Soapstone Mine

Many places in Nova Scotia are named for their connections to mining!

The community of Soapstone Mine is about five kilometres northwest of Whycocomagh along Whycocomagh-Port Hood Road.

Soapstone is mainly comprised of talc, the softest known mineral. The name “soapstone” refers to the rock’s softness, which makes it feel soapy to the touch.

In 1896, several pits were worked for talc in the area of an abandoned steel bridge.

Pit A was on the southern edge of Whycocomagh Port Hood Road, “300 yards northwest of S. L. Fraser’s sawmill on Brigend Brook,” according to a 1943 report. The pit was 15-20 metres deep and several tonnes of talc were extracted and shipped to Pictou for grinding.

The pit was later refilled due to reconstruction of the road and there is no longer any evidence of it.

Pit B was about 90 metres north of the road up a small brook flowing into Indian River. It was 12-15 metres deep but there is no record of any talc being extracted from it. An examination of the waste rock pile in 1943 determined “the material is of no commercial or strategic interest.”

One or two other pits are mentioned in historical records. One was about 12 metres west of Pit A and another, Pit C, was about 0.5 kilometres northeast of Pit A. All traces of these pits have disappeared.

Attempts in 1985 by the Nova Scotia Department of Mines and Energy to find the exact locations of some of the old workings were not successful. The sites were overgrown or, as mentioned above, refilled. Historical geological maps do not show the precise locations.

As part of their investigations, geologists often talk to residents to get the benefit of local knowledge. One geologist who spent many years gathering info about historical quarries always went to the local post office and asked who the oldest person in the community was because that person often had first- or second-hand knowledge about historical sites.

However, in this case many residents were either unaware of the old workings or their recollections of the sites’ locations were not correct.

We tell the stories of historical mines and quarries to help keep their histories alive. Otherwise, there may come a day when the origin of a name like Soapstone Mine is no longer known.

Talc’s softness makes it useful in a wide range of consumer and industrial products, such as cosmetics, baby powder, paint, paper, lubricants, ceramics, rubber, plastics and foods.