The Mineral Resources of Ontario
Publication:
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 9 Feb 1905, p. 185-195


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Coleman, Professor A.P., Speaker
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Text
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Speeches
Description:
The mineral wealth of any country, dependent on its geological features. The two rather distinct parts of the geology of Ontario. The limited fuel resources from a mineral standpoint in Ontario. The vast peat deposits of Ontario. Our uncomfortable experience with peat. Our most unscientific way possible of heating our houses; how we get our coal. What we should be doing. The comparatively few resources in Southern Ontario that are looked on as mineral in the ordinary sense. The structural materials that are provided in Southern Ontario, clay being first among them, then lime and sand. Ontario as the great cement producing province of the Dominion. Some production figures. Turning from Old Ontario to New Ontario. Our great hope in the future in Northern Ontario. The much more ancient set of rocks in Northern Ontario: a geological description, with industry details. The question of fuels in the north. The metals of Northern Ontario: practically all the important metals that are of great economic importance, the majority of them having been mined at one time or another. A review of the position of each of the metals: gold, silver, copper, nickel, cobalt, zinc, lead, and iron. One or two general features in terms of mineral production in Ontario. The speaker's belief that we will have a steady increase in our production of minerals for the future. The potential resources of Northern Ontario.
Date of Original:
9 Feb 1905
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English
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.70011 Longitude: -79.4163
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Full Text
THE MINERAL RESOURCES OF ONTARIO.
Address by Professor A. P. Coleman, M.A., Ph.D., of Toronto University, on February 9th, 1905.

Mr. President and Gentlemen,-

The mineral wealth of any country depends very largely on its geological features; and of course that is as true of Ontario as of other countries. The geology of Ontario includes two rather distinct parts. There is the part we are familiar with here in Southern Ontario and there is a part to the north that we are not so familiar with, although we are beginning to talk about it very largely. All our rocks in this region belong to a pretty old formation; in fact none of the rocks of Ontario reach higher up than the Devonian System. That is one of the very ancient formations; it in fact underlies the coal-bearing series. Our rocks do not quite reach up to the level of the great series of rocks that carry coal, so that our fuel resources from a mineral standpoint are limited. That is one of the drawbacks of the Province of Ontario. We have our petroleum coming from the Devonian rocks and that in Ontario is one of the most important products. We had our natural gas but a considerable part of that has been burned and we are burning the rest as rapidly as possible-and so is Detroit and Buffalo.

Another source of fuel is practically inexhaustible as far as Ontario is concerned, both in the south and the north; that is our vast peat deposits. We have had a little uncomfortable experience with peat. I don't know whether any of you have dropped any money in Peat Companies, but we have that as a resource. If fuel grows more expensive we will, no doubt, turn to peat. We have the most unscientific way possible of heating our houses. Somebody digs the anthracite coal in Pennsylvania and it is shipped across to us at great expense and trouble, and hauled from the coal dealers to our cellars, and carried on a man's back and dumped into our coal bins, and someone shovels it into the furnace and afterwards shovels out the ashes, and then a man comes along and dumps the ashes into a cart and carries it off. You will all recognize that is an absurdity from a scientific standpoint. What we should have is the combustible without ash, and without lugging off in sacks and so on. We should in fact burn gas. I suppose I hear you say ninety cent gas won't pay and that coal even at six or seven dollars a ton is better than that. It is possible to produce a very fair quality of heating gas from all sorts of carbonaceous material. Peat will make good gas. It is used in the Old Country to some extent. Probably a cheap gas could be produced from our own peat and coal and we should simply have to turn on the tap and touch a match and have no ashes to attend to whatever. I don't think we will be civilized enough to reach that point yet.

