- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 25 Mar 1909, p. 189-196
- Brock, R.W., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The importance of mineral resources to the industrial and material prosperity of the country. The influence which mining has upon the extension and expansion of civilization. Examples throughout history of the importance and influence of mining. Measuring the degree of civilization of a nation by the extent to which it uses its mineral resources. Just commencing in Canada to realize the importance of our mineral resources and our mineral industry. Reasons why we are just beginning. Why we know so little about our mineral resources. Our ability to say that we have in Canada one of the greatest tracks of unprospected mineral land in the world. Comparing the known geological conditions with those obtaining in the United States, where mining development is very much farther advanced, and where the mineral resources are, to a certain extent, known. Some specific comparisons made. Instances of development in the United States and in Canada. A review of resources across Canada. The fortunate fact for Canada that our mineral possibilities are so great; the conditions in the northern part of the country not favourable to settlement. The importance of the mineral industry with regard to transportation facilities. Ways of valuing our mineral resources.
- Date of Original
- 25 Mar 1909
- Language of Item
- Copyright Statement
- The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
- Empire Club of CanadaEmail
Agency street/mail address
Fairmont Royal York Hotel
100 Front Street West, Floor H
Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3
- Full Text
- THE MINERAL RESOURCES Off' CANADA.
Address by MR. R. W. BROCK, M.A., PH.D., Director of the Geological Survey; Department of Mines, Ottawa, before the Empire Club of Canada, on March 25th, 1909.
Mr. President and Gentlemen,
I feel that there are few of us here in Canada who realize the importance of mineral resources to the industrial arid material prosperity of the 'country. There are few who realize the influence which mining has upon the extension and expansion of civilization. It is, however, an historical fact that in any considerable region of the earth the impulse for the first development and the foundation for its civilization has been furnished- by its mineral resources. It was the lead and the copper of Spain which brought the ships of Tyre and the galleons of Carthage. It was the tin of Cornwall that laid the foundations of the British Empire. It was the gold and silver that brought the Spaniards to the shores of South America. It was the gold of California which gave the United States its trans=Mississippian empire.
Not only this, but you can measure the degree of civilization of a nation by the extent to which it uses its mineral 'resources. In Canada we are just commencing to realize the importance of our mineral resources and our mineral industry; our mining- is just beginning. The reason for that is not far to seek. Europeans who came over to America found that it was a country of excellent agricultural possibilities. The first duty of the pioneer was, of course, to provide a food supply. As the population slowly increased fresh acres lay-it hand to be brought under the plough, and so in 'Canada we became an agricultural people. 'Now, minerals early attracted attention. One excursion of agriculturists into the mining field is usually satisfying, and the results are not, as a rule, sufficiently encouraging to establish an industry. We had not the expert mining engineers to direct, nor the skilled miners to win. If an expert were employed in the early days, the chances were that he was a practical miner who had gained his experience on a California rocker. Under his able direction farmers' boys made holes in the rocks. In recent years we have been developing a technical class, and we have been developing some expert miners; so that we may now be said to be fairly started on our career as a mining country.
In speaking of the mineral resources, I must make a confession: I do not really know anything about the mineral resources of Canada! But, for that matter, neither does anyone else. This is due to the fact that we have only a small population, which is distributed along the southern portion of the country. The greater part of Canada is unprospected and unexplored, but a sufficient development has taken place to enable us to state that Canada is a country of vast mineral possibilities. The exploratory work done by geological surveys has furnished an idea of the general geological conditions. It enables us to roughly indicate the areas which will probably be found to be mineral-bearing, to presage the character of the mineral resources, and to confidently assert that Canada is destined to become one of the great mineral-producing countries of the world. We can say that we have in Canada one of the greatest tracts of unprospected mineral land in the world. Since the geological conditions are known, we can compare these conditions with those obtaining in the United States, where mining development is very much farther advanced, and where the mineral resources are, to a certain extent, known.
