United Goldfields of Nova Scotia

It was not the Brookfield gold district's most successful mine, but the King Fissure mine still had a long and interesting history.

While there were several mines in the Brookfield district, Queen's County, almost all the gold produced came from the Libbey Mine, which was discovered in 1885. The Libbey’s incline shaft eventually became the longest gold mine shaft in Nova Scotia - 600 metres long, or the length of 43 school buses! The Brookfield district produced a total of 43,148 ounces of gold between 1887-1936.

Mining in the district dropped off after 1905 when the Libbey Mine closed. Only 218 ounces were produced in 1906, zero ounces in 1907 and two ounces in 1908.

Small-scale, intermittent mining continued, however, including on the King Fissure vein in the southern part of the district. (In geology, a fissure is a fracture or crack in rock along which there is a distinct separation; fissures are often filled with mineral-bearing materials, gold-bearing quartz in this case).

A.M. King extracted some rich ore in 1905 and a modest amount in 1908, and the area was then worked by a succession of companies: the Ophir Gold Mining Company (1908-09), Tommy Burns Gold Mines Ltd. (1916) and King Fissure Gold Mines Ltd. (1922).

King Fissure Gold Mines crushed 636 tons of ore in 1922, producing 137 ounces of gold. A shaft was sunk to a depth of 150 feet. Levels (horizontal tunnels) were driven to the east and west at both the 100- and 150-feet depths.

In 1927 the King Fissure mine was dewatered by the Acadia Exploration Company and an incline shaft 200 feet from the main shaft was deepened. Acadia continued operations in 1928.

The Mine Services Corporation dewatered the King Fissure mine in 1929 and the United Goldfields of Nova Scotia Ltd. took it over in 1930. United Goldfields produced 38 ounces of gold from 221 tons of processed ore that year. The ore was extracted from several areas of the mine so the new owners could test the operation. The company was not satisfied with the results so mining stopped and exploration drilling began, to improve the company’s understanding of the deposit.

United Goldfields also worked to improve the milling process in the hope of increasing the amount of gold recovered from about 40% to 90%. The provincial government arranged for the Government of Canada’s Mines Branch to help with the effort.

In 1931, the company began digging a new vertical shaft one hundred feet south of the mine’s incline shaft.

Electric power came to the mine in January 1932 thanks to Nova Scotia Power’s recently-completed Mersey River power development. At the 150-foot level, an 83-foot horizontal tunnel was dug that intersected old workings just west of the incline shaft. Tunnels were also driven at the 275-foot and 400-foot levels.

Tunnelling continued in 1933 and more equipment was upgraded, including rail tracks, an electric pump and a new hoist and safety cage (elevator).

At the King Fissure mine, the Government of Nova Scotia experimented by taking more direct involvement in a mining operation as an economic development initiative. It paid $12,000 to install buildings and equipment, including a ball mill which was operational by early 1934. (Ball mills crush the gold-bearing ore as part of the milling process). The government also loaned money to the company for other improvements.

Unfortunately, things did not go well. One of the tunnels on the 275-foot level was shut down in 1934 because pumps could not keep up with the water leaking into that area. Work continued elsewhere in the mine but the mill was only operating at about 50% efficiency.

After initial processing on-site, concentrates were being shipped to Germany for smelting.

In 1935, United Goldfields hired brokers in New York to raise funds by selling a block of the company’s stock, but they failed to sell any. Mining stopped in February 1935 but the company continued to keep the mine pumped out so mining could potentially start again.

No mining took place in 1936 while the company continued trying to find financing in the United States. Three men took care of the mine, keeping it pumped out and in good working order, in the hope that mining would start again. The three processed a stockpile of 242 previously-mined tons of ore and were allowed to keep any gold recovered to cover arrears in wages.

In the summer of 1937 the mine’s offices, cookhouse, and bunkhouse were destroyed by fire. It was the last straw for United Goldfields and the provincial government.

During the summer of 1938 the electric hoist, some of the mine equipment, and most of the equipment from the mill were taken to the Lacey Mine in Chester Basin, which the provincial government had taken over the previous year. The Lacey Mine was operated under the Mine Apprentice Project, a government program that trained about 500 men (yes, they were all men!) in “modern” hard rock mining techniques from 1937-40. The outbreak of World War II brought the program to an end – educating miners was a lower priority as the nation prepared to fight the war.

In 1939, the Mooseland Mining Syndicate took over the King Fissure and after tests and study, concluded that the King Fissure Mine was not economically viable on its own. Instead, the company looked at operating Brookfield’s three mines, King Fissure, Libbey and the East Mine, as one operation in the hope that their combined output would justify the expense of building a new mill and other infrastructure.

A consultant’s report also suggested looking at additional mines in the nearby Molega gold district and trucking ore from there to a central mill in Brookfield.

While Mooseland did not carry out this plan, it is interesting to note that St. Barbara (aka Atlantic Gold) adopted a similar strategy in Nova Scotia of opening multiple gold mines in the same region. In this way, a series of smaller deposits that might not be viable on their own can be very successful as part of a combined operation.

As R.W. Brigstocke, Mooseland’s consultant, put it in a 1939 report, “Transportation by truck is swift and economical, and the scheme of a central milling plant may be the solution of the problem of the Gold Mines of Nova Scotia.”

Today, the Brookfield Gold District is part of the Pu’tlaqne’katik Wilderness Area, which effectively prevents it being mined again and used to create jobs for Nova Scotians. The provincial government protected the area despite acknowledging its “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, St. Barbara's Moose River gold mine directly employed about 300 people and became 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.

United Goldfields stock certificates.