Mica Hill

Some of Nova Scotia’s most beautiful parks and protected areas contain former mines and quarries – including the Cape Breton Highlands National Park!

Mica Hill, about 11 kilometres west of Neil’s Harbour in Victoria County, is likely Nova Scotia’s best deposit of muscovite, a type of mica. Test pits were sunk on a rock barren on top of Mica Hill, approximately one kilometre west of Mica Hill Lake, in summer 1882 by the Scotian Mining Company which confirmed the presence of a large supply of good quality muscovite.

There are few records about the mining that took place on Mica Hill. This is not unusual. Many historical Nova Scotia mines/quarries have extensive documentation – and the Government of Nova Scotia plays an important role in preserving them. However, many historical sites, especially smaller ones, either were not well-documented or the documents have not survived the years.

According to G. G. Patterson’s 1885 book, “The History of Victoria County,” a dispute arose over ownership of the land where mining operations were carried out, and production was halted while the courts attempted to settle the matter.

With test pits done in 1882 and an 1885 book saying production had halted, extraction at Mica Hill was likely brief and small-scale. We haven’t found any documents suggesting the site returned to production in a meaningful way but there could have been additional small-scale extraction.

It is also worth noting that an 1885 Geological Survey of Canada report referred to the site informally as the “Mica Mine,” which suggests the mine was well-known at that time.

In 1987, samples of muscovite were collected from Mica Hill and analysed by the provincial government. Results showed the muscovite to be of high quality and with good industrial potential.

Today, the former Mica Hill mine is part of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park and the Mica Hill Trail.

Muscovite can be split into thin transparent sheets, sometimes up to several feet across. This gave it an early use as windowpanes. In the 1700s, it was mined for this reason in the area around Moscow, Russia. These panes were called "muscovy glass" and that term is believed to be the origin of the name "muscovite."

Today, mica has many uses including as a plastic filler and as a filler in wallboard. It is used as an additive in drilling fluids because the coarsely-ground flakes help prevent the loss of circulation by sealing the porous sections of the drill hole. It is used in rolled roofing because mica’s platy structure leaves it unaffected by acid in asphalt or by weather conditions.

It is also used in brake shoes, pads, and clutch discs as an asbestos substitute. Ground mica is used in cosmetics and as glitter. It is used in the electronic and electrical industries as electrical insulators.