West Gore

Antimony is used in green technologies like electric cars and renewable energy, but it also has a long and strange history of uses. For example, Cleopatra used it as eyeliner and antimony pills were used as laxatives starting in the 1700s (the pills were recovered and reused by families!).

Here’s the story of the West Gore antimony-gold mine.

A farmer named John McDougall found antimony in gravel on his farm in West Gore, Hants County, in 1880. Prospectors dug various trenches in an attempt to find the source of the antimony but did not succeed. The reason is they were searching for veins that lie east-west, as most gold-bearing veins in Nova Scotia do. However, it turned out the veins lie north-south.

That may not sound like a big deal but picture a grid. Most Nova Scotian gold is found along the horizonal lines (east-west) but at some sites the gold is found along the vertical lines (north-south). This is a simplification to illustrate the point, but that is a huge difference geologically… and a huge difference if you are trying to find the gold! (Learn how this prospecting problem was solved in the Blockhouse gold district: https://notyourgrandfathersmining.ca/blockhouse-gold-story).

During fall 1883, a vein was finally found and the antimony (aka stibnite) ore was excellent quality. A large sample was shipped to Swansea, England, which became an important centre of metalworking in the 1800s.

In 1884, two shafts, about 120 feet apart, were sunk 175 feet and horizontal tunnels dug off them. 600 tons of ore were extracted.

Work continued for several years with varying success but the Main Zone Vein, as it came to be known, was closed in 1892.

Limited mining continued on and off until 1904, with the antimony concentrates being exported to Swansea.

It was around that time that gold was discovered in the antimony ore. This, of course, added value to the ore and production increased over the next several years. However, production declined again after 1908.

It is said that in 1917, a ship carrying concentrate to Swansea was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine. The loss of that revenue presumably caused the mine to shut down permanently.

Two other veins were found at West Gore but they had only minor work done on them compared to the main site. In 1887, a vein was discovered by Gould Northup to the southwest of the Main Zone Vein. The Northup vein (aka the Brook Vein) was worked briefly until 1899 and some work was again done on it in 1906.

In 1899, a vein was discovered to the northeast by farmer McDougall. A 55-foot shaft was sunk on the vein that year.

Small amounts of antimony have been found to the northwest and southeast of the mines but their sources were never found. One author, writing in 1929, suggested the antimony may have been carried and dropped from the mines by workmen.

Ore samples from West Gore were displayed at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London in 1886 and at the Paris International Exhibition in 1900.

Total production from the area, mostly from the Main Zone Vein, is estimated to be 4,959 tons of concentrate and 6,995 troy ounces of gold. Between 70,000-80,000 tons of ore were milled that averaged 4.1% stibnite and about 0.1 ounces of gold per ton.

It is reported that much of the low-grade ore that contained gold was left on the mine’s scaffolds or as backfill in the mine, a loss for the operators who did not understand its significance at the time.

Antimony has many important uses today, including in semi-conductor chips, phone screens and green technologies like electric vehicle batteries, wind turbines, solar panels and energy-efficient windows.

Like many minerals and metals, it also has an extraordinary history of uses. For example, the ancient Egyptians, including Cleopatra, used a form of antimony, stibium, as eyeliner (hence the symbol for antimony, Sb, even though neither letter appears in the element's name).

Antimony pills became popular as a laxative in the 1700s, able to blast through the most compacted bowels (partly because it's poison—the body wants to get rid of it). It was so effective that antimony pills were often retrieved from excrement so they could be reused. Many families shared the pills and passed them down through generations!

There's even been speculation that Mozart, a hypochondriac, died from taking too much antimony "medicine" for fever and internal aches.

The gold-bearing quartz veins in the nearby Centre Rawdon gold district also lie north-south, as West Gore’s veins do. See the story of the Centre Rawdon district at https://notyourgrandfathersmining.ca/centre-rawdon