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Fraser's Scottish Annual
The Minerals of Ontario


BY HEW CROMARTIE, M.A.

N the raw materials which constitute the basis of industrial greatness, the Province of Ontario is singularly rich. Her temperate climate and fertile soil not only assure abundance of food for man and beast, but provide the necessary conditions for rearing the domestic animals in the greatest vigour and excellence; her forests of pine, spruce and hardwood maintain a great industry in the manufacture of sawn lumber, square timber, pulp wood and furniture; and to the patient fisherman her great lakes and inland waters yield a bountiful return. But it is not so generally known that in her mineral wealth Ontario possesses resources quite as needful to the upbuilding of a nation as those contained in her fields, her forests or her fisheries. The fact remains that with one or two important exceptions all the commoner minerals are found in great profusion within her borders, and many other substances of less frequent occurrence but great usefulness in the arts and industries.

The geology of Ontario is confined for the most part to the formations of the azoic and palaozoic ages, and there is therefore not the great variety of rocks found in some other countries; but the Huronian series, which is pre-eminently the mineral-bearing formation, is extensively developed north of the great lakes, and there furnishes deposits of iron, nickel, gold, copper, silver and zinc, etc., while in eastern Ontario related rocks supply gold, arsenic, corundum, mica, felspar, apatite, talc, graphite, iron pyrites and lead. In the south-western peninsula the Devonian and Silurian formations yield petroleum, natural gas, salt and gypsum. Granite, trap, limestone and sandstone are quarried from the earlier formations for building and other purposes; shell marl of more recent geological date, found in the beds of dried-up lakes, is used in the manufacture of cement; clays of various origin are used extensively in the making of bricks and pottery, and an Old World industry in the utilization of peat for fuel purposes bids fair to establish itself in a new form on the bogs of Ontario.

Probably the most important of all minerals is iron, and it has long been known that Ontario has large stores of magnetite and hematite in the eastern counties and also in the territory north and west of the great lakes. For years the operation of various causes, including a hostile tariff in the United States, retarded the development of the iron mines of Ontario and the establishment of an iron- making industry. Until lately the pig iron requirements of our manufacturers had to be met by importations, which formerly came mainly from Great Britain, but of late years mostly from the United States. All this is now rapidly being changed. There are three blast furnaces in operation, one at Hamilton, one at Deseronto, and a third at Midland, while five more are in course of construction—four at Sault Ste. Marie and one at Collingwood. Two of the existing furnaces and three of those under construction are designed to use coke as fuel, while one of those now in operation and two being built are for the manufacture of charcoal iron. The output of pig iron in 1900 was 62,386 tons, valued at $936,066; for 1901 it was 116,370 tons, worth about $1,701,703.

When the furnaces began work most of the ore they used came from the American side of lake Superior, but the discovery of the great Helen mine on the east shore of that lake in 1898, and its development by the Clergue syndicate, soon furnished the coke furnaces of Ontario with ample supplies of native hematite ore of good quality. The establishment of a bounty on iron ore by the Provincial Government, and on pig iron and steel by the Government of the Dominion, have played a material part in the growth and prosperity of the iron business of Ontario.

During the past season there has been great activity in searching for iron ores, and many miles of "iron ranges" have been located in the neighbourhood of lake Temagami and north and west of lake Superior, very similar in their geological conditions to the famous Mesabi and Vermilion ranges of the American side of the latter lake, which, it is not too much to say, have revolutionized the iron business of the world, and transferred the supremacy in iron and steel from Europe to the United States. Strong hopes are entertained that careful investigations will discover similar ore bodies on the Ontario side. The output of iron ore in this Province in 1895 was nil; for 1901, the production will be about 300,000 tons, valued at the pit's mouth at about $325,000.

In the deposits of nickel ore situated in the Sudbury region north of lake Huron, Ontario possesses one of the two sources of the world's supply of this important metal. It occurs here in pyrrhotite in which part of the iron has been replaced by nickel, the ore usually carrying copper as well as nickel in varying proportions, but as a rule about two per cent. of each. The ore bodies do not exist as regular veins with well-defined walls, but rather as lenticular masses at or near the contact line of the granite and diorite, or in the diorite itself, some of these masses being of great size. A find recently uncovered by the Canadian Copper Company, called the Creighton mine, bids fair to develop into the largest body of nickel ore yet opened up in the district. In the Copper Cliff, one of the first and most extensively developed of Ontario nickel mines, a depth of about 1,000 feet on the incline has been reached. Mining began about fifteen years ago. The ores were at first worked for their copper contents, but difficulties experienced in their treatment led to the discovery that they carried nickel as well.

