Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Gettin' the lead out, for real

I titled the post of my paddle from Fairhaven to La Manche as "Gettin' the lead out".  That was a reference to the lack of paddling I was doing.  This is about really getting the lead out as in mining it.  The object of my destination at La Manche was to visit the site of an old lead mine I had visited over thirty years ago.  When I got to La Manche I went for a hike to the site a short distance away.  A sign warned of danger as I broke out into the ...

... clearing.  The area of the La Manche mine looked a bit like a moonscape.  I turned left where I broke out of the trail and followed it for a while until the workings petered out.

It was known to local fishermen who used the lead to make "cod jiggers".  The mineral itself is galena, a lead sulphide with the formula PbS (lead + sulphur) and is hosted in a vein of calcite running northeasterly in a well defined valley.

There wasn't much to see so I turned and walked towards the sea.

On the beach at the shoreline I discovered what remained of a dock.  Mining began in 1857 and continued on under different control until 1868 for a total of 2,375 tons of galena lead ore extracted.  Ore mined to 1893 is given at 18,762 tons.

The mine changed hands a number of times with several subsequent attempts to re-open it.  In 1924 the La Manche Mining Syndicate sank a shaft but was flooded in 1927 so the mine closed again.

There was a warning sign above this gaping hole.  I carefully peered down over the edge.

The mine site was examined by a number of parties, no less than the Buchans Mining Company themselves who were operating a big mine in Buchans mining combination of zinc, lead, copper, gold, and silver.  They dewatered the flooded shaft in 1946 and renewed underground work until 1948 but production was nil.

Looking up the cleft from the beach.  A fall into this would prove injurious.

The calcite-galena vein is of epithermal (think geyser like Old Faithful) origin and contains other minor minerals such as sphalerite, chalcopyrite, pyrite, barite and quartz.

F. W. Foote of Dana & Company reported the vein varies in width between a few inches to five feet with lead content from 1.73% to 11.65%.  He also reported proven and possible remaining ore of 61,000 tons.

So, there is still enough ore to make a few cod jiggers, just not enough to be mined economically.

I had about 30 minutes walking around but I know there's more to see given more time.  It was something different for sure.  Maybe a return trip with a few of my paddle buddies?

Here's a Google Earth shot of the site, the scar clearly visible bottom center:


  1. This looks great Tony! So good for you to get back to that site. I am sure it was full of memories! Nice journey... both kinds! ... and yes to the call for paddle buddies.:)

  2. Thanks Cathy, it was an interesting place to visit again. A fellow student of mine wrote a book about the mines of Nfld called "Once Upon a Mine" with more interesting info about the place You can Google it for a PDF file.

    Tony :-)