False Starts

Some days go better than others when looking for mineral deposits.

On October 29, 1959, Nova Scotia Department of Mines engineer C. F. Townsend visited Big Lorraine, Cape Breton County, to examine a mysterious rock that had been found on the beach. The rock had “Light blue surface smears,” according to a memo Townsend wrote the next day. Presumably a local had found the rock and thought there might be some geological significance to the blue smears, or perhaps a fortune to be made.

Unfortunately, Townsend concluded the blue colour was paint: “It is probable that a small boat beached at high tide could leave markings like this as it was found. The smears looked like dried paint.”

It would be nice to say that Townsend’s travels that day were not a complete waste of time – he was based at the Department’s Stellarton office, so had driven a fair distance - but the same memo discusses a visit to prospecting sites near Louisbourg with prospector Fraser Wilcox: “Samples submitted by him to Department of Mines at Halifax had been apparently reported as having some form of copper. Whether these samples had been assayed [analysed] is not known. There was very little to indicate that it carried minerals of any value. It appeared to be some form of igneous rock streaked with quartz, showing a light green color and very hard…Unless actually shown by assay to carry some thing like copper, it is doubtful that it would have any economic value.”

Only one in every 10,000 mineral exploration projects ends up being a mine. That is why it is important that we develop mineral deposits when we can, both for the materials they provide and the jobs and economic benefits they create.