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Chapter II: Fever of the Copper Ore  (continued)

Meanwhile, after having exported about 218,000 tons of ore to the United States between 1902 and 1908, the Newfoundland Exploration Syndicate found that a large fault displaced the main ore lens. The company had sustained heavy debts already from its too-widespread activities and so used the fault as an excuse to announce to the miners that pay day would be postponed until geologists determined the extent of the displacement. The announcement was simply a ruse to gain time: while the grumbling miners extracted the last available ore the company pulled together and withdrew silently before the government could take court action to wrest wages from the management.

The Pilleys Island mine ceased working after 1908 and was sold on 14 May 1914 at a public auction to an American, August Hechscher. After regaining some of his $50,000 purchase money by selling the mine machinery for scrap metal during World War I, Hechscher disposed of the property in 1918. The more recent, intermittent exploration of the mine has yet to bring it back into production.

Eastern Notre Dame Bay Mines

If one were to place on a map a red pin for each of the Notre Dame Bay copper mines, the western area of the bay would emerge as a rosy cluster of dots. Yet the more easterly region would remain unblemished, save for an isolated flash of colour around Seal Bay, New Bay and Twillingate Island. The reasons for this is simple: geological forces originating millions of years ago created more mineral deposits in the rocks of western Notre Dame Bay, so that statistically the rocks contain more mineable orebodies than those of the east.

Few would-be mining magnates of the 1870s and 80s realised the wisdom in limiting their activities to western Notre Dame Bay. Every new ore deposit located anywhere in the bay brought cries of 'a new Little Bay!'. Only later did people notice that virtually none of the eastern copper deposits became productive mines.

William Pill moved in May 1880 from the Old English mine to the Thimble Tickle prospect near Lockport and spent a barren season working on its pyrite deposit. Charles O'Brien Redin, a British Columbian living in Little Bay, raised a considerable tonnage of ore from Fortune Harbour's Grey Copper mine, so-called for the ore's peculiar colour; none of it ever left the mine site. The Reid Newfoundland Company Limited exported a small cargo of copper ore from a deposit found near Saunders Cove, only to abandon it when no further ore could be extracted from the workings. Joe Roberts of Beaver Brook Cove tells of how he was the only man able to stay a full shift underground in the unusually dusty Tea Arm prospect in New Bay.

Loading pier and ore storage shed of Sleepy Cove copper mine, c. 1907. (II/6.)
Little is known about the history of the foregoing fruitless endeavours. The same could not be said for Twillingate Island's Sleepy Cove mine. Despite the mine's poor productivity, enough intriguing fragments of information exist to draw a sketch of its rise and fall.

In 1905, Obediah Hodder of Pennsylvania revisited his birthplace at Crow Head on Twillingate Island and, while exploring his old haunts, happened upon a copper prospect that he had found as a child.(39) That was the newspaper version of the discovery on the Crow Head or Sleepy Cove mine. Another story described how Hodder's father spotted the ore while searching for net ballast. The facts are the Obediah's father, James, and brother, Edgar, staked the Sleepy Cove orebody with other men in the early 1900s and sold it to Obediah around 1906 for $5000 and a 20-cents-per-ton royalty.(40) He then incorporated the Great Northern Copper Company Limited and transferred the claim to the firm.