The GMA’s Iron

One of the first attempts to smelt iron in Nova Scotia was done by the General Mining Association in 1928-29.

The GMA, which had a monopoly on most Nova Scotia minerals from 1827-57 (, experimented with producing pig iron, an ingredient in steel, at its coal mines in the Stellarton area. It built a blast furnace and, using iron from McLellan’s Brook, produced 50 tons of pig iron. However, the iron was unusually hard and the GMA, dissatisfied with this attempt to refine iron from local ore, dropped the idea.

Decades later a New Glasgow foundry used some of the GMA’s pig iron to make stamps for a stamp mill in Guysborough County, according to Pictou County historian James M. Cameron. Stamp mills were large machines that crushed gold-bearing rock by stamping it over and over. Each stamp weighed about 800 to 1,000 pounds and repeatedly struck the ore, crushing it down to sand-sized particles. The unusual hardness of the GMA’s iron, which made it useless to the company, would have been helpful when used in the stamps.

Some of the GMA’s iron was also used as ship ballast.