If we find geological conditions in Canada similar to those of a producing district in the United States, it seems fair to assume that the mineral resources will also to an extent be repeated. Any hesitancy which we might feel about applying this principle disappears when we consider the results of the developments already attained in the districts in Canada, and compare these developments with those of similar districts in the United States at the same stage in their history. One of the greatest mineral and industrial centres in the world is situated along the Appalachian region. The north-eastern part of this province lies in Canada, forming the south-eastern part of Quebec and the Maritime Provinces. In the Maritime Provinces and Quebec we find practically the same minerals that have made the Appalachian States the great mineral-producing countries that they are. In Nova Scotia, which is perhaps the best developed portion of this district in Canada, we have the great coal deposits; we have iron and gold; we have valuable building stones and cement; and some, minerals that have been developed to a lesser extent, such as manganese, antimony, etc.
At no point either in the United States or in Canada has the complete development of the mineral resources taken place. Its best development is in the State of Pennsylvania. The annual production of Pennsylvania amounts to rather more than $9,000 per square mile. In Nova Scotia, under its present development, the mineral production is only about $1,000 per square mile, but the annual production of Pennsylvania amounts to about $67 per capita; in Nova Scotia about $46 per capita. If you take into consideration the more intensive production which follows the larger population and industrial development, you will see that Nova Scotia compares favourably with Pennsylvania; that it is fair to assume that Nova Scotia has about the same mineral resources, proportionately, as the richest and best developed State. New Brunswick is known to contain a great variety of minerals, but the development has not been extensive. I feel confident in stating that some of you will live to see important industries in New Brunswick. The southeastern portion of Quebec is known to be a very rich mineral country. There you have the largest asbestos deposits in the world, which furnish about 90 percent of the total world's supply; also important chrome-iron, copper, and pyrite industries.
The next section of the country that forms a distinct geological province, with distinctive minerals, is the southern portion of Ontario and the St. Lawrence Valley. This does not contain great deposits of the metallic minerals, but it has important resources in the, non-metallic, such as building materials, clays, cement, petroleum and natural gas. It is very similar, geologically and in area, to New York State. New York State is very much better developed, so that its mineral production may be compared, not to that of the whole of Ontario, with its silver, nickel, etc., but to the present condition of the whole of Canada, which shows you the extent to which a mineral industry may be developed. The next portion of the country is a large area which extends from Newfoundland along the northern bank of the St. Lawrence, around the Great Lakes, and forms a big " V "towards Hudson's Bay. This area is underlain by what is known as pre-Cambrian rocks, and these rocks are noted for the great variety of minerals which they contain. I will not take up your time enumerating the list, but merely say that it practically covers all the minerals and precious stones used in the arts. This district is for the greater part unexplored. It forms over half of Canada-2,ooo,ooo square miles. Only , the southern portion of it is known. Of this portion only a part has been prospected. A small tongue-of these rocks extends into New York State, and there is situated a very extensive and varied mining industry.
Another tongue extends into Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. In this area are found , the great copper mines of the Lake Superior district and the great iron ranges-the greatest yet known in the world. In Canada we know very much less about the country, even of the southern fringe, than is known of these areas in the States. But we know of the gold in the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River country; the great iron ranges which extend from Minnesota through the northern part of Ontario into Quebec; the silver of the. Thunder Bay district; the copper rocks found on the north shore of Lake Superior; the great nickel-copper mines in Sudbury; the silver district of Cobalt and the Montreal River. We also know -of the largest corundum deposits in the world; perhaps the greatest feldspar deposits; probably the richest mica district in the world. Since the greater part of it is unexplored, and the larger part totally unprospected, we cannot make very definite statements concerning it. We know, however, that in the southern (United States) portion there is the greatest iron district in the world, which has produced over 400,000,000 tons of iron, and which is estimated to produce at least 1,500,000,000 more. There is, also, the greatest copper camp, which has produced four and a half billion pounds of copper, and is annually increasing its output.
In Canada we have the chief nickel mines in the world, and what is apparently about to prove the world's greatest silver camps. From what we know of the northern country I think we can safely say it is quite as valuable as the area which extends into the States. We also know, from the results of the geological explorers, that patches of these pre-Cambrian rocks are scattered all over this northern area. We also know that they have found the same minerals in the northern part of the country as are so valuable and productive in the south. We are safe in assuming that in this northern country we have vast mineral resources which will be available for future generations.
