Franey Gold Mine

Some of Nova Scotia’s most beautiful parks and protected areas contain former mines/quarries! For example, the historical Franey gold mine is part of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park today.

In May 1910, J. H. Brown discovered gold in a large boulder in the area where Clyburn Brook and Franey Brook intersect, about four miles west of Ingonish, Victoria County.

In many instances, gold-bearing boulders were the original discovery that led to gold mines because the boulders erode from bedrock gold deposits. When prospectors found boulders containing gold, it would trigger a search for the deposit from which the boulder originated.

By September 1910, Brown had located the gold-bearing quartz vein the boulder originated from in an outcrop on the west bank of Franey Brook. In October, J. H. Brown, O. Theriault, J. Gannon and H. M. Rogers organized a company to develop the Franey Mine.

In August 1911, Theriault and J. C. C. Brodeur started working the east side of Franey Brook, hoping to locate the continuation of the vein there. They spent $40,000 but failed to locate the vein on the east side of the Brook.

The search for the continuation of the vein was a major challenge with the Franey deposit. The vein was cut by a fault - a fracture, or zone of fractures, between two blocks of rock. Faults are caused by geological forces like tectonic plate movement and they allow the blocks of rock to move relative to each other. In this case, the gold-bearing quartz vein was split by a fault and one side of it was shifted to another – unknown - location.

Various attempts were made to locate the eastern portion of the vein but none were successful. This incurred significant costs and limited the value of the mine.

Despite this challenge, work at the Franey Mine continued. A 1914 report by the Geological Survey of Canada said prospecting and development were taking place with financial backing from American investors and under the supervision of Joseph M. Brown. (It is not clear from records whether this is the same J. H. Brown who discovered the site or if the different middle initial is deliberate and indicates this is a second person with the same last name).

Holes were drilled into the rock with hand drills, explosives were inserted and blasts freed the ore/rock. The ore was wheeled to the foot of the shaft in wheelbarrows (called “burrows” in the report), hoisted to surface and piled on the dump. A five-horsepower boiler and small hoisting engine provided power for hoisting, pumping and ventilation.

A large concrete boarding house, measuring 82 feet by 36 feet, was built, the remains of which can still be seen today.

A number of experienced mining men and metallurgists were reportedly working on the challenge of liberating the gold from its host rock.

Work stalled around this time and the site was largely idle until the early 1930s when Edgar Henderson prospected the site. No mining took place, however.

In total, approximately 900 feet of tunnels were dug and a 60-foot shaft was sunk. Of this, about 270 feet of tunnel and 30 feet of shaft were dug on the vein.

The rest of the digging was done to locate the missing portion of the vein and in prospecting other quartz veins in the vicinity. In other words, more work was done in search of gold than in actually mining it. Despite this expenditure of money and effort, the vein was never found east of Franey Brook.

Because the mine was really a prospecting site, not a fully-functioning mine, the value of its ore was determined from assays (tests) of the ore, not regular production. Assay results varied from trace gold to $130 per ton (all figures in 1914 dollars). One assay produced a result of $3.31 per ton. The Geological Survey of Canada estimated the true average value of the mine’s gold would be about $5.00 per ton.

While we call it a mine, the Franey workings, like many other historical operations, were not a mine in the sense that we use the word now. Historical mines were often pits just a couple feet deep, or a small shaft or two, often even without a mill for processing. There was often very little actual mining or production at such sites...but their stories are often interesting!

You use gold every day. For example, it is in all electronics to make them more reliable and powerful. Electrical signals can be interrupted by corrosion at contact points so gold is used in circuitry because it does not corrode and it's an excellent conductor of electricity.

Learn how prospectors can use gold-bearing boulders to find a gold deposit at

There was a gypsum quarry in Ingonish in the 1920s. See its story at