Glendale Graphite

The discovery of graphite in Glendale, Inverness County, is an example of Nova Scotia’s potential to produce the critical minerals needed for green technologies like electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels.

A small graphite mine briefly operated as early as 1878 in Glendale Village, by “the brook behind MacGillivray’s,” according to the 1878-79 Nova Scotia Department of Mines annual report.

A half-century later, exploration was being done on what was then the land of Dan McDonald in the Craignish Hills, about 2.5 miles north of Glendale Village, along the west branch of the Inhabitants River.

A syndicate formed by four men - D. J. Beaton of Port Hood, J. A. MacLellan, Francis W. Gray (of Sydney and an executive in the Dominion Steel and Coal Company) and Mike Dwyer – were exploring the site. Beaton and MacLellan were the ones actually doing the exploration work.

In 1931-32, the syndicate dug two short shafts, two adits (decline tunnels) and several trenches and test pits. The work proved there is an extensive graphite deposit with a strike length of over 3000 feet.

Officials from the Nova Scotia and federal departments of mines inspected the site in 1931 and reported that the deposit was significant. Federal official V. L. Eardley-Wilmot wrote, after visiting Glendale on July 19, 1931, “The seams are along a hillside and can be easily mined. Small creeks cut the seams at different places. The apparent quantity available for mining is quite large.”

The syndicate’s focus was mainly on its potential for use as filler in paint and graphite was sent to the Department of Mines in Ottawa for testing.

The Department asked the Ottawa Paint Works and the Ontario Hydro-Electric Commission to conduct additional tests to see if the graphite was suitable for their purposes, and updated the syndicate on their efforts: “I may say it is going to take some time to get the trade interested in carrying out the necessary tests to determine its suitability for the various uses to which it might be put but Messrs. Carochan and Wilmot [federal mines department staff] are working steadily on it.” Both organizations indicated in 1932 that paint made using Glendale graphite was high quality.

Despite Glendale’s significant potential for a graphite mine, the syndicate fell apart. A 1932 letter by Francis W. Gray, one of the partners, updated Eardley-Wilmot on the challenges the syndicate was facing: “This graphite prospect has not progressed in a financial way recently.”

Gray wrote that D. J. Beaton, the driving force behind the project, “conveyed a 1/5 share to Mr. McLellan who induced a number of people to acquire an interest in his share, but according to Mr. Beaton [MacLellan] has spent the proceeds on himself and not on the property….” MacLellan even failed to pay Beaton’s wages for his prospecting work.

Beaton asked the other two members of the syndicate, Gray and Mike Dwyer, to buy Beaton’s shares: “I gathered that he [Beaton] is entirely without funds and fed up with McLellan’s actions.”

Gray went on to write that “McLellan was to call on Dwyer and myself to explain his position but has not done so, so we are not clear regarding the future of this prospect.”

The prospect was then idle for another half-century until exploration started again in the 1980s. It has been explored on and off ever since and is known to have significant potential.

Today, graphite is a critical mineral in rechargeable batteries, including those used in electric vehicles and cell phones.