Pleasant River Barrens

Gold was discovered in 1886 in Pleasant River Barrens, Lunenburg County, and a handful of small mines operated there in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The 1886 discovery was made by a Mr. McRay of Cape Breton. That same year, the Brookfield Mining Company hauled ore from the nearby Brookfield Gold Mine to Pleasant River Barrens for crushing and processing. The Brookfield Mining Company built its own mill the following year.

In 1889, Messrs. Thompson and Newcombe opened the Mill vein and built a mill. Also called the MacDonald mine, it had three shafts to depths of 75, 50 and 30 feet.

Several mines were opened in the 1890s:

The Dunbrack vein was just south of Fish Weir Lake and had a 125-foot incline shaft. It was worked in 1890-91 by the Field of Gold Mining Company but the vein was lost in 1891. The mine was idle until 1895 when it was taken over by J.W. Ferguson and William McNeil, who claimed to have found the rich ore again. The Dunbrack produced some phenomenally rich ore, some of which generated $3000 per ton.

A 75-foot shaft was sunk on the Pine Tree vein and a level (horizontal tunnel) was driven west 75 feet.

The Brignell vein had an 85-foot shaft, at the bottom of which was a 35-foot level to the southwest and a 40-foot level to the northeast. A 5-stamp mill was built at the Brignell mine.

The Joe Thompson vein had two shafts opened from the same point. One was 25-feet long and the other 48 feet. Some ore from this mine was processed at the Brignell mill.

Simeon Ernst’s mine shaft was sunk 65 feet and levels were driven eastward 40 feet and westward 30 feet. In addition to underground mining, shallow pits were also dug west of the shaft, for a length of 630 feet, to extract gold near the surface. Twenty-two ounces of gold were produced by this mine. Ernst was a jeweller in Bridgewater, where he established his business in 1868. He died in Bridgewater in 1933 at the age of 86 after a 12-day battle with pneumonia.

In 1912, W.H. Prest renewed activity on the Dunbrack vein and produced 13 ounces of gold.

In 1928, Pleasant River Gold Mines Ltd. produced gold from the Brignell, Ernst and Dunbrack mines.

In total, the district produced 127 ounces of gold.

Today, the Pleasant River Barrens and Brookfield gold mines are part of the Pu’tlaqne’katik Wilderness Area, which prevents them being mined again and used to create jobs for Nova Scotians. The provincial government protected the historical mines despite acknowledging the area's “high mineral potential.”

In the mining industry, we often say new mines are often found next to old mines because historical sites worked with basic tools and little science can today 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 modern Moose River (Touquoy) mine, which extracted from 2017-23, created over 300 direct jobs and over 900 spinoff jobs. The average salary at the mine was $84,000 per year. It generated $7.4 million in provincial tax revenue, $3.7 million in municipal tax revenue, and $100 million in economic spinoffs to local businesses. The company donated $1.6 million to community and non-profit organizations.

Moose River was first mined in 1876.