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Full text of "Prospecting in Nova Scotia"

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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. 

Structural Geology. 

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 



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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. 

Historical Geology. 

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- 
tioned. 

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. 

Metamorphism. 

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. 

Denudation. 

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 
and apply. 

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. 



6 

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 
influences. 

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., 



8 

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. 

Old Methods. 

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 
modified drift. 



9 

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 



10 

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- 



11 

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 
shaft. 

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 



12 

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, 



13 

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. 

Milling 
value per 

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. 

I'to2i' ItoHoz. 

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 



14 

Milling 
value per 

District. Size of lead. ton. 

Fifteen Mile Stream Rd (Indian Id) 5" to 8" Very rich 

HfxCo, 

(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 
time. 



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