Indian Path

Indian Path, Lunenburg County, was an historical gold district but it also had a tungsten mine that contributed to the war effort during WWII.

Scheelite-bearing veins were discovered in Indian Path in 1926 as a result of gold prospecting in the area. (Scheelite is a mineral from which tungsten is often extracted.)

In 1928, four shafts and several hundred feet of tunnels were dug. A company called Indian Path Tungsten Mines worked the site intermittently for a dozen years. A 430-pound sample was sent to the Bureau of Mines in Ottawa in 1932 for testing.

The property was optioned in 1939 by Siscoe Gold Mines Ltd. which did some diamond exploration drilling. The company also extracted a 36-ton sample of ore and shipped it to Ottawa for testing. The test results suggested that commercial tungsten values were only in narrow and isolated pockets so the company quit the site.

In 1940, Scheelite Properties Ltd., operated by W. M. Goodwin, extracted about 350 tons of ore and milled it to make a rough concentrate. The concentrate was further refined at the Nova Scotia Technical College and the Bureau of Mines in Ottawa. The concentrates were then shipped to Welland, Ontario, likely for use by Atlas Steels, one of Canada’s largest steel companies and a provider of materiel for the war effort.

Tungsten was a critical mineral during WWII. It was used as filaments in lightbulbs and, because it is the metal with the highest melting point (3,422 °C), in plane engines and munitions.

In 1941, the property was taken over by Guysborough Gold Mines, which had been doing tungsten exploration at Lake Charlotte, Halifax County. After spending $20,000 in Lake Charlotte, the company decided the grade of ore was too low for commercial production and quit the area. Guysborough Gold Mines took its equipment to Indian Path and did further underground development there.

A 1942 government memo said the buildings on site at that time “consisted of blacksmith and steel sharpening shop, hoist house, compressor, change and First Aid house, dynamite storage, store warehouse, oil storage, chemical laboratory, crusher, stamp and concentrating buildings, office, cabin, cookhouse and dining hall, bunk house and boiler house to supply heat to above buildings.”

In 1942, Tungsten Mines Ltd. took over, sank a shaft 230 feet deep and dug a 70-foot tunnel off it. The company also built a mill with a 70-ton per day capacity. It found good ore but only small quantities of it.

Additional tunnelling was done but the company did not encounter additional ore. In total, the company extracted about 6,200 tons of ore and produced 22 tons of concentrates that were shipped to the Bureau of Mines for further refining.

The geological challenge at Indian Path was that the ore appeared in streaks and patches, not one big deposit. Also, numerous minor faults cut off or displaced the veins of ore, further complicating extraction. (In geology, a fault is a fracture, or zone of fractures, between two blocks of rock. Faults are caused by geological forces like tectonic plate movement and they allow the blocks of rock to move relative to each other. Faults are a challenge in mining because they can cause deposits to be split, moving part of a deposit to a different, often hard-to-find, location.)

In short, the deposit was too small and low quality to sustain an ongoing operation and the mine shut down in December 1942 when the deposit was largely depleted. Much of the mine’s output was sent to Welland.

Tungsten is still used in light bulb filaments. It is also often mixed with other metals to make alloys that have high temperature tolerance, high corrosion resistance and excellent welding properties. These superalloys are used in the aerospace and automotive industries in things like airplane turbine blades and wear-resistant parts and coatings.

Today when we talk about “critical minerals,” we mean minerals like lithium and copper that are essential for things like electronics and green technologies. However, society’s mineral needs are constantly changing, particularly as new technologies and new uses for minerals are invented, so what we consider critical also changes constantly.