The Canadian Copper Company, of Cleveland, Ohio, at Copper Cliff, and the Mond Nickel Company, an English concern at Victoria Mines, are the chief producers of nickel. Both companies bring the ore to a rich matte, containing about eighty per cent. of nickel and copper, at their works in Ontario. The final separation of the metals is effected in the one case in the United States and in the other in England. Recently the Lake Superior Power Company, whose president is Mr. F. H. Clergue, has entered the field, and is vigorously developing the Gertrude and Elsie mines. Roast heaps and smelting works to treat the ores from both properties are being erected at the Gertrude mine, from which, also, selected ore rich in nickel and carrying little or no copper is shipped to Sault Ste. Marie for the manufacture of ferro-nickel. The nickel industry is rapidly expanding, and under the stimulus of an active demand and high prices, business during the past year was unusally brisk. In 1900, the output of nickel-copper matte was 23,448 tons, equal to 3,540 tons of nickel and 3,364 tons of copper. For 1901 the production will be considerably larger.

The gold-producing areas of Ontario are in the east and west portions of the Province. The eastern field lies mainly in the County of Hastings, where there are both free-milling and refractory ores. The latter owe their rebelliousness to the presence of arsenic; indeed, this constituent predominates to such an extent as to make some of the deposits more valuable for arsenic than for gold. The difficulty formerly experienced in treating these mispickel ores has now entirely disappeared, and arsenic is being produced in Hastings county, of first-rate quality, at the rate of about eighty tons per month. In western Ontariothe gold is found principally in quartz veins carrying variable proportions of pyrites and other concentrating minerals. For the most part the ores are low in grade, but many of the deposits are of unusual size, and the abundance of water and wood and other facilities for treating them bespeak for the gold industry in this part of Ontario a notable future. The yield for the Province in 1900 was 18,767 ounces, valued at $297,861, and for 1901 it will be about the same.

Copper was one of the first of Ontario minerals to be won on a large scale. The old Bruce Mines on the north shore of lake Huron forty years ago were worked extensively, and yielded several million dollars' worth of metal. A revival of copper mining in this and other districts is now in progress. The Bruce Mines themselves have been put in commission, though work has again been temporarily suspended, and at Rock Lake, thirteen or fourteen miles distant, Massey Station and Desbarats on the C.P.R., at points near Sault Ste. Marie and elsewhere, deposits of purely copper ore are being opened up.

The famous Silver Islet mine, situated on a tiny island in Lake Superior, not larger than a good- sized ball-room, yielded in its day many million dollars' worth of silver, but has now been under water for years. Deposits on the mainland were worked with much vigour until a fall in the price of silver rendered mining unprofitable. In recent years work has been resumed on some of the properties near Port Arthur, with satisfactory results to the owners. The silver occurs in quartz and calcite veins in slate rocks of the Animikie formation in the form of native silver and sulphides, chiefly argentite. The rich ore is sacked and shipped as it comes from the mine, while the leaner ores are stamped and concentrated before being sent away. The yield of silver in Ontario for 1900 was 160,612 ounces, worth $96,367.

In eastern Ontario is found mica, both phlogopite and muscovite, but chiefly the former. Demand from makers of electrical machinery has led to considerable production, which fluctuates from year to year according as prices go up and down. North of Kingston, and in the neighbourhood of the town of Perth, are fields from which a large yield of mica would come steadily if the market called for it at remunerative prices. The deposits are pockety and irregular, like those of mica in whatever part of the world it is found. The production in 1900 was 643 tons, worth $91,750.

A new substance has recently been added to the list of Ontario's mineral products. As an abrasive, corundum has long enjoyed high repute, but its existence in Ontario in commercial quantities was not suspected till 1896. A mislabelled crystal in a collection of specimens purchased by a member of the geological survey staff at Ottawa, led to the discovery of immense bodies of corundum-bearing rock in the counties of Renfrew and Hastings- doubtless the largest yet made known in the world. Tests proved the mineral to be of first-rate quality, and its exploitation has been entered on with energy. Crushed and graded corundum is being put on the market in all the required sizes of grains, well cleaned and free from injurious ingredients, and the manufacture of corundum wheels has been begun. The crystals occur in all sizes, from that of a thimble or cruet-bottle stopper to a sledgehammer, in a pegmatite or syenite matrix accompanied by a small percentage of magnetite. In the county of Peterborough, corundum is also found, and specimens have been picked up of an ultra-marine blue tint, which encourages the hope that sapphires or rubies like those of Burmah may yet be discovered.

Graphite is being produced from the Black Donald mine, a deposit in Renfrew county, felspar from Frontenac, talc from deposits near Madoc, while apatite, or phosphate of lime, though found in eastern Ontario of first-rate quality, has been put out of production by the more cheaply-mined phosphates of the southern States.

The agricultural districts of older Ontario are not usually associated with mineral deposits or products, yet the yearly output of petroleum from the oil fields of Lambton County approaches in value to that of pig iron at the present rate of production, and forms the basis of a very important industry.

