Important as are these deposits of precious minerals, Canada’s greatest mineral wealth is found in the abundance of baser varieties which enter so largely into the mechanical and mercantile pursuits of the age. Iron and coal and similar products are of vastly more importance to man than gold and silver and diamonds. In the possession of these baser, though more valuable deposits, Canada is a veritable Croesus among the nations.
Let us glance briefly at some of the more important of these. For instance, in the matter of coal Canada holds an enviable position. The extent of the united coal areas of the Dominion already discovered is not definitely known, probably one hundred thousand square miles would be a conservative estimate. These great deposits, consisting of excellent qualities of both bituminous and anthracite coal, place Canada in the foremost rank of coal producing countries. Her annual output is increasing by leaps and bounds from year to year.
These deposits are well distributed from the Atlantic to the Pacific, another feature of prime importance. The chief deposits in the eastern section are those of Cape Breton, though extensive deposits also exist on the mainland of Nova Scotia. The development of these great deposits are revolutionizing Eastern Canada in an industrial sense.
The estimated quantity of coal in Nova Scotia is 7,000,000,000 tons, not including the smaller areas and the areas still undiscovered. These areas cover a territory of some six hundred and thirty-five square, miles, of which the Cape Breton basin is the largest and most valuable. The most of this coal is of excellent quality, and is now used by the Royal Navy when in North American waters.
The Maritime Provinces, however, have another deposit of coal of great extent and prospective value in the New Brunswick coal areas. These deposits cover a large part of the interior basin of New Brunswick in Queen’s, Sunbury and Kent counties, and it is thought that they practically continue over the whole field. If so, they are several hundreds of square miles in extent. It has been estimated that there is in New Brunswick alone sufficient coal to supply the world for three hundred years.
Turning westward, no coal in paying quantities has yet been discovered either in Quebec or Ontario. In Eastern Assiniboia and Manitoba, however, there are large deposits, and all through the Canadian NorthWest, but chiefly along the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains.
British Columbia has long been a coal producing country of much importance, though it is only In recent years that the vastness of its deposits has been realized. At Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, mining has been carried on quite extensively for a considerable time, this being absolutely the only deposit of any kind known on the Pacific Coast. These deposits have supplied the local demand, and the Pacific Squadron of the Royal Navy, though their chief markets are the American cities of the Pacific coast.
Probably the most extensive known deposits in Canada are those of Eastern British Columbia, situated on the line of the Crow’s Nest Pass Railway. Within the last few years these deposits have not only been discovered, but have been developed to a considerable extent, and the town of Fernie is now the centre of one of the most extensive coal mining industries in the country. These deposits are practically inexhaustible, and lying, as they do, so near the great ore beds of that section, must greatly enhance the value of both.
The following may give some idea of their importance: ” In East Kootenay, just west of the Crow’s Nest Pass, lies that stretch of country which is probably better known to politicians than to capitalists, but which is immensely rich in a very high grade of bituminous coal. All around the town of Fernie, which is the chief centre of the coal business of this region, the country for many miles is full of coal beds, there being some twenty seams varying in thickness from a mere sheet to a solid mass of coal thirty feet high. These seams, if laid one on top of the other, would aggregate a thickness of one hundred and fifty feet. These great beds extend over an area of many thousand acres, and the Geological Survey of Canada estimates that if fifty per cent. of this be allowed as unworkable, there would still be an accessible body of coal containing about 10,000,000,000 tons. We get a faint idea of the magnitude of these figures when we consider that, taking 300,000,000 tons to be the amount of coal now consumed in the United States and Canada each year, there is enough fuel in the Crow’s Nest country to supply the entire North American continent for over three hundred and thirty years at its present rate of consumption. In the mines alone this would afford employment to every able-bodied man in Canada from this time until the year 2000, to say nothing of the thousands who would find work in its transportation and sale.”
A significant feature of coal mining in Canada is the amount that finds a market in the United States. Over 53 percent of the product of the Nanaimo collieries in British Columbia is distributed among the cities of the American Pacific coast, and while the Crow’s Nest collieries shipped 27,000 tons of coke to American smelters in 1903, in 1904 they shipped 97,690 tons. To a lesser degree the same is true of the Nova Scotia coal mines. The inexhaustible coal resources of the Dominion may yet enable it to surpass the United States, even as the latter has recently passed Great Britain.
One surprising feature of these great deposits of coal in almost all parts of the country is that they are so uniformly on the Canadian side of the boundary, and seem to have a faculty of ending as soon as the boundary is reached. If coal is king, it speaks much for our industrial preeminence in the future.