Continuing westward we come to the great plains which extend from Manitoba through Alberta to the mountains. This is, of course, primarily an agricultural district, but besides furnishing a good market for the products of the mine, it is also rich in non-metallic minerals. You have along the southern edge the materials for cement, and other structural materials. You have practically this whole area underlain by lignites, which are useful for local purposes and which will be useful for power in gas-producers. Towards the mountains you have the higher grade of coals. This area will probably prove to be one of the greatest natural gas fields known. Farther north we have good reason for believing that there is a very valuable and extensive petroleum field. Along the northern edge of it you have the remains of petroleum which has escaped to the surface, forming vast areas of what are locally known as the " tar sands." These contain about 10 percent of bitumen. These tar sands cover an extent of about 1,000 square miles, about 150 feet in thickness. There is in the area which has come under Mr. McConnell's observation about six and a half cubic miles of bitumen. Farther west, of course, we get into the Cordilleras, which extend from South America through Mexico and the United States, British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska. They have no parallel so far in the world for continuity, for extent, and for the variety of their mineral resources. They are, of course, best developed in Mexico and the Western States. We have about 1,300 miles in length of the part which is in Canada, with a width of 400 miles, and we have practically the same geological conditions.
The Cordilleras in Canada have been developed only along the southern edge of British Columbia, and a little prospecting for placer gold along some of the main streams. They are highly productive all through from Mexico to Southern British Columbia. They are also found to be very valuable at certain points along the coast and in Alaska. We are perfectly safe, then, in assuming that the entire section of the Cordilleras will be found to be highly productive. We are quite safe in assuming that in the Cordilleras in Western Canada we are going to have one of the greatest mining districts in the world.
If we take and compare, as we did Pennsylvania and Nova Scotia, the best, developed State in the western Cordilleras with the best development in British Columbia, we will find the comparison is quite as favourable. Colorado is the best developed State, and only about half of the State is included in the Cordilleras. Allowing its territory to be one half in the Cordilleras it has a production of about $1,200 per square mile, or about $132 per capita. British Columbia, of course, as it is only developed along the southern part, has a very small production per square mile-as a matter of fact, about $76; but the production per capita of British Columbia is greater than that of Colorado-$145 per capita. I think, then, that we are quite safe in asserting that in the western Cordilleras we have one of the greatest of mineral fields.
It is fortunate for Canada that our mineral possibilities are so great. The conditions in the northern part of the country are not favourable to settlement. The conditions in this great area of the western Cordilleras are riot favourable for settlement. The agricultural possibilities are not sufficiently attractive to cause farmers to take up the land. In the northern part you have not timber resources. For the opening up and development of that part of the country we are dependent entirely upon the mineral resources. And the same holds true with regard to a great part of British Columbia. But the history here will, I think, be exactly similar to that of the Western States. The Western States would never have been settled by an agricultural population had they not been first opened up and transportation facilities provided by the mining industry. When a local market and transportation facilities were afforded they learned dry farming and irrigation, which has transformed the American desert into a garden. The same thing has taken place in southern British Columbia. There you have the fruit-growing industry assuming importance which never would have occurred but for the mining. That condition is going to hold over quite an extensive area in the northern part of the Province. Once it is opened up by mining, and a local market is provided, settlers can go in and earn a living until they get accustomed to their surroundings, learn how to make a successful living in comparison with what is considered more favourable sections. The farther north we have a population the better will be the stock, so that not only from an industrial standpoint, but from a higher standpoint of Canadian citizenship, it means a great deal to the country.
There is one other point in connection with the mineral industry that I would like to emphasize. It was brought out by Earl Grey in a speech made at the dinner of the Mining Institute in Montreal, and that is the importance of the mineral industry with regard to transportation facilities. He said: "Although the mining industry is at present in its infancy; although our annual production is quite small (only about $87,000,000, which is not more than one-fifth of the agricultural products), yet the mining industry furnishes nearly twice as much tonnage to the railways as the agricultural. In the United States, where the mining industry is more highly developed, it furnishes considerably more than half the total tonnage of the United States railways. What that means to farmers and manufacturers and everybody, with regard to the improvement of transportation facilities and improvement in freight rates, I do not need to mention."
There are other points which must be considered in dealing with the mineral resources of the country, and that is that the value is not to be estimated in dollars and cents; that they furnish a raw material for a hundred other industries; that they furnish materials on which labour is expended; so that the products of the mine, before they are utilized by men, have increased many-fold in value. The mineral resources of the country, then, I think we may say, are second to none; and I think that all of us who have the interests of the country at heart should take an interest in helping along the legitimate development of this great industry.