Miller Lake

In the mining industry, we often say new mines are often found next to old mines. The Miller Lake Gold District is an example of why.

Gold was discovered in a large quartz boulder in Miller Lake, Guysborough County, by R. W. Naugler around 1900. The boulder was subsequently traced back to its source: a gold-bearing quartz vein that came to be called the Naugler Vein.

By 1902, the Liscomb Falls Gold Mining Company, run by Robert Brownell, had opened shafts on the Mill Lead and a 5-stamp mill was built.

By 1903, a number of veins had been exposed and some had been prospected for short distances by open-cuts or shallow pits. Of the veins then discovered, the Naugler and Lone Cloud leads were the most important, and shafts were sunk on them.

According to a prospectus issued by the Miller Lake Gold Mining Company in 1905, the company had found many gold-bearing veins of quartz while sinking a shaft 105 feet and digging a 240-foot crosscut (horizontal tunnel).

The Lone Cloud lead had been traced 3,600 feet, a significant length, and was found to be auriferous (gold-bearing) throughout. To help attract investment, the Miller Lake Gold Mining Company claimed that Liscomb Falls, just a few miles away, could produce 2,000 horsepower of electricity – a reminder that much of Nova Scotia was wilderness in that era, without the basic infrastructure we take for granted today.

In 1913 Dr. C. C. Ellis did prospecting and trenching on the Lone Cloud, Little North, Twin, and Little Rusty leads. A 16-foot-deep shaft was sunk on the Lone Cloud lead that year, and 1.5 ounces of gold were recovered.

In 1915, T. W. Fancy obtained nine ounces of gold. The Halifax Gold Mining Company installed a 10-stamp mill and surface plant equipment but did very little actual mining.

There are few historical records for the period from 1915-27 and only a modest amount of work was done from 1915 through to the end of the 1930s.

It was in the 1940s that the Miller Lake district saw its biggest years of production.

Seventy ounces of gold were recovered in 1940 and 96 ounces in 1941, apparently by Aubrey Dickson who was working the Boak Shaft on the Lone Cloud lead.

There are no records of activity again until 1945-47 when the Gold Syndicate Ltd. was active repairing roads, building an office and living quarters and investing in a 10-stamp mill and other significant equipment. The company dewatered a shaft on the Lone Cloud and deepened it by eight feet.

Dickson also did some work on the Boak Shaft in 1947 and recovered several ounces of gold.

Seventy-two ounces of gold were recovered in 1948 but work stopped after that.

In total, 483 ounces of gold were produced in the Miller Lake Gold District, most of it from the Lone Cloud lead which was impressively long.

Miller Lake was only a modest producer but that does not mean there isn’t gold there. A 1928 government memo says: “In spite of remarkable evidence of gold over such an extent of territory in this district, it may appear surprising that so little work has been performed… The areas were held by parties of limited financial resources. The carrying out of a small prospecting program was their limit. The one company which succeeded in accumulating a small amount of capital spent it almost entirely in the erection of a stamp mill and surface plant previous to beginning mining operations, leaving little for underground development. The operation thus failed, as there was no ore blocked out to keep the mill going, and no money with which to do it. Another case of the cart before the horse.”

The memo references only one company spending too much while mining too little, but it seems that both the Halifax Gold Mining Company and the Gold Syndicate were guilty of this.

Miller Lake is an example of why we say new mines are often found next to old mines. The historical activity there suggests there may be a significant resource. However, the obstacles faced by Nova Scotian gold miners in the 1800s and early 1900s – such as lack of funds and basic infrastructure, insufficient mining expertise, and primitive science and technology – prevented them from extracting it.

Today, historical sites like Miller Lake have the potential to be mined profitably and environmentally-responsibly with modern science and engineering. That is 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.

For example, the Moose River gold mine directly employs about 300 people and has become an economic anchor in Eastern Shore. It opened in 2017 and quickly became one of the most efficient, lowest-cost gold producers in the world. Moose River was first mined in 1876.