The Goldboro gold district was first mined in the 1800s and today, a modern mine is being planned that would create hundreds of jobs for Nova Scotians. Here is the district’s story.

Gold was discovered in quartz veins in Isaac’s Harbour in 1861. While gold mining in the area began right away, it was not until 1892 that Howard Richardson established the Richardson Gold Mining Company and started development work in the area now referred to as Goldboro.

Thirty-one men were employed to erect buildings and a 15-stamp mill to process the ore. The mill was expanded not long after to 20 stamps and was operational in 1893. By July that year, the mine shaft was down to a depth of 90 feet.

By 1895 the shaft was 156 feet deep, and ore was carried by rail 1200 feet long from the mine shaft to the mill by the side of the lake. In the several years that followed, 20 new stamps were added, making it a 40-stamp mill, the main shaft was deepened and additional shafts were dug.

In 1898, several rock falls took place due to the poor quality of timber supports in the mine. The older workings were retimbered in 1899 and large pillars of rock were left in place to support the roof, making the mine safer.

In 1900, twenty additional stamps were installed, bringing the total number to sixty.

In 1902, the mill’s tailings – what remained after the ore was crushed and chemically treated to remove the gold - were reprocessed in an extensive cyanide plant that had been brought from the Caribou gold district the preceding autumn. While reprocessing tailings has been done in Nova Scotia since about the 1880s to recover additional gold from tailings, it was often unsuccessful historically because of the rudimentary science of the day. Today, it can often be done both for the additional gold and as part of remediating historical tailings.

Unfortunately for the Richardson Gold Mining Company, the results of the treatment were apparently unsatisfactory since the plant closed later that year.

In March 1903, an extensive crush (collapse) destroyed the main shaft because insufficient support had been left in place to support the weight of the mine’s roof. Fortunately, the miners were in the mine’s lower levels at the time and were protected by the rock pillars in those workings. They safely exited the mine via the north shaft.

With work at a halt, the mine passed into the hands of the Boston-Richardson Mining Company two months later. The new owners started to enlarge and deepen an older vertical shaft that had been sunk 850 feet to the east of the old shaft house. By the time of an inspector’s visit in 1904, the shaft was 19X6 feet and about 410 feet deep. Eight quartz veins were cut during the sinking, making the work less of a loss than it might have appeared at the start.

From April to June 1905, the underground works were idle while the plant was being overhauled. Experiments were conducted with the bromo-cyanide milling process to increase the amount of gold recovered from the ore. By 1907, recovery had increased from about 50-60% to 70%.

Under the direction of new manager H. S. Badger, a new method of tracking the mine’s underground progress was implemented. In addition to the usual hand-drawn mine plans, a plaster of Paris model of the mine was built to scale. As mining progressed, sections of the model were cut away, just as sections of rock were removed underground.

In 1907, arsenic recovered in the mill was shipped to Germany, generating additional revenue for the company. Goldboro was one of only a few historical Nova Scotia mining districts that successfully recovered arsenic in the milling process and sold it internationally.

Arsenic is naturally-occurring in all rock and many areas of Nova Scotia have elevated arsenic levels, regardless of whether mining has taken place locally. Arsenic-bearing minerals are often unstable and can leach naturally into groundwater, so it is important to test wells for it regularly.

Arsenic is commonly found in the arsenic-bearing mineral arsenopyrite, which often occurs with gold in nature. Because gold miners in the 1800s and early 1900s did not understand arsenic’s environmental impacts, waste rock and tailings that contained arsenic were often just left at mine sites, a practice that is obviously unacceptable today but was standard 100-150 years ago (

On August 15, 1907, the Boston-Richardson Mining Company shut the mine down due to financial challenges.

In 1909, the New England Mining Company, with H. S. Badger as superintendent, took over the mine. It produced 5024 ounces of gold that year and 446 tons of arsenical concentrates were shipped to Swansea, Wales.

Another crush occurred on August 23, 1910, resulting in increased water flow into the mine, so operations were halted. A small amount of additional work was done through to 1912 when the mine shut down permanently.

In 1926-27, the Metals Mining and Smelting Corporation of Canada took over the mine and treated the tailings in an attempt to recover gold.

In total the Boston-Richardson mine produced 54,871 ounces of gold from 1893-1910.

The Goldboro district also had several other smaller mines.

The Dolliver Mountain Mine started in 1901. In 1904, the company took advantage of an act passed by the provincial government which offered funding to pursue deep gold mining.

Most of Nova Scotia’s historical gold mines were relatively shallow, usually ranging from tens to hundreds of feet in depth, and it had long been theorized that gold deposits could extend much deeper, and perhaps get richer with depth. Nova Scotia’s goldfields were often compared geologically to those of Bendigo, Australia, which had many mines that were thousands of feet deep, and many believed Nova Scotia’s gold deposits had similar potential for deep mining.

However, this theory went untested because our early gold miners generally extracted gold-bearing quartz veins at relatively shallow depths and abandoned them if they went too deep. Also, if a vein pinched out as it headed downward, as they often did, miners did not pursue it further down.

Today, it is still not known whether Nova Scotia’s gold deposits continue at depth. It is generally believed that they do but in the modern era, the focus of most gold exploration is finding deposits relatively close to the surface so they can be worked as surface mines, which are usually much less expensive to operate than underground mines that extend deeper. (Learn more about deep gold mining at

In 1905, a drill hole was put down 500 feet from the bottom of the Dolliver Mountain mine’s 488-foot shaft. Several bodies of quartz and slate were struck by the drillhole, but the results were not satisfactory and the mine was shut down.

Another mine, the East Goldbrook Mine started in 1907 with the sinking of a shaft. Tunnelling was done in 1908 and some rich ore was found, but the mine shut down on August 15 due to financial difficulties. Renada Mines Ltd. dewatered and sampled the old workings between 1931-34 but work then ceased.

Lastly, the West Goldbrook Mine, was worked in 1909-10 but the mine was shut down because milling tests of the ore yielded too little gold to be worthwhile. Locarno Copper Mines Ltd. sank a new shaft in 1929-31 to the west of the original one. In 1956, the Canso Mining Corporation dewatered the shaft and did some cross-cutting (tunnelling). However, the company had financial difficulties and shut down.

Goldboro has been explored intermittently in the past century and today it is in the process of being reopened by Signal Gold. A 2022 report said the Goldboro Gold Project will have a projected $2.1 billion impact on Nova Scotia’s gross domestic product and that it has the potential to create 735 new jobs a year for 15 years.

Mining and quarrying is Nova Scotia’s highest-paying resource industry with average total compensation (wages and benefits) of $102,000 per year.

Richardson mine in 1906.

Stamp mill and tramway.

Inside the stamp mill at the Dolliver mine.

400 foot level of the Richardson mine circa 1907.

Barrels of concentrates awaiting shipment.