As far as Southern Ontario is concerned, there are comparatively few resources that are looked on as mineral in the ordinary sense. Among them I should mention the thick sheets of rock salt that underlie the south-west peninsula. We have some thousands of square miles underlain with some hundred or more feet of it. There was a time in the history of Ontario when the climate was different, and the sea water being evaporated the rock salt was deposited. That is of some importance. Nearly $400,000 worth of salt is produced per annum, of good quality. But we have in that respect an opportunity for some other important mineral industries which we have not begun to touch at all, such as the manufacture of sodium compounds-caustic soda, washing soda, and baking powder-and then the compounds we use for bleaching (bleaching powder and hydrochloric acid) and those industries are bound, to come before very long. A slight start has been made in that direction in the 500 region; however, it was not very successful.

The only other feature of great importance in our Southern Ontario mineral resources is the structural materials that are provided, and I suppose first among them is clay. I suppose when you go out to the Don Valley you think that clay is a nuisance. It is our greatest single mineral resource in Southern Ontario. We build of brick. You go through the United States and you find there towns built of wood, but clay is the typical Canadian building material, and it is clay and shale that gives us the right material for brick. More than a million and a half dollars' worth of brick is produced every year. When you add to that the lime and sand that go to make mortar and cement-because Ontario is the great cement producing province of the Dominion and we produce more than nine-tenths of all the cement made in Canada-you will see that we have large resources in the way of structural materials. Cement is coming more and more into use and becoming of great importance. In 1903 nearly a million and a quarter dollars' worth of cement was produced in the Province.

Now I think perhaps we had better turn from Old Ontario to New Ontario. While Old Ontario is of great importance to us directly, and while these structural materials I have referred to are building up Toronto and the other cities; after all our great hope in the future will be in Northern Ontario. I hope you will take the opportunity to look at a good geological map when you get home, or at some other time, and you will find one thing that will perhaps startle you a little in this matter, namely, that when we speak of New Ontario and Old Ontario, and think of New Ontario as a sort of appendage to the other part, we are putting the cart before the horse; in fact it is a case of the tail wagging the dog. Old Ontario is a little fragment of the whole Province, a comparatively small portion of it. When you see it spread out on the man you will see the great area of the Province is to the north, and there we have a much more ancient set of rocks. Rather odd isn't it, that what we call New Ontario is the oldest land in the world. It is older than Old Ontario; it is in reality perhaps the oldest land known anywhere in the world-the oldest large mass.

We have the great archaean area to the north. We have rocks that we geologists call Laurentian and Huronian. The Laurentian rocks are not of the greatest importance to us, but the Huronian rocks are of vital importance to the future of Ontario and Canada as a whole. The Laurentian rocks include certain important minerals, and I will touch on them. In the Laurentian, which is pretty largely developed in the Ottawa Valley, we have a number of economic products that I think we have every right to take a certain pride in. The hardest mineral in the world next to the diamond is found in larger quantities in Eastern Ontario than anywhere in the world, and that is corundum. Corundum is now taking the place of emery. Some of you may possibly have to do with emery and emery wheels. I don't know much of them, practically, but I am told that a corundum wheel is at least twice as efficient as an emery wheel. The corundum industry is advancing and will be a very important one. The amount of corundum that has been produced in a year is about $90,000 worth. Besides that we have perhaps the largest single mica mine in the world. Those interested in the electrical industry will know that mica is playing a large part as an insulator. We produce a large part of the mica used in the United States in Eastern Ontario. More than $100,000 worth of mica was mined in the Province in 1903. We have some minor resources of somewhat the same general nature, such as graphite and feldspar; but I do not intend to refer to them because they are not of great practical importance.

When we speak of the mineral resources of the country we are very apt to think of the metals. Now I am going on to speak of the metals of Northern Ontario. However, perhaps I should first say something about the fuels because, after all, the fuels are the basic features of the country. This question of fuel it is that settles a great many of the economic features of the country. Our fuels in the north are somewhat lacking, we must admit. We have no coal deposits that are probably of workable magnitude or character. On the Moose and some of the tributaries of the Moose River we find a little lignite coal, but no great amount of it. We have also to some extent a chance of getting petroleum in the north. We have the Devonian rocks on the slopes towards Hudson's Bay, but so far we do not know that they contain petroleum. We have also the immense stretches of peat which is a reserve fuel we can turn to when cheap fuel of other sorts becomes scarce. I want to say one word about a curious episode in the history of the north country with which I was somewhat connected. You may have heard of a discovery of anthracite near Chelmsford, not far from Sudbury. We were going to supply our own furnaces with our own anthracite. I regret to admit I was the man who pricked the bubble and who showed that we were not going to have the chance of using coal from there. It is a curious fact, nevertheless, that there is probably as much carbon up in that region as in Pennsylvania. I went through some computations in that respect and there is one sheet of rocks about two-thirds of a mile thick covering 140 square miles that consists of five per cent. of carbon, but, unfortunately, it is all disseminated through the rock. There is only five or ten percent in the rock and we can't use it as fuel; there is not enough to be of great importance.

Turning to the metalliferous side of the question we have in Northern Ontario practically all the important metals that are of great economic importance, and the majority of them have been mined at one time or another. The list of metals we have actually mined perhaps I may read: Gold, silver, copper, nickel, cobalt, zinc, lead, and iron. All these metals have been mined in Northern Ontario; and besides that there are two or three rare metals, such as platinum and palladium, which have been produced in Northern Ontario; although we hear nothing about them because they go out of the Province and are refined at Constable Hook in New Jersey and one or two other places. They may have more importance in the future. Taking up the metals in the order in which I have mentioned them, gold, I suppose, is the metal par excellence which every one thinks of when he wants to make his fortune quickly. In reality you know it is the quickest way to lose your fortune to go into a gold mine. Perhaps as a geologist I ought to be cautious how I make remarks of this sort. I think, however, deliberately, that gold costs as much as it is worth, on the average. Some one makes a large fortune out of it but some one else balances it off by losing. I think that may be looked on as a law of business though it applies to the world as a whole and not to individual parts of the world. I suppose if you took the Eldorado Creek in the Yukon it would not apply at all. There would be an immense margin in favour of the mine worker. But I think the other remark is probably correct because gold is the register of value and is bound to take its balance.

As far as gold is concerned Ontario is in somewhat a singular position. I have been connected with the Bureau of Mines for several years and have visited most of the gold regions of Ontario, and I must say I have been greatly disappointed in the way things have turned out. We have gold practically from one end to the other of Northern Ontario. I don't know of a region in the world where gold is more widely diffused than in the Huronian rocks. We have it, for instance, down in Madoc. Some of us perhaps remember when there was a great excitement, in 1866, over gold there. Then we have gold to the north in the neighbourhood of Lake Wahnapitae and still farther to the north, and then in Rainy Lake and the Lake of the Woods; and most of you have had a little iron in the fire in connection with the western gold deposits. There are simply thousands of places where gold has been found in Ontario and sometimes rich specimens; but up to the present time I doubt whether a single gold mine in Ontario can be said to have been profitable. All told we have produced more than two million dollars' worth of gold in Ontario, but we have paid for it by a great many more millions, I suppose.

Something like that could be said also of silver. Ontario was at one time quite an important silver producer. Some of you may remember the famous Silver Islet Mine which, about 1870, was in its prime-a little scrap of an island in Lake Superior: When they came to explore it they dredged out from the water some thousands of dollars' worth of native silver. They then sank a hole in the island and they had a shaft more than 1,200 feet deep and they produced from it more than three and one-quarter million dollars worth of silver. A very rich deposit, but a deposit I suppose that has rather deceived many in that region, since the other silver mines of the Port Arthur region have not proved very profitable. While I am mentioning silver I should refer to the new set of deposits that have been found in the Temiskaming region. You remember when the Government Railway made its way through there they found native silver along with exceedingly rich cobalt ore. Native silver in slabs of ore, worth $35,000 for a carload in some cases; and mines have been disposed of, I am told, for $250,000. That may be an exaggerated estimate, but I believe it is correct for I have good reason to say so. There are probably other properties which may be of great value. We don't know what the future has for that silver mining region, but it looks as though it may be of considerable importance. The deposits are very small, few of them longer than this building and the width only a few inches, but the ore is exceedingly rich. So that even with a small vein there the mining has only gone to a very slight extent. The total silver production of Ontario, as far as I have been able to work it out, is about $4,700,000, of which the Silver Islet Mine produced about three-quarters.

