General Mining Association

In 1826, King George IV granted his brother, Prince Frederick, the Duke of York, all mineral rights in Nova Scotia that had not previously been granted. These rights were, in turn, given to the General Mining Association, a company formed by Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, the Royal Goldsmiths from 1797-1843.

The Duke of York, who was known for his free-spending ways, was heavily indebted to RBR. He gave them the mineral rights in exchange for clearing his debts and 25% of the GMA's profits.

The GMA quickly developed coal operations at Albion Mines, a town it founded and which was renamed Stellarton in 1870.

Cape Breton wasn’t part of Nova Scotia when the mineral rights grant was first conceived under the previous king, George III, so GMA had to negotiate with the Crown for Cape Breton’s mineral rights. It then developed mines in the Sydney Mines area.

GMA invested heavily and brought the industrial revolution to Nova Scotia. Our first steam engines were built by the GMA to power pit hoists and pumps, and to drive coal ships. Nova Scotia's first railway (meaning it was powered by steam, not horses) was the Albion Mines Railway, built in 1839 to haul coal from the Stellarton mines to docks in Pictou Harbour. It was only the second steam railway in Canada. It operated until 1961.

GMA also helped professionalize (by the standards of the day) Nova Scotia’s mining industry by founding permanent mining communities and bringing skilled British miners to the province.

While GMA did many good things for Nova Scotia, its monopoly, and the heavy-handed ways it enforced it, was resented by many, including by other entrepreneurs prevented from pursuing mining opportunities.

In 1856, public pressure on Nova Scotia’s legislative assembly resulted in a delegation being sent to England asking that the mineral rights given to the Duke of York be rescinded. Nova Scotia’s legislative assembly passed a bill in 1858 that repealed them.

GMA remained influential for many years until it sold the last of its assets to the Dominion Coal Company and the Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company in 1900.

Rundell, Bridge and Rundell closed its doors in 1843 after losing much of its royal patronage and much of its market share to competitors.

The Duke of York died in 1827 – within months of making his deal with Rundell, Bridge and Rundell.

Today, the Stellarton coal mine is a reclamation mining project that is fixing subsidence issues caused by 200 years of pick-and-shovel mining, including many bootleg mines. The mine is stabilizing the site and making it possible to build on.

Reclaimed Stellarton coal mine.