Ingonish Beach

Former mines and quarries are often hidden in plain view!

Gypsum was quarried in beautiful Ingonish Beach from 1924-1929. 240,000 tons of it were extracted at the shore in Williams Cove, near Keltic Lodge and the Cabot Trail.

The Canada Cement Company owned the quarry because a small amount of gypsum is added in cement manufacturing to control the “setting” of cement. Without gypsum, the cement will harden immediately after mixing in water, leaving no time to transport or place the concrete.

The quarry was worked to a depth of 35 feet, with a width of over 100 feet and a length of over 600 feet.

The rock was drilled by jackhammer drills and “40% dynamite” was used to break it free from the quarry’s working face. (Dynamite is usually rated by its nitroglycerine content so 40% dynamite contains 40% nitroglycerine.)

Three electrically-operated Marion No. 21 shovels (excavators) with ¾ cubic yard buckets loaded the blasted gypsum into rail cars, each with a capacity of 9-tons (see picture below).

Rails were laid throughout the quarry to carry the gypsum to the foot of the incline to the crusher plant. Three gasoline-powered locomotives hauled the cars in the quarry.

A 25-horse power electric hoist hauled the cars up the incline where they were dumped into a bin above the crusher. The rock passed through a series of crushing units until it was reduced to four-inch pieces or smaller in order to facilitate loading and unloading operations.

From the crushing plant, the gypsum was conveyed on a 24-inch belt, 200 feet long, to the 6,000-ton storage bin at the end of the shipping pier. At the pier, the rock was loaded onto steamers for shipment to Montreal and the United States.

Today, most gypsum is used in manufacturing wallboard/drywall. Nova Scotia has traditionally been one of the world’s biggest producers of gypsum, supplying many plaster, and later wallboard, factories on the US east coast. (Today, the walls of most Nova Scotian homes contain gypsum quarried in the province, most of it from the world’s largest surface gypsum mine in Milford.)

Gypsum is 21% water at the molecular level and is therefore fire-resistant. This is the main reason why it is used in wallboard: safety.

See the story of another beautiful Cape Breton gypsum quarry, the Cheticamp quarry: