Prospecting in Nova Scotia.
W. H. IPREST.
Bedford, N. S.
The attention of even the most disinterested has often
been attracted to the numerous rich gold-bearing boulders
which have been found from time to time during the last
fifty years in Nova Scotia. The leads from which many
of these boulders came, have, in spite of much prospecting,
never been found. And it is chiefly for the purpose of aid-
ing in this search that I give this short summary of con-
clusions bearing on the subject.
In treating of prospecting in Nova Scotia a short de-
scription of the structure and historical geology of the gold
districts would aid in the better understanding of the
duties of a prospector.
The gold bearing rocks of Nova Scotia cover an area
of about 6000 square miles, reaching from Cape Canso to
the western extremity of the province. They consist of
thick beds of inter stratified quartzite and slate, the quartz-
ite prevailing in the lower and the slate in the upper part.
Included are large and small tracts of granite and other
metamorphic rocks formed by the melting and crystalisa-
tion of the quartzites and slates. These quartzites and
slates are folded into dome shaped anticlines which may be
grouped into three classes according to form viz., parallel
folds, ellipses, and almost circular domes. The first and
second are found in the eastern counties, and only the se-
cond and third in the western counties. The anticlines
vary in size from small corrugations to great folds 10 miles
in width. Their strong resemblance to the gold bearing
anticlines of Bendigo, Australia, has led to much discussion
on that aspect of the subject.
The position of our gold bearing leads in regard to the
anticlines are as follows: 48 are on or very near the apex
of the folds, 11 are from f to 3 or 4 miles from the apex
and a few of uncertain position. Thus while the proximity
of a lead to an anticline is no sure indication of value it is
an indication pointing to success. All bedded leads of
value as a rule are grouped, and though their position in
regard to the anticline is a geological accident the same
law of distribution of values seem to govern the leads of
one district. Mr. Faribault, our best authority on this
subject, has designated in his district maps sections which
he calls zones of special enrichment. Beyond these zones
values seem to depend on the existence of cross veins and
angulars. Thus it is very necessary for the prospector to
study 'thoroughly the structural geology of each district.
This done he has one of the principal keys to the discovery
of the rich leads which the float shows him is there.
The following description from a historical point of
view, is taken from my " Deep Mining in Nova Scotia, "
(See Transactions of N. S. Institute of Science, 1899.)
Deposition. Our gold bearing rocks have been placed
provisionally in the Lower Cambrian, decisive fossiliferous
evidence being wanting. As before stated they consist
of a lower and an upper division. The first of quartzite
with a little slate and the last of slate with a little quartz-
ite. The lower division is from 15,000 to 18,000 feet in
thickness the upper from 10,000 to 13,000 feet. This con-
clusion I arrived at while doing Geological Survey work on
the Sissiboo River in 1891. where a splendid section is to be
seen. The transition from one to the other of these divi-
sions is very gradual. Being the first observer to sett the
thickness of the gold series at over 26,000 feet my estimate
was ridiculed at the time, but has since been amply confirm-
ed by Mr. Faribault and other workers in that line. A
detailed description can be seen in the journal above men-
Folding. -The folding of this immense thickness of
rocks did not take place until after the deposition of the
Oriskany of Bear River, Digby County, where these later
rocks are folded into a syncline of the gold series. But the
most surprising thing of all is the fact that this vast thick-
ness of over 26,000 feet was denuded before the deposition
of the Lower Carboniferous, which formation in various
places overlies the denuded edges of the lowest beds\>f the
gold bearing rocks. There is also some evidence that this
vast erosion took place before the deposition of the Devon-
ian fossiliferous rocks, which lie in some places in Bear
River on the upturned edges of both the Oriskany and the
gold bearing rocks. This stupendous erosion and the
accompanying expenditure of time necessary for its com-
pletion is one of the wonders of historical geology. \
Mineralization. The formation and mineralization of
our gold bearing veins like the folding was probably a very
gradual process, as is shown by the successive layers as well
as the striated and polished surfaces in the veins them-
selves. Two facts limit the time of the completion of this
process. One is that the Lower Carboniferous conglomerates
of Gay's River and elsewhere contain fragments of gold
bearing quartz eroded from the gold bearing series. The
other is that gold bearing veins pass with little change of
size or contents into granitoid rocks especially at Forrest
Hill in Guysboro County which limits their formation to
no later period than the early Devonian.
To the metamorphism of Early Devonian times we must
ascribe the origin of the granite and gneissoid tracts which
interfere largely with the continuation of the gold bearing
leads of Nova Scotia. Evidence for this is seen at Bear
River and other places. If as has been maintained our
granites were crystallised under great pressure, then the
gold bearing rocks were but slightly eroded when the Early
Devonian metamorphism took place, otherwise the granite
would be deprived of that immense weight necessary to its
crystalline form. Under this supposition, the most of this
immense denudation would be included in late Devonian
and Devo-Carboniferous times, or between the age of met-
amorphism and the beginning of the Lower Carboniferous.
To the prospector one important result of this period of
metamorphic activity are the fractures caused by the sub-
sequent shrinking of the fused districts. These are seen
at Sherbrooke, Mooseland, Mt. Uniacke and other places.
As an example a glance at Mr. Faribault's district map of
Mooseland will show the western end of that anticline
dragged to the south by the cooling and consequent shrink-
age of the granite tract in that direction. The fractures
caused by this movement reaches several miles up the Tan-
gier River. These fractures dip to the west their mode of
formation being as follows: As the granite cooled and
its shrinkage faulted the anticline in the Stems horn Mine,
near the river the aperture was gradually widened, the
overhanging western wall of the fracture settling down on
the eastern part, and opposing a higher stratum on the
western wall to a lower one on the eastern wall. About
1892 or 1893 I saw a prospecting tunnel being driven into
the western side of this fault to strike an apex or saddle
lead cut off at the same level on the east side. They of
course did not find it. It was a costly lesson but it taught
the owners nothing and as far as I know this explanation
was not hazarded by anyone since.
The Great Ice Age, as the last striking act in the geolog-
ical drama is called, does not occupy, as has been supposed,
a very important place among the many great periods of
erosion. The few hundred feet taken from the surface of
the province at that time affects few except the prospector
and perhaps the farmer. To the prospector however, the
Glacial Age is of paramount importance. A knowledge
of its operations on our gold fields, when not interfered with
by any later modifications, provides a simple and easily
understood rule which almost any prospector can understand
In the Eastern Counties the course of glacial transporta-
tion is south varying from a very few degrees east to west
of south. Any great variation from this I have usually
found to be the result of local glaciation. In the Western
Counties the general glacial transportation is always to
the east of south. In some of the eastern districts we
have great thicknesses of unmodified boulder clay. In
this the prospector's lesson is comparatively easy to learn.
Post-Glacial Modification. But just here is injected
into the problem a new and confusing agent. An agent
which complicates matters to such an extent that it forces
the Nova Scotian prospector to become a geologist as well
as a miner. And not only must he be a geologist but a
specialist in local glacial geology.
Still looking at our gold fields from the historical view
point we see the vast continental ice sheet breaking up into
local glaciers and the sunken province rising from the sea.
These fragmentary glaciers sliding toward the sea have
left their stria pointing toward the west in Digby and Yar-
mouth, to the north-west in Cumberland and to the east in
Guysboro County. Later they gravitated toward the low-
lands in every part of the province. Leaving their kames
and other deposits behind they confused very much the
former regularity of debris distribution.
Following the gradual disappearance of these local
glaciers and the farther elevation of the province came
another cause of confusion. The rivers and brooks began
deepening their channels, cutting away and re-depositing
the older deposits and lowering and filling lakes and valleys.
Beds of clay sand and gravel were re-arranged and shifted
to all points of the compass. And finally before these
modifications were complete a gradual subsidence set in
which continues to the present day (see my paper on Post
Glacial Subsidence of Nova Scotia in Journal of N. S. In-
stitute of Science.)
Such are the vagaries of deposition which usually govern
the distribution of rich float in Nova Scotia and the pros-
pector is expected to decipher correctly the history of its
travels ere he can locate its source. Lucky indeed is he $
he strikes a spot unaffected to any extent by these later
Requirements of the Prospector.
Prospecting, usually contemned as only an accessory
of mining, is in Nova Scotia one of the most important
branches of that great industry. It calls into use the
science of the geologist and the skill and perseverance of
the working miner. The intracacies of drift deposition in
Nova Scotia make the simple rules followed by surface
prospectors in the west of no avail here. I could give num-
erous instances in which English or Western engineers,
successful men in the lands of their experience, have failed
here through lack of local knowledge. Their zeal for doing
things as they are done in the west or in England blinded
them to our different conditions. This knowledge of struc-
ture; of cause, location and dip of paystreaks; of the laws
that govern faulting and folding; of the intricacies of
Glacial, Interglacial, and Post Glacial deposition, must
all be learned from a local standpoint. College-learned
generalities will not do without a local experience to make
such training effective here. And this local experience is
just as necessary to the skilled M. E. as it is to the pros-
pector. The lack of practical knowledge on the part of
our scientific men is only equalled by the lack of scientific
knowledge on the part of our practical men.
How often have I heard an enquiry for a good prospec-
tor met with such an answer as the following:-" Well, I
guess old Peter Brown should be a pretty good man for
that work. He's always puttering around the woods with
a pick. " This may have done when rich leads cropped out
on the surface and prospecting consisted of tearing off turf
and picking up loose ore. But now the chance finds are
all made and what remains will tax the science of the geolog-
ist. Hidden deep beneath a mantle of glacial debris the
finding of these veins necessitates a wide knowledge of the
structure of each and every district with their local pecu-
liarities. It needs also a judgment capable of guiding one
through the complications of fold and fault as well as the
perplexities accompanying the unravelling of riddles in
much modified drift deposition. Withal he must have a
capacity for persevering work with the pick and shovel,
for to him each pebble, fragment of ore, or organic remain
has a history often bearing strongly on the task in hand.
At least his constant personal supervision should guide
every step in the work to attain success. He should be
prepared for surprises and should be able to detect and
read new revelations in the mysteries of drift deposition.
Once while prospecting on the usual "go north" rule at
West Caledonia where the glacial striations ran s 12 e. I
found a piece of ore wedged in a crack in which it could
not have been thrust except from the south. At once
much contradictory evidence was reconciled and the vein
searched for was found a short distance to theS. W. Fur-
ther prospecting revealed the fact that while the first drift
transportation was to the south, Post Glacial action had
excavated and refilled a stream flowing frorh theS.W. which
had deflected the float ore to the n. n. e. It taught me more
than ever the value of a knowledge of Post Glacial action,
for with every square yard of earth thrown from our pros-
pecting trenches we meet with new problems.-
Several Glacial Epochs.
We have in Nova Scotia evidence of at least three periods
of glaciation (see Glacial Succession in lyunenburg Co.,
Transactions of N. S. Institute of Science, 1896). The
distinguishing points in the deposits during these periods
are, different degrees of oxidation, different courses of
transportation, and difference of composition, stratifica-
tion and position. For example at Blockhouse where I
found a long searched for gold bearing vein, the earliest
glacial deposit was a much oxidised kame of waterworn
pebbles course of transportation unknown. The next was
an unoxidised bed containing the same rocks as before,
course of transportation S. 22 E. Both these deposits were
without gold, their course of transportation not being over
the vein searched for. The third and upper bed contained
much angular debris with gold bearing float. This is ex-
plained when we know that the course of transportation
was about S. 50 E, bringing the debris from the rich vein
which was farther west than the source of the other deposits.
This kind of evidence is seen in various parts of the
province as at Halifax and Bridgewater. The oldest and
lowest beds are easily distinguished, being a firmly cement-
ed and highly oxidised conglomerate. Then comes boulder
clay with northern rocks, and finally more local debris
from the high lands close by. The work of Post Glacial
influences is not as evident in the eastern as in the western
Counties, therefore the eastern Nova Scotian prospector
has a comparatively easy task.
Ever since the first Nova Scotian gold discoveries when
our engineers formulated the rule "go north"' our pros-
pectors have faithfully and blindly followed that dictum.
To the majority of them the matter was forever settled,
and the rule became as unalterable and as unimprovable
as the constitution of the United States. Very little at-
tention is paid even yet to Post Glacial modification of
boulder clay by prospectors, and thousands of dollars
have been spent in searching for rich leads in deep, much
Another useless expenditure of time and money occurs
when every foot of trenching is bottomed with the idea of
doing the work thoroughly. This, often when owing to
modification by sub-aerial influences, the course of the
rich float has been almost at right angles to the general
course of glacial transportation. Many miners have ex-
hausted their means and wasted the best years of their life
searching for rich veins in the firm belief that all drift
comes from the north, when a little knowledge of local
glacial geology would show that the most valuable part of
it probably came from another direction. Veins have
been found and pronounced worthless when a knowledge
of the exact course of the float transportation would have
led the finder to cut it in another and richer place.
An Example in Economy.
