CHAPTER VII.--PROSPECTS FOR THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE.

Minerals. (continued)

3. MINERAL POSSIBILITIES.

  455. The mines at Bell Island and Buchans are the only working mines in the country, but coal is known to exist on the west coast, and copper, silver, nickel, chromium, antimony, asbestos, and venadium are also found in various parts of the Island. Newfoundland is composed of the most ancient rock formations and it has been claimed that traces of almost every metallic substance have been discovered in the Island.*

  456. Copper-mining, which may be said to have begun with the opening, in 1864, of the Union Mine at Tilt Cove in Notre Dame Bay, was for many years one of the Island's main industries. The success of the Union Mine led to the opening of mines at Bett's Head and Little Bay in 1875 and 1878, and several mines of less importance, all situated in the area of Notre Dame Bay, became small producers at later periods. Among other mines worked in the past may be mentioned the "Terra Nova" mine at Baie Verte, the mine at Gull Lake, south of Hall's Bay, and that at York Harbour, Bay of Islands. By 1918, however, the copper mines of the Island had either been worked out or had ceased to be profitable and no copper-mining has been undertaken since that date. Indications of copper are said to occur all round the coast and it is therefore within the bounds of possibility that fresh discoveries may lead to renewed operations.

  457. The coalfields of the west coast are situated on St. George's Bay and are estimated at 136 square miles. Many surveys of this area have been made by geological experts during the last hundred years, but lack of capital has so far prevented its development. There are said to be five seams measuring three feet and upwards, giving a total thickness of 21 feet, and an estimated yield of 147,000,000 tons. The coal has been pronounced by experts to be of good quality, bituminous and free from sulphur. The land on which the coal is situated is held either in fee simple or under lease from the Crown by the St. George's Coal Fields, Ltd., of St. John's. Following the enactment of special legislation in 1919 this Company was granted certain special concessions, designed to facilitate the development of the coal-fields, including the offer of a bounty of 75 cents a ton on all coal mined and consumed in the Island, but no active mining operations have yet been undertaken.

St. George's Harbour St. George's Harbour, looking South, n.d.
Photographer unknown. From the album of photographs furnished to the Newfoundland Royal Commission, August 1933. Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (Coll-207), Memorial University of Newfoundland Library, St. John's, Newfoundland.
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  458. In general, it may be said that the possibilities of mineral development in Newfoundland have been by no means exhausted. Petroleum also occurs in the north-west of the Island and may one day prove a profitable source of revenue. Labrador has not yet been scientifically surveyed but hopes are held out that valuable minerals exist there in commercial quantities, and prospecting for gold is now in progress. The potentialities of this vast territory are discussed in the following Chapter.

The Port at Botwood.

  459. The Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company's shipping port is at Botwood, an outport with a population of approximately 2,000, situated on tidewater at the mouth of the Exploits River, which flows into Notre Dame Bay, at a distance of 22 miles from Grand Falls; this port is also used by the Buchans Mining Company. There are three large wharves at Botwood and cargo-steamers of any size can lie there in safety while loading paper from Grand Falls or the concentrates from Buchans Mine, or unloading coal, sulphur, limestone, pulpwood, etc. Botwood is closed with ice for the best part of four months of the year--January to April. The production of the Paper Mill during these months has, therefore, to be stored and there are nine large storage sheds at Botwood with a total holding capacity for 40,000 tons of newsprint reels.

  460. The Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company own and operate a private railway between Botwood and Grand Falls, over which they carry their production of newsprint to the shipping port at Botwood and bring up supplies of coal, sulphur, a small portion of their pulpwood requirements and other supplies to the Mill. The Buchans Mining Company have a private line, which, starting from Buchans, connects with the private line of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company at Millertown Junction. From this point to Botwood use is made of the latter Company's line.

  461. From the standpoint of tonnage Botwood handles more business than any other port in Newfoundland; the present tonnage is approximately as follows:--

Exports:--
Tons per annum.
    Paper .............................................
    Zinc and Lead concentrates ...........
120,000 
200,000 
Imports:--
  
    Coal ...............................................
    Sulfur ............................................
    General cargo ................................
 
 
       80,000 
        2,000 
        7,000 
    _________
   409,000

  462. The port is also used for the shipping of pulpwood which has been cut at different parts of the Island and shipped to Botwood for transmission by rail to the Paper Mills at Grand Falls.

  463. About 80 men are regularly employed by the Company at Botwood, and during open water--May to December--some 200 additional men are continuously engaged in the stevedoring business.

  464. The Buchans Mining Company own large sheds at Botwood, where their output of concentrates is stored during the winter months; the shipping of these concentrates takes place from May to December.

Agriculture.

  465. Although the statement has been frequently made during the last 50 years that Newfoundland is a country with great agricultural possibilities, agriculture has not yet been undertaken on any intensive scale. A certain amount of mixed farming is carried on in the Avalon Peninsula and on the southern portion of the west coast, but, in general, agriculture is regarded as a subsidiary occupation to fishing. The shortness of the season; the fact that soils of Newfoundland, except in a few localities, are not naturally fertile; and the distribution of the people round the coast rather than in the interior, have all contributed to this attitude of mind.

  466. There are a certain number of farms of about 100 to 200 acres, but, in general, Newfoundland is a country of smallholders, most of the "farms" or "gardens" being little more than allotments which serve to provide the fisherman with potatoes and other vegetables for winter consumption. In good fishing seasons, cultivation is apt to be neglected; it is only when the fishery fails to yield a livelihood that the land receives the attention it deserves.


  * J.P. Howley, Evidence before Dominions Royal Commission, 1914, United Kingdom Parliamentary Papers, C. 7898, 1915, p. 81.


Image description updated May, 2004.



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