4 Lessons in Mining Never To Be Forgotten - R. Zurrer for Money Talks
The histories of North America’s rushes for gold and silver are filled with outrageous stories and larger-than-life characters. And here’s one you haven’t heard before: A massive silver rush, one that was started by a wild fox.
It’s an incredible tale ripped from the pages from history. But it holds lessons for today’s investors.
Let me tell you the tale, and you be the judge. It’s the story of how silver was discovered in Canada.
What Happened After the Gold Miners Struck It Rich and/or Went Home Busted
The story begins after the fabled gold rush in the Cariboo, when the gold miners struck it rich, went home busted, or both.
There’s some dispute about what happened next. But one fact everyone can agree on is that Canada’s big silver deposits weren’t discovered until 1903.
That’s when Fred LaRose, a blacksmith working at his forge in the far reaches of Northern Ontario, was being continually bothered by a fox.
Foxes aren’t rare in that part of Canada — they’re about as common as weasels, but with big fluffy tails and better publicists. Usually, though, foxes are smart enough to stay away from people. This darned fox kept coming close — too close.
Fred’s short temper flared hotter than the iron he was working … now he could see the fox’s beady eyes staring at him from a bush. He turned and hurled his hammer at the critter. He missed the fox and went to retrieve his hammer. Behind the bushes, he found his hammer alright. But he also found a glittering vein of ore thrusting right through the surface of the rock.
Fred didn’t know it was silver at first. He showed a sample to the owner of the Matabanick Hotel in Haileybury, telling him that the rock seemed to contain “some kind of damned metal.” The hotel owner then showed the rock to T.W. Gibson, the director of Canada’s Bureau of Mines. Gibson’s conclusion: The rock contained niccolite (nickel-rich ore).
As often happens in these stories, the experts were wrong.
Still, by 1903, nickel was worth something. So, Gibson forwarded the sample to Ontario’s official geologist, Willet Green Miller, who passed it along to Ontario’s assayer, A.G. Burrows. Burrows looked at the rock and pronounced it silver.
Miller trucked on out to Fred’s camp, saw that there were indeed big veins of ore and chunks of metal, just lying scattered around! It was promising enough that he came back with two assistants to do a full geological survey.
Miller wrote in his report of “pieces of native silver as big as stove lids or cannon balls lying on the ground, as well as cobalt bloom and niccolite.”
The cobalt captured his fancy. So, near the ore deposit, by the railroad line on the shore of Long Lake, he set up a sign reading: “Cobalt Station.”
And that’s how Canada’s silver town became known as Cobalt Station. Where the miner’s pick-ax struck, Cobalt Station sprang into existence out of the wilderness.