War of Words

Mining can be a tough business but so can journalism, it turns out!

The March 1894 edition of the Canadian Mining & Mechanical Review had some pretty nasty things to say about Halifax newspaper, The Critic.

It started when The Critic…well… criticized the Review and its coverage of Nova Scotia’s mining industry in The Critic’s March 9 edition.

The Review responded later that month by calling The Critic’s article “simply an impudent attempt to fill space with material taken from the Review, purloined in so garbled a manner, and so distorted by defective punctuation as to make it impossible for its readers to understand what is quoted from the Review and what is the product of the Critic's remarkable editorial brain.”

The dispute was over official statistics of the province’s gold production in 1893, which changed in early 1894 as the Department of Mines received additional reporting from mines.

The Review wrote in January that 1893’s production had been 19,900 ounces and then published updated figures in February (20,260 ounces). The Critic suggested the Review had gotten its information wrong and the Review responded, “Had the Critic any desire to ascertain the facts it could have verified the Review's figures by stepping across the street and compiling the returns for itself, but the deceased Critic never had any hankering after truth nor for work, and its successor it is quite evident is following in the same path.”

The Critic also accused the Review of getting the gold production for 1892 wrong. In response, the Review pointed out where in the Department of Mines’ 1892 annual report it had gotten its figures and retorted, “If this omniscient knight of the paste pot had taken the trouble to read the Governments' reports he would never have written that line.”

The Review was back at it in its May 1894 edition, calling an article in the Critic about the formation of gold deposits “remarkable for the intense ignorance of the writer thus displayed to public view and comment.”

The Review was just getting warmed up: “It is of course well known that the phenomenal genius who edits that paper knows absolutely nothing about the precious metal; but he should know (and if he doesn’t it is herewith pointed out to him) that the gentlemen representing the gold industry in Nova Scotia, cannot possibly be expected to swallow such mental pabulum as the article referred to without intense intellectual nausea.”

The Review went on to pick apart The Critic article in an extremely sarcastic tone. For example, “We frankly have to admit that now we need a glossary—we are in water too deep for wading and we cant swim. The authoritative way in which the whole phenomena and causes of vein formation are grouped into the delightfully simple and intelligent clause ‘the dislocation and upheaval of rocks’ leaves us speechless.”

Another article in the May 1894 edition of the Review includes this gem: “Further evidence of the Halifax Critic's ignorance of all that pertains to Canadian mining affairs is to be found in its last issue, where it informs its rapidly diminishing circle of readers of the doings in Ontario of what it calls the ‘English Fertilizing Co.’ and the "Canada Plumbago Co.’ Needless to say no such companies exist. Possibly the items may be intended to refer to the work being done in Quebec by the Phosphate of Lime Co. (Ltd.), and the Walker Plumbago Mining Co. As we expected from one so adept in the use of the scissors, due prominence is also given, without credit as usual, to the clipping from the daily papers containing that sensational nickel yarn, repudiated as a myth elsewhere in this issue. The reductio ad absurdum [reducing to absurdity] is reached, however, when it gravely announces the startling discovery of gold at Brandon, Manitoba? This erratic, irresponsible and unreliable sheet certainly maintains its monumental reputation for idiotic utterance.”

Just as journalism has changed in the past century, so has mining. Modern mining is a sophisticated, science-based business that takes excellent care of the environment – completely different from what it was in the past. Nova Scotia mines are stringently regulated by the provincial and federal governments.

For example, before getting operating permits, companies must get government approval of reclamation plans and post-reclamation bonds (money in escrow, basically) that ensure funds are available to properly take care of sites.

A mine’s environmental assessment often takes 3-5 years and costs over a million dollars. It generates dozens of scientific studies and governments often ask for even more studies and data - proof of how stringently modern mining is regulated to protect the environment and how different standards are today from historical periods.

Learn more about differences between modern and historical mining at https://notyourgrandfathersmining.ca/modern-gold-mining