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People have been quarrying and mining the rocks of New Brunswick for a very long time. An outcrop of chart on Washademoak Lake, has been known for hundreds, likely thousands of years. People have long used chert and flint, two varieties of quartz, to fashion tools. These microcrystalline quartz minerals break easily and produce a good sharp edge with many purposes.

When Europeans arrived in New Brunswick in the 1600s they began searching for rocks and minerals they found useful. Copper from Charlotte County and coal from the Minto region were among the first materials mined. When New Brunswick hired Dr. Abraham Gesner in 1838 as the first Provincial Geologist, the exploration of mineral wealth was among his top priorities. In 1864, Loring Bailey, Professor of Natural History and Chemistry Kings College, University of New Brunswick, completed a ‘Report on the Mines and Minerals of New Brunswick’. His travels give us a view of past and present mining in New Brunswick. Bailey’s report had long-lasting effects on the mining industry and is also a fascinating document about the state of mining in the early 1800s.

Twenty-five years after Gesner’s work, Bailey had many new mining operations to visit. Like Gesner, Bailey traveled by road and waterways and noted that it was very hard to see rock outcrops since much of the Province was covered with trees. Even so, in a short summer of work Bailey saw a lot of the Province. He began by traveling north to the Tobique where he noted gypsum deposits, a mineral he saw again near Hillsborough. Near Bathurst he saw copper minerals along the Nepisiquit River and manganese deposits near the Tetagouche River. When he was done visiting Bathurst, Bailey wrote "I have no doubt that the discovery of extensive and valuable metalliferous lodes would be the reward of a thorough and intelligent exploration of this district". Bailey was right, the ore body known as ‘Brunswick No. 12’ near Bathurst produced about $20-billion worth of mineral production.

Later Bailey visited the Prince William antimony mine where stibnite was being mined to recover antimony from a small operation. The mineshafts were flooded and he expressed frustration at the untapped potential of the industry. In Charlotte County Bailey saw the Wheal Louisiana and LeTete copper mines. At the LeTete operation the ore was raised with oxen and smelted on-site in pots over a bonfire.  He visited Fryes Island to see deposits of barite, fluorite and lime. Further west he also visited copper mines near Fundy National Park at Salmon River and Point Wolfe.

In Saint John Bailey described the graphite mines, the same noted in 1852 by Charles Lyell at the Reversing Rapids. Bailey wrote that in 1853 a total of 89,936 pounds were exported, but that by 1864 work at the mines had been discontinued. He looked at the Woodstock iron mines discovered in the 1830s. Although the first mines closed, by 1861 the Woodstock Charcoal Iron Company had begun new operations. By 1863 Woodstock had a busy iron industry with forty miners hauling ore from open pit mines to the blast furnace. Bailey also visited the molybdenum deposits near St. Stephen, a mineral still being explored in the southwest at Mount Pleasant.

In Albert County Bailey saw the ruined remains of the Hopewell manganese mines at Shepody Mountain. They closed in 1860 before planning to build a new lime processing plant near the same site.  Not far away the ‘Albert Coal Mines’ as Bailey called them was one of the few flourishing and professional mining operations. Bailey wrote about the miners and the community. They were actually extracting bitumen known locally as albertite, shipping as much as eighteen thousand tons of product from the mine.

Nearby in the same geological structure Bailey visited the Caledonian Oil Works where he described the highly-bituminous shale and albertite. Bailey was examining the beginnings of the petroleum industry in New Brunswick and looking at the same rocks that are still being explored for natural gas. Loring Bailey wrote many more reports about the geology of the Province during his long career at the University of New Brunswick.