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The Coal Fields and Coal Trade of the Island of Cape Breton
By Richard Brown F.G.S. &c. 1871


The existence of valuable deposits of Coal in the Island of Cape Breton has been long known, but I am not aware that any account of them has hitherto been published, except in certain scientific works, which are read only by persons interested in the subjects they treat of. The want of a reliable description of the Coal Fields, the capabilities of the mines now in operation, and a history of the rise and progress of the Coal Trade, in a popular form, must often have been experienced by those who have invested their money in the Cape Breton mines, especially by the shareholders of the General Mining Association, few of whom can possibly possess more than an imperfect knowledge of the great extent and value of their mining property. Having had the advantage of consulting the works above referred to, and having also been employed many years in the management of the largest collieries in the Island, I hope the information derived from those sources and my own personal knowledge, submitted in the following pages, will be received with confidence by all who are interested in the Cape Breton mines.

I trust also that shipowners and commercial men generally will be glad to learn from these pages that Cape Breton, which, from its geographical position has been aptly styled ‘The Long Wharf of America/ possesses abundant supplies oT excellent steam fuel, commodious harbours, and, in fact, every necessary qualification for becoming the great coaling station of the innumerable steamers which are rapidly superseding sailing vessels in the navigation of the Atlantic.

Being the last practical point of departure for steamers from America to Europe, Cape Breton is, in every respect, the most suitable place for the eastern terminus of the projected line of railway from the Atlantic to the Pacific, through British territory, an undertaking which is now deservedly receiving much attention in the Canadian Dominion. It is a remarkable fact, as has been pointed out in a recent able work,1 that Cape Breton and Vancouver’s Islands—the proposed termini of the line—are the only places on the seaboard which can furnish cheap and excellent coal to the steamers that will be employed on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in maintaining the communication, in connexion with the railway, between Europe and China.

It now only remains for me to say that, in compiling the account of the Coal Fields, I have availed myself of Dr. Dawson’s admirable work on ‘ Acadian Geology,’ and a valuable article in the ‘ Transactions of the North of England Institute of Mining Engineers,’ by John Rutherford, Esq., the Government Inspector of Mines in Nova Scotia. My acknowledgments are also specially due to J. Bj Foord, Esq., the Secretary of the General Mining Association, for the use of several important documents in his office ; to Henry S. Poole, Esq., of the Caledonia Colliery, Glace Bay, for ample accounts of the new mines in the eastern portion of the Sydney Coal Field; and to Richard H. Brown, Esq., the manager of the Sydney and Lingan mines, for much statistical information, and the views of the northern shores of Sydney and Lingan Harbours.

Conscious of many defects, I nevertheless hope this little work will prove acceptable to the shareholders of the General Mining Association, and of the other companies, both English and foreign, engaged in coal mining in Cape Breton, and will convince them that they possess, in their present establishments, ample means for carrying on a large and prosperous business when the restrictions now imposed upon their trade with the United States have been removed—a consummation, there is every reason to believe, not far distant.

R. B.
London: October, 1871

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