The wells are mostly of small capacity, yielding not more than one-quarter or one-third of a barrel of crude per day; but they are very numerous, perhaps ten thousand in all, and are economically worked by means of a "jerker" system of pumps. The oil is obtained from the Corniferous limestones at a depth of 460 or 470 feet, and though containing a greater proportion of sulphur than the Pennsylvania petroleum, yet yields, under modern methods of treatment, an illuminating fluid equal to the best.

The counties of Essex and Welland contain two natural gas fields, from which large quantities of gas are yearly taken, the yield in 1900 being valued at $392,823. In both fields the flow comes from the Silurian rocks—in Essex from the Guelph dolomite, and in Welland from the Guelph dolomite, Clinton limestone, Medina sandstone and Trenton limestone.

A large part of the gas from both localities has, in the past, been piped across the border line and consumed in Buffalo and Detroit, but the Ontario Government has within the past few months revoked the license of occupation of part of the Detroit river-bed, under authority of which the gas was sent over to Detroit, and has thus brought the exportation from the Essex field to an end.

That the counties bordering on the eastern shore of lake Huron —Bruce, Huron and Lambton were once at the bottom of a salt lake or sea is proven by the great beds of chloride of sodium, otherwise common salt, which are found in the lower part of the Onondaga formation at a distance of about one thousand feet from the surface. This process of deposition may be seen going on at the present time in many parts of the world, notably at Salt Lake, Utah, which receives the waters of four large rivers but discharges none, the equilibrium being maintained by evaporation, which leaves the solid constituents behind. The principal of these is salt, and the water having become saturated with this mineral, the excess is deposited at the bottom and in shallow places at the sides of the lake. From the Ontario wells the salt is pumped in the form of brine, which is led into pans and there evaporated. The resulting article is of excellent quality, and in the beds of the lake Huron district there is ample supply for all the needs of the country for many thousands of years.

The Government of Ontario recognizing the importance of the mineral industry to the Province has adopted a policy of lending it every legitimate assistance and encouragement. The mining laws are acknowledged to be fair and even liberal. No royalties of any kind are exacted, and the prices of mining lands are very low, the highest rate being $3.50 per acre. On the other hand, development being the object aimed at, the law requires that certain expenditures be made upon the land—at least $6.00 per acre during the first seven years after title is issued. The prevailing form of tenure is leasehold, payment of $i.00 per acre being required for the first year, and from 15 to 30 cents per acre for subsequent years, according to distance from a railway. The lease is for ten years, on the expiry of which time the lessee is entitled to a grant of the land without payment if he has complied with the law.

Direct aid is given to the iron mining industry in the form of a bounty on: iron ore raised and smelted within the Province, the rate of bounty varying from year to year according to the quantity of ore mined and smelted, but not exceeding $1.00 per ton of the pig iron product of the ore. A fund of $125,000, called the Iron Mining Fund, has been created by the Legislature for purposes of these payments, out of which aid to the extent of $25,000 may be disbursed annually.

Indirectly the Government aids the mining industry in many ways. The Bureau of Mines was established in 1891 to promote the development of the mineral resources of the Province, and it has since been actively engaged in collecting and disseminating information respecting the mineral wealth of Ontario and the output of minerals, in examining and mapping promising fields of discovery, and in drawing the attention of capitalists and others to the opportunities afforded for investment in mines and mining properties. The yearly reports of the Bureau are in strong demand, and have proven very useful in promoting the development of mining in the Province. Another practical step was the establishment of an Assay office, located at Belleville, where prospectors and others may have samples assayed and examined at very moderate charges. In the chief mining districts local agents have been appointed for the purpose of supplying information as to granted and ungranted lands and otherwise assisting prospectors in their work.

In the Sault Ste. Marie and Michipicoton regions great results have followed the policy of the Government towards the newer portions of the Province, in increased activity in mining as well as in other industries. The opening up of the great deposits of hematite at Michipicoton by Mr. Clergue and his associates has led directly to the building of four blast furnaces (now under erection) at Sault Ste. Marie where the ores are to be smelted, and to the construction of an immense steel plant at the same place, which is almost ready to begin operations. Ferro- nickel is also being made there from nickel ore brought from the Gertrude mine, the sulphur contents of which are used in the manufacture of sulphide wood pulp. Charcoal and coke ovens form part of the Sault Ste. Marie programme, and will convert the wood and coal respectively into fuel for use in the furnaces on the spot. A large plant for the pro duction of bleaching powder and caustic soda from salt brought thither from Windsor is running very successfully. All these industries derive their motive and electric power from the falls of the St. Mary river, which forms the outlet of lake Superior, the energy already developed and in process of development being about 95,000 horse-power.

The opening up of northern Ontario is a task to which the Government of the Province has definitely committed itself, and useful minerals form no small share of the dormant wealth of the Crown domain. To bring about their development, to convert the uninhabited wilderness into scenes of busy industry, and to found in new Ontario communities which in their solidity and progressiveness will equal those of the old, is an ambition worthy of any government, and all patriots will wish it a successful issue.


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