Leipsigate Gold

Here is the story of the Leipsigate gold district in Lunenburg County, southwest of Bridgewater.

In 1883, a Mr. Owen produced a considerable amount of gold by hand from a quartz vein discovered by Leipsigate Lake (now called Milipsigate Lake).

Messrs. Hall and Owen also found a promising vein on the north side of the lake and had exposed it for a distance of 600 feet.

In 1884, a 10-stamp mill was built and Hall and Owen recovered 410 ounces of gold from 130 tons of crushed ore, a very solid return. (Most Nova Scotia gold is in quartz veins, which means the gold needs to be separated from the quartz and other host rock. The first step is to pulverize the rock/ore so the gold can be chemically separated from it. The most common technology in Nova Scotia for pulverizing ore in the second half of the 1800s and early decades of the 1900s was the stamp mill – a large machine that crushed gold-bearing rock by stamping it over and over.)

Activity then dropped off for a number of years. “Some Germans of Minneapolis,” as one historical report describes them, organized a company known as the Duluth Gold Mining Company to work a vein south of the lake. A mill was built in 1886 but the mining was not profitable and the “Old German” mine soon shut down.

From 1888-92, small returns were made by the Milipsigate Gold Mining Company.

1896 would prove to be a turning point for the district with the opening of the Cashon and Hines mine south of the lake. The mine produced fair returns for the next several years. In 1898 Captain John Hines had thirty men tunnelling and doing other work at the site. There was a 10-stamp mill and three shafts on the property.

The Cashon-Hines property was purchased in 1900 by the Micmac Gold Mining Company for $22,000 and the mine became known as the Micmac Mine, as was usual when a new owner took over a property. (“Micmac” is a spelling of Mi’kmaq that many First Nations oppose today but we use it here because it is what the mine and company were named at the time.)

The Micmac company was incorporated in Maine with capital stock of $1.5 million. Its owners felt the Cashon-Hines mine had been poorly run and that more sophisticated equipment and mining methods would make it successful. Thomas W. Moore, Micmac’s manager, later said Cashon and Hines used “primitive methods and wretched equipment…it is not to be wondered that they failed to make a profit. Wonder is more in order, that they did as well as they did….” Moore went on to complain about their “antiquated and expensive” and “wretched mining methods,” such as doing most work by hand.

In 1903, Micmac built a new shaft house and installed a new boiler and an air compressor. The company also built a cyanide plant to reprocess tailings and recover gold that Cashon and Hines had failed to recover in their milling. The capacity of the plant was 50 tons per day.

In 1904 the cyanide plant was still running but the old tailings were nearly exhausted. Forty-five men were employed by Micmac and preparations were being made for adding 5 stamps to the mill, making it a 15-stamp mill.

Work continued in 1905 but in 1906, Micmac employed more men (60) and extracted only half as much ore as in 1905. The yield also dropped in 1906.

One bit of good news was that the Micmac vein contained silver as well as gold, and the company was able to generate additional revenue by producing 1,113 ounces of silver between 1903-06.

The high cost of fuel was the company’s main problem and efforts were made in 1906-07 to strike a deal with the town of Liverpool to get cheaper electricity. An agreement could not be reached and negotiations ended.

Mining temporarily shut down in 1907 while the company investigated the area for hydroelectricity potential. A 1908 report estimated the cost of hydroelectricity would decrease the mine’s power costs from “around $120 to $18 per hour per horse power” – a huge potential savings.

The mine’s biggest cost by far was buying coal to burn to produce steam power, mainly to operate the pumps that removed water from the mine. Micmac was spending almost three times as much on coal as on actual mining work, a situation that was unsustainable. (The report advocated building a dam on the LaHave River to generate power for the mine.)

Work restarted in December 1907 but stopped again in May 1908. Some additional tunnelling was done in July but the mine closed in December 1908.

Micmac’s challenges with electricity are a reminder that much of Nova Scotia was wilderness in that era, without the basic infrastructure we take for granted today.

Micmac is also an example of why almost all the activity in Nova Scotia’s gold sector is at historical gold mines that still have the potential to return to production and create jobs. The historical activity suggests there may be a significant resource. However, obstacles faced by Nova Scotian gold miners in the 1800s and early 1900s, such as lack of reasonably-priced power, often prevented them from extracting it. Today, historical sites like Leipsigate have the potential to be mined profitably and environmentally-responsibly with modern science and engineering.

Work was done at several other sites around Leipsigate during the 1901-08 period that Micmac was active, but results were generally poor. For example, the Scotia Mining and Development Company bought the Old German property in 1901, about a mile west of the Micmac mine, but closed it again within a matter of months. Several other mines also briefly operated before shutting down.

In the 1930s, Micmac’s Thomas Moore was back in Leipsigate, struggling to get the mine going again. He agreed to a provincial government offer to analyze a bulk ore sample but later complained in a November 28, 1938 letter that because the government was “sorely pinched for funds,” the sample was too small and taken too quickly. No proper mining was done and the ore was not washed or sorted. It was, he argued, “average ore” and not a sample of what the mine could produce.

The results of the analysis were bad news. According to Moore, the ore was described as “horrible stuff” by a Mr. Flynn, the person responsible for crushing it.

Moore said this “grosely unfare” (sic) test resulted in his “complete ruination – the loss of whatever chance I had to recover on my efforts and financial losses during the years 1901 to 1909, during which I operated Micmac, as well as the last four years and a half in time and personal funds which I have spent on this last effort.”

(It probably would not be of much comfort to Moore to know that his efforts at Leipsigate were acknowledged by naming one of the lake’s islands after him. Leipsigate/Milipsigate Lake also has islands named for Hines and Owen.)

The area was quiet until 1946 when Queen’s Mines Ltd. sank a new 91-metre shaft near the Gilmour Shaft on South Mud Lake and operated a 50-ton per day mill until 1949.

Coxheath Gold Holdings Ltd. did some underground sampling and drilling in the area from 1985-87 and there has continued to be occasional exploration in the area since.

In total, the district produced 13,563 ounces of gold.