Georgia-Pacific’s Inverness Quarries

This is the story of three Inverness County gypsum quarries operated by the Georgia-Pacific Corporation.

A gypsum quarry was opened at Big Brook in 1962 by Georgia-Pacific. The quarry operated for three decades, producing 15.4 million tonnes of gypsum by 1986. It had an average production of about 614,000 tonnes per year, with a peak of 891,691 tonnes in 1985.

The Big Brook quarry closed in the early 1990s as the deposit was depleted. The site was reclaimed and it is a combination of greenspace and lakes today.

The company opened a new quarry in 1992 in Sugar Camp as the Big Brook operation wound down. It was estimated at the time that the Sugar Camp deposit contained at least 50 million tonnes of gypsum and the plan was to extract about one million tonnes per year. The company has done progressive reclamation at the site, meaning areas that are mined out have been reclaimed as the company continued operations elsewhere on site. As a result, much of the Sugar Camp quarry, like Big Brook, is a combination of greenspace and lakes. Sugar Camp is pictured below.

The company opened a third gypsum quarry in Melford in 1999 (not to be confused with the Gold Bond gypsum quarry in Milford, Hants County, which has operated since 1955).

All three Georgia-Pacific quarries used shipping facilities in Point Tupper to export their gypsum to wallboard factories along the east coast of the United States.

The Melford and Sugar Camp quarries were both idled in 2011, mainly due to the 2009 collapse of the United States housing market. With fewer homes being built, and less demand for wallboard, there was less demand for gypsum. However, the gypsum is still in the ground and we are hopeful that Nova Scotia’s idled gypsum quarries will return to production as demand increases.

Wallboard was invented in the United States in 1918. Plaster made from gypsum was sandwiched between two sheets of paper and within ten years, large scale production was revolutionizing the construction industry. Today, wallboard is used in most buildings. An average homes contains about seven tonnes of gypsum in its walls.

327-342 million years ago, global sea levels rose and fell many times. This repeatedly flooded Nova Scotia with what we call the Windsor Sea. Nova Scotia was near the equator at that time so the sea also evaporated repeatedly in the tropical sun.

This process gave us huge gypsum deposits because gypsum forms when water high in calcium and sulfate evaporates, leaving the calcium and sulfate behind as sediment. The sediment builds up and is eventually turned into gypsum rock by heat and pressure.