The geology of Nova Scotia is unique. It struck the earliest explorers as being so. Minas Basin, corrupted from the Le Bassin des Mines, a name given to it in 1604 by the French explorers. These Frenchmen who were conscious of the Spaniards and how they had uncovered gold and silver in their earlier explorations of Mexico and the lands south of there.1 The unusual geology of the entire Bay of Fundy, fired up their active imaginations; these early Frenchmen became convinced that there were great riches to be mined.
As it turned out they were right about Nova Scotia, if not of the Minas Basin. As early as 1676 English vessels from Boston sailed to Cape Breton to take on coal. Later, with the founding of Louisbourg, in the early 1700s, coal was mined at Morien but a short distance away. There has been, overtime, great quantities of coal mined in northeastern Cape Breton. Other areas in Nova Scotia also proved to have large deposits of coal such as at Springhill and, of course at Pictou -- Pictou we shall treat further on.
In 1827, we see that iron mining and smelting was taking place at Moose River, by the Annapolis Basin; the "pig iron" was being brought to Halifax. "Iron had been discovered in various parts of the province, for example at Londonderry and East River [Pictou]."2
Londonderry and the First Steel in Canada:
Londonderry is a community located in Colchester County. Though now a small, out-of-the-way place in Nova Scotia, as the 19th century progressed it became a major centre for iron ore mining and steel making. The company (and so too the community) was know as Acadia Mines.
David E Stephens wrote of the heyday of Londonderry:
"As the 1850s came to a close, the mine and smelter at Acadia Mines had been in operation for a decade, more or less. The over-all view was one of many difficulties and poor quality iron.We learn from Wikipedia:
Under the leadership of Le Vassie and Jones, the company began to show signs of prospering again. During 1860, a rolling mill was erected, a wharf and new road to the Bay of Fundy were constructed, production picked up and the quality greatly improved."3
"Londonderry saw ... the first steel made in Canada, and the first Canadian installation of the Bessemer process for making steel. Mining began in 1849 and eventually three mines - East Mines, Old Mountain Mine, and West Mines - were operated. The iron ore seams that encouraged this development, originally thought to be enormous, proved to be small, shallow, and very expensive to mine. That, coupled with poor management decisions and failed experiments with rotary type ovens as well as low world steel prices, spelled the demise of the iron and steel industry in Londonderry. In total over 2 million tons of ore were mined. The once vast ruins of the former steel mill were torn down and sold as scrap during the scrap metal drives of World War II."