Moose River

The Stillwater Brook area of Halifax County used to be named for the mineral scheelite, but the name did not stick.

Scheelite is a mineral from which the metal tungsten is often extracted. Nova Scotia has a number of known tungsten deposits, several of them hosted in scheelite.

In November 1907, tungstite, a mineral formed by the weathering of other tungsten-containing minerals, was found in boulders 1.25 miles west of the Consolidated Mines Company’s gold mine in Moose River, near the Moose River gold mines. John A. Reynolds and W. A. Currie of Moose River made the discovery, which was confirmed by A. L. McCallum and Dr. T. L. Walker in May 1908. (McCallum also discovered scheelite in Waverley that year.)

About June 1908, Reynolds found scheelite in boulders near Stillwater Brook, about 2.25 miles west of the Moose River gold mines. Later that month, scheelite was also found in Stillwater Brook about three-quarters of a mile north of the discovery made just weeks before.

The deposit first belonged to Reynolds, Currie and McCallum, but it later passed to A. A. Hayward and later still, to various companies.

An incline shaft was dug and by March 1911, it was 300-feet long and had tunnels dug from its bottom. Several shafts and extensive trenches were also dug at surface in search of more tungsten. A mill was installed, and an initial shipment of 14 tons of scheelite concentrate was made in 1912.

The mine employed about 40 men and a camp with simple lodging was built to house them (see the mine plan drawing below). The manager was A. A. Hayward and H. J. McAskill was foreman.

Mining took place sporadically until March 1919, when the veins were reportedly becoming too small and extraction too expensive for production to continue.

Fines (dust produced by the mine’s mill) were tested by the Government of Canada’s Mines Branch while the mine was still in production. Traces of platinum and gold were found. Small amounts of scheelite were also found in several of the nearby Moose River historical gold mines.

In 1942, when tungsten was in short supply during WWII, the property was acquired by the Nova Scotia Department of Mines from a Mr. Lawlor of Shubenacadie. A. E. Cameron was put in charge of rehabilitating the mine, and H. C. Cooke and G. V. Douglas undertook a geological examination. The project was abandoned because tungsten supply improved.

Tungsten was a critical mineral during WWII because it was used as filaments in lightbulbs. Because it is the metal with the highest melting point (3,422 °C), it was also used in plane engines and munitions.

Tungsten is still considered a critical mineral today. It is often mixed with other metals to make alloys that have high temperature tolerance, high corrosion resistance and excellent welding properties. These superalloys are used in the aerospace and automotive industries in things like airplane turbine blades and wear-resistant parts and coatings.

There are at least two, and possibly three, scheelite-bearing veins in the Stillwater Brook mine, varying in thickness from 1 inch to 8 inches. The main vein was traced underground for 1,500 feet but contained scheelite for only 950 feet of this length.

The Stillwater Brook tungsten mine triggered exploration throughout Nova Scotia for tungsten. There were a number of discoveries, usually in close proximity to gold deposits, as the Stillwater Brook deposit was.

It remains a bit of a geological mystery why some Nova Scotia gold districts have significant amounts of tungsten associated with them and other gold districts do not. Given the global interest in Nova Scotia’s gold deposits, maybe future exploration will help us better-understand our potential for tungsten.