However, it is not the metals that are called precious that are really so valuable and precious. The more important are those humdrum ones we use in our ordinary business life and which serve the engineer. So that it is when you come to copper and nickel and iron that we find our principal resources in that respect. Copper is one of the most important metals that we mine in Ontario. It may surprise you to know we have mined copper for very nearly sixty years in Ontario and in New Ontario, too. The mines in the Bruce Mines region, north of Lake Huron, were at work fifty-nine years ago, I believe, to be exact. A large quantity of copper was produced in those days. It was worth nearly double what it is now, and they could afford to mine under very disadvantageous conditions; with no railway and only steamship connection with the rest of the world. After those richer deposits were somewhat worked out there was a lull in copper mining. Then came the discovery of copper where the then new Pacific Railway cut through the region about Sudbury. We had the Copper Cliff Mine which was taken up as a copper mine and contained a large amount of copper. But they found before they had disposed of any large amount of their ore that the more important metal there was nickel. So that it was nickel that attracted attention from that time on. Copper mines for themselves have not played such a very large part in Ontario although they have been of some importance and will, I believe; be of more importance in the future. The total amount of copper produced in Ontario is about $7,000,000 worth in value, as far as I can find out. Of this probably one-half was produced by those old mines that I have referred to, and the rest has been produced, practically, altogether in connection with the nickel of the Sudbury nickel region.

I shall now refer to nickel. The Sudbury nickel region is unique in the world. I think we may safely say it has not its parallel anywhere else in the world. It is unique in its geological relationships. All the mines of nickel now being worked in Ontario are connected with one great sheet of eruptive rock. It looks as though that great sheet of molten rock had brought to the surface all our great and important nickel deposits. We have not found deposits elsewhere. We have a sheet there about forty miles long and fifteen or sixteen miles wide and here and there, all along the outside edge of it, we have nickel deposits. The Creighton Mine is probably the largest in the world. Then there is the Victoria Mine and a number of others that I need not refer to. The Copper Cliff was the most famous of the older mines, but the Creighton Mine is one of the strongest mines we have at present. The Creighton Mine has probably produced as much ore as any single mine in Ontario--800,000 tons of ore, and the ore is quite rich. We have one iron mine in Ontario that has produced about the same amount but of very much less value of course. The nickel ore in that mine and in some of the other rich mines of the region carries about five per cent. of nickel and two per cent. of copper. They produce on the whole nearly as much copper as nickel, but the nickel is the important substance.

Until about three years ago our rival, which is New Caledonia, an island in the South Pacific, a penal settlement of the French, was a little ahead of us. They divided the world's supply between them. Two or three years ago we got the advantage of them and we are now somewhat ahead of New Caledonia and I think the promise is we shall stay ahead. Up to the year 1903, the last year I have statistics for, 39,707 tons of nickel had been produced from ores in the Sudbury region. This ore was valued at the mine at something over $12,000,000. If you value it at the price of refined nickel, sold on a large scale, it would be worth over $31,000,000. Last year the mine produced something over 6,000 tons and the value is over $1,000,000. Nickel is the metal we have to depend upon for our future as a great mining country. The amount produced is increasing all the time, and the uses of the metal are increasing. We are beginning to use it for structural purposes. It was formerly mostly employed in armour plate.

There is one use of nickel I should like to see put into force in Canada, that is as a coinage. I don't mean the American nickel, but why shouldn't we have the real nickel, which is a beautiful silver metal? It would be far better than our bronze coins. Why shouldn't we have our one cent and five cent coins of nickel? Make them octagonal if you are afraid of mixing them with other coins. I should like to have it made into coinage, and not all turned into armour plate, although the British Navy, I believe, is defended by armour plate which contains Canadian nickel; so that we are bearing at least one part of our share in Empire defence if not our duty in the other way. (I offer this as a concession to the Empire Club.) Nickel has become of more and more importance for various purposes. Nickel steel is being used for bicycle parts and ocean steamers where they require a particularly strong type of steel for shafts and so on. We have several uses of that sort that are important.

