Grass Cove

A gypsum quarry operated in Grass Cove, Cape Breton, from 1914-1932. The site was two miles north of Iona on the shore of Bras d’Or Lake in Victoria County. The place name was reportedly changed to Gypsumville around that time but the new name didn’t stick.

In 1915, almost half of the year’s production - 1000 tons of plaster - was shipped all the way to Australia. The rest went to Halifax and Montreal. Over the course of its life, the operation also sent plaster to the other Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Ontario, New Zealand and New York.

The quarry was connected to the Canadian National Railway in Iona by a spur lined owned by the company. The company also had a wharf adjacent to the quarry for shipping.

The site had a mill to make plaster of Paris, one of only two gypsum quarries in Nova Scotia at the time that produced a finished product instead of exporting the raw gypsum. The other quarry with a mill was in Windsor.

The quarry was a victim of the Great Depression. It shut down in 1932 and was sold to the Canadian Gypsum Company. It never operated again.

The area is known to have amazing gypsum deposits. The Little Narrows gypsum quarry, which was operated by the Canadian Gypsum Company, is about 20 kms to the west of Grass Cove. Production started there in 1936. Labour and transportation shortages during WWII caused it to close temporarily from 1943-45 but it otherwise operated continuously until 2016 when the lingering effects of the 2009 economic downturn caused it to close. Most gypsum is used to manufacture wallboard/gyprock so demand for gypsum declined following the collapse of the US housing market in 2009.

One mile south of Grass Cove is Plaster Cove with its beautiful gypsum outcrops. Gypsum was often called plaster historically because it’s a key ingredient in plaster of Paris, which is used for things like casts, dental moulds and mouldings.