South River Lake Quarry

A small quarry in South River Lake, Antigonish County, provided stone for monuments almost a century ago.

The quarry, on McNaughton Brook, west of route 316, was quarried for gabbro in the 1930s.

The South River Lake gabbro was sent to Sydney, Cape Breton, for use as monuments.

Gabbro can be polished to a brilliant black luster so it is often used in headstones, kitchen counters, floor tiles and paving stones. Its most common usage is as aggregate in construction.

Gabbro is sometimes sold under the name “black granite,” which describes its appearance but is inaccurate since gabbro is a different type of rock than granite.

The quarry was a ten-metre-deep gorge that McNaughton Brook flows through. It is now overgrown and all that remains of the quarry is a seven-metre-high outcrop face and a pile of waste rock.

A 1996 government report said there were still cables on site at that time which had been used to support a derrick (a type of crane) when the quarry was active. Modern reclamation requirements ensure such materials are not left behind and that sites are properly reclaimed when operations are complete.

The stone in the quarry was excellent quality but a 59-metre-deep diamond drillhole drilled a short distance to the southwest suggested the stone had veins and other problematic geological features.

Stone for building and decorative purposes needs to be solid and attractive, without joints/cracks, veins or other characteristics that are considered undesirable. When we blast and crush rock like gypsum for use in wallboard, or aggregate for use in construction, things like cracks do not matter because we break the rock down anyway. But stone used to erect buildings or for decorative purposes (i.e. for headstones, trim on buildings, etc.) needs to be as flawless as possible.

The drilling results suggested that the quantity of good stone in the area may be limited due to veins and other issues that would make it unsuitable for monuments like headstones.