in the past century and a half, most of which provided barite for paint manufacturing within the province.

Nova Scotia’s first barite mine, and likely the first in Canada, was the Eureka Mine on the west side of the Bass River in Five Islands, Colchester County. Barite was discovered there in 1849 and after exploration and development work, the mine opened in 1866. That year, about 30 tons were extracted in just three weeks.

The mine operated under several owners from 1866-76, including the Colchester Baryta Company which exported 450 tons of barite to the United States, and a Mr. Sewell of Bath, Maine, who mined 2700 tons that were shipped to the US and to the Dolphin Manufacturing Company paint works in St. Catharines, Ontario. A small quantity was also used locally for manufacturing paint.

Ground barite is used as a pigment in paint. According to a 1907 Geological Survey of Canada report, barite was worth about $10 per ton in crude (unprocessed) form in the 1870s and $30 per ton when ground down to powder.

The workings at the mine, which was also later called the Bass River Mine and the Duncan Mine, consisted of the main adit (tunnel) driven about 100 metres into the steep west bank of the river, two metres above the riverbed. There was also a shorter adit, seven metres long, above the riverbed. In the early days, some adits were also driven into the east bank of the river.

Specimens of barite and chalcopyrite (the ore that most copper is smelted from) taken from the Eureka Mine were displayed by the Geological Survey of Canada at the Philadelphia International Exhibition in 1876, the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London in 1886 and the Paris International Exhibition in 1900. A 150-pound specimen of barite provided by the Colchester Baryta Company was displayed at the Paris International Exposition in 1867.

After its first decade, the mine operated intermittently until 1907. Renewed interest in the deposit resulted in a fair amount of development work that year and the discovery of an additional vein 15 metres south of the mine’s entrance. 272 tons of barite were removed from the newly discovered vein but the mine still shut down in 1907.

There was additional exploration at the site in 1945 by Maritime Exploration Limited and in 1970 by Triton Exploration Limited. However, the mine never returned to production.

Several of Nova Scotia’s early barite mines were operated by Henderson and Potts, a paint company based in Halifax. Joseph R. Henderson and C. H. Potts founded the company in 1875 at Five Islands to be near ship building activity. In 1879, the company moved to Halifax and began producing paints, varnishes and enamels. In 1888, the plant was destroyed by fire. In 1889, a larger plant was built at Young and Kempt Streets that was still operating in 1969.

In 1906, Henderson and Potts amalgamated with Brandram Bros. and Co. of London, England to become Brandram-Henderson. The company later expanded west and founded factories in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.