Chapter II: Fever of the Copper Ore
James P. Howley, director of the Geological Survey of Newfoundland from 1883 to 1917, wrote in 1898 that:
"In the earliest stages of the Newfoundland mining industry, all sorts of drawbacks had to be encountered and overcome...mineralogical knowledge of the country, impossibility of procuring skilled labour except from outside...but beyond all a blind and unreasonable prejudice...which amounted almost to a prohibition of any attempt at mining enterprise...."(2)
The overwhelming success of the Tilt Cove mine changed all this. As news spread of the immense profits being made by Charles Bennett and Smith McKay, prospectors and mining entrepreneurs began to converge upon Notre Dame Bay. When Bennett became Newfoundland's anti-confederate premier in 1870 and on 25 April 1872 abolished mining royalties completely, even the most reluctant speculators were stirred into action.
The subsequent rush for mining claims in Notre Dame Bay continued unabated for several years. Once an experienced mine expert staked a given property the surrounding territory was immediately blanketed by the claims of people knowing nothing of geology or minerals. Some claims were staked on non-existent land while others with alleged coastal frontage turned out upon survey to be situated miles inland.
Thus began the Notre Dame Bay copper boom. It peaked in the 1880s, died out with World War I and left in its wake over two dozen copper mines, the combined output of which transformed Newfoundland briefly into the world's sixth largest copper producer. During the boom years, literally scores of mining companies sprung up in and beyond Newfoundland for the sole purpose of wresting ore from the rocks of Notre Dame Bay. Local newspapers reported mineral discoveries with such frequent and cheerful exaggeration that, reading them, one has the feeling that mining ran a close second to weather in daily conversation.
"Wisha! mines is the greatest of blessins,
"I was axed to take shares in a mine -
"So I sends off some men for to blast -
"Well, we climbs up the side of a hill -
"And we hammers and hammers the dhrill.
Well, we gits out our powdher and fuse,
"So the blast is set off, and the hill
"Well says I, let us dhrink for success,
"Well, they say that in Brigus there's gold,
"We have mundick and sulphur and tin,
"Arrah! sure thin you don't doubt my word -
"The Specimint's gone to be thried,