From Fortress Louisbourg to Oak Island, a Cape Breton mineral deposit has surprising connections to some famous Nova Scotia sites - even if the connections are not entirely true!

It is not known when the Jubilee zinc-lead deposit, in Victoria County near Little Narrows, was discovered. There have long been rumours that the French mined its lead to make cannon balls for Fortress Louisbourg in the 1700s. However, there is no documented evidence of this.

It is more likely that Murdock A. McLeod discovered galena at the site in the late 1920s. (Galena is an ore of lead, meaning that lead is often extracted from it).

A 1935 memo by Nova Scotia’s Department of Public Works and Mines says McLeod staked the site but did no prospecting work. As a result, his claims were forfeited, because claims holders are required to do prospecting/exploration work on their claims – they cannot stake them and let them sit idle. This requirement ensures that we are constantly growing our geological knowledge of the province and working toward finding and developing mineral deposits that provide essential materials and create jobs for Nova Scotians.

Christena Ackers staked the area after McLeod, but in 1934 she also forfeited the claims because she did not work them.

McLeod then staked them again in 1935 and, having learned his lesson, proceeded to prospect the site. He dug some test pits and trenches that year. He also planned to do tunnelling in 1936, including extending two tunnels that had apparently been started previously, according to the 1935 memo. It is not known who did the earlier tunnelling.

Murdock McLeod no longer controlled the property in early 1937 when J. P. Labaw of New Jersey inspected the tunnels on behalf of Gilbert D. Hedden. Hedden, a millionaire American industrialist, became vice president and general manager of the Hedden Iron Construction Company in Hillside, New Jersey, in 1919. The company was sold in 1931 to the Bethlehem Steel Company.

Some may recognize Hedden’s name because he became fascinated with the Oak Island mystery after reading an article about it in 1928. He bought the eastern end of Oak Island in 1935 and explored for treasure until 1937. He attempted to drain the Money Pit with a powerful pump, dug what is known as the Hedden shaft and drilled 15 holes. He also found a stone triangle and a stone inscribed “H+O,” which some believe is related to the Knights Templar.

Hedden is credited with significantly advancing the search, but he spent over $50,000 on Oak Island and found no treasure.

(According to “Oak Island Gold” by William S. Crooker, Hedden got into serious financial trouble. The United States internal Revenue Service sued him for back taxes in connection with the sale of the Hedden Iron Construction Company to Bethlehem Steel. Years of litigation left Hedden almost bankrupt.)

Hedden presumably became interested in the Jubilee deposit as a result of his time at Oak Island since his exploration in Jubilee was done in the same period.

Samples taken by Labaw from Jubilee’s 150-foot-long northern tunnel and a surface pit showed rich values of lead and zinc. Labaw wrote that “Wages [in Nova Scotia] are low compared with U.S.” and “All this points to low costs, and good profits.” Labaw recommended to Hedden that a small drill program be done to explore the deposit.

Professor G. F. Murphy of the Nova Scotia Technical College was brought in to provide expert advice on the drill program. Four holes were drilled but Murphy then recommended to Hedden that drilling stop: “I am convinced that the occurrence of ore at the tunnel site is an isolated patch. Any further prospecting should be done in the locality of the outcrop in the pasture land... I do not consider surface prospecting there has been carried far enough to properly locate drilling operations.” In other words, Murphy did not believe the main deposit was located at the tunnel, and more prospecting needed to be done before choosing new drilling targets.

Murphy wrote several letters to Hedden in summer 1937 to update him on the drill program. They were addressed to him in Chester, Lunenburg County, close to Oak Island.

Murphy referred to the Jubilee site as the “Gilmac” mine (perhaps a combination of Gilbert and McLeod), but it was not a mine in the sense that we use the word now. It was really just a prospect where exploration took place but no meaningful extraction.

After Hedden failed to find treasure at both Jubilee and Oak Island, Jubilee was idle for most of the next decade. In 1946, a group of Cape Breton investors established the Maple Leaf Mining and Development Company and did additional drilling and trenching. The Department of Mines also drilled eight holes in 1948.

Exploration at Jubilee has continued in the decades since. The area has also been drilled and explored via other techniques for oil and gas and for gypsum, the latter because the Little Narrows gypsum quarry is nearby (https://notyourgrandfathersmining.ca/little-narrows). The section below of a 1988 map shows 115 holes that had been drilled in the area by that year.

While it did not become a mine in the historical era, the Jubilee deposit has great potential to be a mine today. Its zinc is of particular interest given the metal’s role in green technologies.

Zinc’s main use is in alloys to galvanize (protect) steel. Zinc oxidizes/rusts more quickly than the metal it is protecting, and the underlying metal will not corrode until all the zinc has been sacrificed. This extends the life of a wide range of products and infrastructure and makes galvanized steel one of the strongest construction materials. About 60% of global zinc supply is used for galvanizing.

Wind turbines require about six tons of zinc per megawatt of capacity because they are mostly made of steel that needs to withstand the elements. Galvanized steel is also used in electric vehicle bodies and in various parts of EVs and solar panels.

Hedden shaft on Oak Island.