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Dorchester copper mine

The rocks near Dorchester host one of the most the most significant copper occurrences in New Brunswick. They were mined during the late 1800s and early 1900s at a place called Squirreltown, also known as Coppermine Hill. This is the largest known stratabound copper deposit in New Brunswick. The main copper-bearing mineral is chalcocite; it occurs mainly as a replacement of plant fragments. The copper occurs in ancient river channels of organic-rich sandstone and conglomerate of the Boss Point Formation. Other minerals include bornite, chalcopyrite and azurite.

Discovery of copper ore was reported in the Chignecto Post on September 14, 1876. About a dozen men were already at work to determine the size of the mineral deposit. Newspapers reported that about 1878 James Grant, an experienced miner from Nova Scotia while on a visit to Dorchester, went prospecting on his own and found copper ore. A few years later Edward Couch from Massachusetts got wind of the mining possibilities. He secured mining licenses in the area and a group of Boston businessmen soon had options to mine Dorchester copper. By the early 1880s mining was in full swing, although like many 19th century New Brunswick mining stories lawyers were as active as miners. A downturn in copper prices shut down the mine in 1885, but by 1900 the mine was in the hands of the Intercolonial Copper Company (ICC) of Arizona. With a capital stock of over 2 million dollars, ICC began a new era of mining copper at Dorchester. In October 1899 the Gazette reported, “The company is well equipped with all necessary plant and machinery and about forty men are now obtaining employment there. Up to the present the development consists of ten shafts and drifts and three tunnels, the longest of which is 275 feet. The shafts are about twenty feet deep. The work is carried on day and night and it is expected that within the next twelve months between two and three hundred men will be employed there. The present output is about twenty tons per day, and already ten thousand tons have been mined and made ready for the smelter.”

The mine near Dorchester included its own electrolytic smelter invented by Mr. Carmichael (perhaps the same well-known mining engineer Norman Carmichael who worked in Arizona). A report dated 1901 stated the smelter was expected to treat 150 tons of ore daily and that this smelter had produced the first refined copper made in Canada. Two years later mining operations were headed to an end again as the smelting became more difficult. The chemistry of the ore affected the efficiency of the process. Ore was sent to other smelters, but by the First World War the mine closed permanently. Today little remains of the once busy mine. Foundation stones were reused elsewhere and old mining equipment was melted down during the Second World War.