As an example of the amount of labor that can be
saved by float tracing as opposed bottoming as the work
proceeds. I may give a record of work at Blockhouse in
1896. The rich float there appeared on the top of deep
surface about 600 feet S. B. of its source. Here I sunk a
test shaft to bed rock. From this shaft I learned that the
gold bearing drift reached to a depth of about 5 feet, the
lower 10 feet being barren. Bast and west of this 50 feet
distant I sunk shafts, constantly searching and panning
for gold. Gold was found in the west shaft to a depth of
4 feet and in the east shaft to a depth of 2 feet. About
50 feet farther N. I sunk 3 more shafts. The middle and
west shaft showed gold to a depth of 5 feet but the upper
1J feet was barren. Thus guided the next 3 shafts were
sunk farther west but never going to bed rock. Here the
middle and east shafts showed gold from 2 to 4 feet, but
the west shaft was barren. This decided the course of
the float as about S. B. Two pits N.W. of the last both
contained gold at depths of from 2 to 4 feet and deeper
than that I did not go. One pit still farther along the line
of drift contained gold from 2 to 3 feet reaching bed rock
at 4 feet. Farther on 3 feet of drift showed gold only in
the last foot, and the next hole only a few yards farther had
only 2 or 3 small fragments of quartz on the bed rock.
This hole was lengthened and a 2J oz. lead struck 6 feet
farther. The total cost was less than $130.00. This ex-
ample shows the " economy of systematic work. In the
deepest surface only one shaft was bottomed and the in-
formation furnished by it sufficed to carry on the work to
a successful conclusion without sinking another shaft to
bed rock when deeper than 4 feet. This vein had been
searched for during the previous 10 years by several old
and experienced prospectors whose only reward was some
more age and experience.
Labor Saving Methods.
A necessary preliminary to trenching in some places
is a system of panning, that I have found very useful. In
this the number of pans from each spot selected is noted.
Then the number of colors in each pan are counted and
graded into colors, sights, shotty gold, and nuggets, with
a further assortment into sizes say 8 to 16 in all. The re-
sults are then mapped on a plan of the areas to be trenched
and in this way the centre or line of greatest values is de-
termined. This will save much laborious and expensive
work in shaft sinking as was usual when sinking was done
in the old hap-hazard way.
A method of economical timbering for prospecting
shafts which, as I have hardly ever seen it in use in Nova
Scotia, I will give here. It may perhaps be new to some.
Some such method is imperative in quicksand or loose clay
and gravel walls and in this way the same lot of lagging
may be used, withdrawn, and used again in each succeed-
ing shaft, li inch deal is cut into 4 foot lengths sharpen-
ed with a bevelled edge. The pit is started, two setts of
timber framed, put together, and lowered. The upper
sett is hung to the timbers -the windlass rests on and the
second sett hung to the first, 3 feet below. Then the kg-
ging is put in and wedged back with wedges 2 inches thick
at the top. Thus between the upper 4 foot pieces and the
second sett is a space of 2 inches through which the next
lot of 4 foot lagging is driven bevelled side inward, the
wedge being withdrawn and driven in front of the second
lot of lagging. This leaves a space of i to f inches between
the deal and the second sett. Then the third sett of tim-
bers is lowered and put in below the second sett and 2 inch
wedges driven between the third sett and the lower end of
the 2nd lot of 4 foot lagging. If the ground is liable to
cave the lagging is driven in advance of the work, and the
third sett lowered as the depth increases. When 3 feet
below the second sett it is hung there and new 4 foot lag-
ging put in the wedges being taken out and driven front
of the lagging as before. Thus there will be a space of at
least i an inch all round between the timber and deal.
When the shaft is deserted the wedges can be driven up
with a small hammer and the loosened lagging thrown into
a tub and hoisted with little trouble. With the help of
one man I have taken all the lagging from a 22 foot shaft
in less than an hour preparatory to using it in another
Leads have been found in the old rule of thumb way
when exposed or nearly so but the deeply buried leads
still remaining must be searched for after laying down a
carefully planned programme. Of course no programme is
infallible, and we must always be guided to some extent by
circumstances, but in a choice between a programme or
no programme we choose the first.
1st. A map of the district in question on a scale of at
least 1" to 100' On this entered details of contour, geo-
logical structure and depth and course of drift transporta-
tion. 2nd. An intelligent system of panning with results
carefully tabulated and indicated on the map. 3rd. A
te ' shaft to bed rock to furnish data for future work. In
; ~ sjiaft every f detail of stratification, composition, pre-
sen A gold or drift quartz should be noted and entered
on a sectional plan to be carried through every shaft sunk
in the search. 4th. Then should follow a regular system
of shaft sinking for the purpose of tracing the float gold
to its source. This to save cost need not be sunk farther
than sufficient to decide the presence and course of trans-
portation of the float gold, unless strong evidences of Post
Glacial action leads us to suspect that the original course
of the surface float has been deflected or reversed.