Finally, a word or two about the iron ores of Ontario. We have very large iron ranges in Ontario, but up to the present we have not done very much in the mining of them. Only one mine can be said to be of rank in Canada, that is the famous Helen Mine. About 800,000 tons of ore have been produced from that mine, not of the best quality, but of serviceable quality, which was sold to the United States to mix with the richer and softer ores of their own iron ranges. We have a number of iron deposits of great size. You have all heard of the Atikokan range, and the Moose Mountain Range in Hutton Township. There are there several million tons of magnetite. I am told by one of the best experts in iron ranges in the United States that within twenty-five years the ledges of Lake Superior deposits on the American side will be done. Within twenty-five years instead of all our iron men using the rich Lake Superior ores from the south of the Lake they will begin to have to use other ores, and many of our ores, at present hardly of a quality to compete, are being looked to, and we find our American brethren are recognizing that. Last summer there were two or three exploring parties representing great American firms of unknown name exploring in our north, using the dip needle to find where the magnetic attractions were. We have great resources in that way which we must not dispose of entirely to our neighbours; we want some of it ourselves. It is probable that certain other deposits of somewhat higher grade will turn tip. In fact there are one or two that are likely to be pretty safe as good ore producers at the present time.

Ontario has been an iron producer from away back, to use the slang expression. I suppose you are hardly aware that in 1800 there was an iron furnace at work in this Province in Gananoque. In 1815 there was an iron furnace at work on the north shore of Lake Erie and it produced an excellent quality of iron. They melted it immediately down into potash kettles and things of that kind and sold them to the farmers and did very well. There was no more iron produced at a profit until Hamilton started its works-partly on ore produced from the United States. There was some iron produced at Three Rivers, I think, a little earlier than in Ontario.

I have said all that is necessary in regard to these matters. I want to call your attention to one or two general features and then I shall close. We are the second Province in mineral productions. British Columbia is well ahead of us, but Nova Scotia is behind us and the Klondyke is considerably behind us. The Klondyke three or four years ago was ahead of us. Although we have gone in a somewhat quieter way about the work than British Columbia and the West, still we have produced satisfactory results. In 1891 the first year in which our Bureau of Mines, which has done very good work for the Province, estimated the total value of the mineral products of the Province, the value was $4,700,000. In 1903 the amount was $12,870,000; which I think is a very satisfactory rate of increase. If we had taken the year before, 1902, we should have had $13,390,000 which would have been even more satisfactory--but the collapse of the Lake Superior Power Company cut down the output for 1903. This year it will rise again. I think we shall have a steady increase in our production of minerals for the future. It seems to me that the prospects are very good for Ontario, and mainly for Northern Ontario. We push a railway up there and stumble upon silver ores worth a quarter of a million dollars a mine. That sort of thing will happen again. We don't know the full resources of the North; but I feel certain they are going to be great.

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The Mineral Resources of Ontario


The mineral wealth of any country, dependent on its geological features. The two rather distinct parts of the geology of Ontario. The limited fuel resources from a mineral standpoint in Ontario. The vast peat deposits of Ontario. Our uncomfortable experience with peat. Our most unscientific way possible of heating our houses; how we get our coal. What we should be doing. The comparatively few resources in Southern Ontario that are looked on as mineral in the ordinary sense. The structural materials that are provided in Southern Ontario, clay being first among them, then lime and sand. Ontario as the great cement producing province of the Dominion. Some production figures. Turning from Old Ontario to New Ontario. Our great hope in the future in Northern Ontario. The much more ancient set of rocks in Northern Ontario: a geological description, with industry details. The question of fuels in the north. The metals of Northern Ontario: practically all the important metals that are of great economic importance, the majority of them having been mined at one time or another. A review of the position of each of the metals: gold, silver, copper, nickel, cobalt, zinc, lead, and iron. One or two general features in terms of mineral production in Ontario. The speaker's belief that we will have a steady increase in our production of minerals for the future. The potential resources of Northern Ontario.