As we can see, the way of the prospector in Nova Scotia
is not an easy one. It calls for an amount of good judgment
and local knowledge not necessary to the Western prospec-
tor whose training has been obtained chiefly in mountain-
ous regions. While in the west the powers of observation
are most relied on, here the hidden nature of the problems
involved require something more. This opinion is not given
to discourage prospecting here but to offset the old idea
that prospecting is a job that any miner can do to fill in
his spare time. Nova Scotia with her narrow but rich
paystreaks will amply repay any intelligent young man
for devoting a few years to solving the problems of local
glacial geology, providing, of course, the funds for doing
so are forthcoming. For it is needless to say that no or-
dinary prospector can go far in work of this kind without
help. And again, after a man has spent half a life time in
gaining knowledge which is really of a deeply scientific as
well as practical nature, and calls for good judgment and
superior powers of observation at every turn, it is an injus-
tice to ask him to work for the wages of an ordinary miner.
He would be doing a work that the most competent engin-
eer without local training would be incapable of.
The most common objection to prospecting in Nova
Scotia is the risk of failure that is failure to find the lead
searched for. The only risk I can see is when prospecting
is begun without a previous knowledge of former geologi-
cal conditions or without sufficient funds to finish the job
in hand. I refuse emphatically to believe that there is
any such thing as failure in prospecting in Nova Scotia,
providing the money and practical knowledge is forthcom-
ing. And I am of the opinion that every hidden rich lead
in Nova Scotia at a cost of from $400.00 to $4000.00 unless
covered by lake, river or sea.
The following is a partial list of the prizes in gold mining
yet to be won in Nova Scotia.
District. Size of lead. ton.
Fifteen Mile Brook (Hall 5" to 10" Very rich
" (Shaw) 9" to 15" 1 to 3 ozs.
Broad River (Cross lead) ? Severl ozs.
Mill Vilage (Prest areas) 10" to 16" 2 to 3 ozs.
Gold River Lunbg. Co. (Torquay) 8" to 18" 2 to 12 oz.
(Mill Lead) ? Very rich
(Clinton) ? 2to3oz.
West Caledonia Queens Co. (Freeman) Over 1 ft. Severl oz.
Centre Lunenburg Co. 2 ft. 2 to 3 oz.
Rawdon, Hants Co. 8" to 12"10 ozs.
West Chezzetcook 3" to 6" 8 to 10 oz
Copes Hill, Halifax Co . 6" to 11" Rich.
Gold- Lake " " Very large Good.
" (Bunker) ? Rich.
Mooseland Halifax Co (Hilchey) 3" and over, 500 ozs.
(2nd Hilchey) ? Severl oz.
Stemshorn . 10" to 14" Up to 14o
North iy to 2' 1 to 2 ozs.
Small Very rich
North Renfrew, Hfx Co (Wall) ? Rich.
Beaver Dam (Glad win) ? Very rich
Killag (Red lead) 6" to 8" 2 to 3oz.
(Striped I'd) 10" Good
16" 7 ozs.
2' Up to 4 os
(Horn lead) 9" 1 to 2 ozs.
EkumSekum " ? Rich
District. Size of lead. ton.
Fifteen Mile Stream Rd (Indian Id) 5" to 8" Very rich
(Williams et al) ? 1 to 3 ozs.
Ardoise Hants Co. ? Very good
Gegogan, Guysboro Co. ? Very rich
Sonora ? Rich.
Fifteen Mile Brook Queens Co. I" to 2" Very rich
There are other localities in which rich gold bearing
boulders have been found, but as I had no definite informa-
tion concerning them I did not enter them.
In the conservation of natural resources in Nova Scotia
nature is doing her duty to the coming generations. These
hidden leads await the coming of the trained prospector
who in turn awaits financial backing.
No amount of toil can compensate for the want of a
thoroughly local knowledge of the structure of our gold
districts and their surface deposits. But again no amount
of geological knowledge will ever find a hidden vein without
a solid backing of money and muscle.
We want geology but only its most practical side. We
want labor but only its intelligent use, and last but not
least we want solid financial backing. With these three
at our command, there is no reason why the whole of the
rich veins before mentioned should not be uncovered in
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