Cobalt and its Undreamt-of Wealth
BY WALLACE MACLEAN.
Cobalt is a name to conjure with to-day, just as Klondike was some years ago. The rich silver mines of New Ontario, are yielding undreamt-of scores of wealth. This year there will be an influx of prospectors estimated well up in the hundreds of thousands. That the Cobalt mines will prove to be the richest in the world, seems quite probable.
LESS than three years ago what is now known as Cobalt was as wild and desolate a place as can well be imagined—a land of steep, rocky elevations and depressions with a covering of soil sufficiently deep to support a dense growth of pine, cedar, poplar, birch and other trees. This little bit of of wilderness of Northern Ontario, situated by rail exactly 330 miles north of Toronto, now enjoys a world-wide notoriety. It lays claim to the possession of mines that produce the richest silver-bearing ore the world has ever known. The claim is not, remember, that the mines are the richest silver mines in the world, but that the ore found at Cobalt is the richest silver ore that has yet been obtained anywhere in the world. I think this latter claim can safely be made. This is the statement of Dr. Bell of the Dominion Geological Survey, of Professor Miller, and of all the experts who have visited the Camp. I have met dozens of miners from all parts of the world at Cobalt and they are unanimous in their statement that Cobalt’s ores are the richest known, that Cobalt in fact is a new proposition in the mining world.
Whether or not Cobalt will turn out to be the richest silver camp in the world remains to be seen. Some believe it will so turn out. No one of course can say pasitively either way. Judging from the lavish way huge nuggets and slabs of silver have been scattered over the surface of the earth at Cobalt one would conclude
that there must be a great storehouse of the precious metal in the immediate vicinity. That there is such a storehouse is generally admitted and that it must be below the earth is also admitted. So far the lowest depth reached is in the neighborhood of 300 feet, but of this the lower 200 feet was made by a diamond drill. This depth has been reached on the property of the Larose Mining Co. and the proprietors report that as depth is reached the ore bodies increase in quantity and richness. It will take several years to ascertain what the rocks of Cobalt really contain. Up to date the diagnosis is most favorable and it is firmly believed that Cobalt will not only prove its, claim to possessing the richest silver ore in the world, but also to possessing the greatest and richest silver mines in the world. In five years we may have more knowledge on this aspect of the case.
(Cobalt possesses other unique features as a mining camp. Its mines are the richest cobalt mines in the world. This claim is not questioned. The production of cobalt in this camp has already had the effect of bringing down the price of that metal from $2.50 to 60 cents a pound. The cobalt producers of Saxony and Bohemia have taken alarm at the output of our mines and they have become even more interested in Cobalt than have Canadians themselves. It looks as if they would be put out of business, as far, at least, as the production of cobalt is concerned.
Still another distinction that Cobalt claims is the extraordinary blending of metals in its characteristic ores. These metals consist principally of silver, dobalt, nickel and arsenic. An average sample of cobalt ore will contain from 60 to 75 per cent., by weight of these metals:
7 per cent, of silver, 9 of nickel, 9 of cobalt and 50 per cent of arsenic. There are only two other places in the world where any such rich combination of metals is found. These places are Saxony and Bohemia, whose mines have been in operation continually since the discovery of America over 400 years ago. While the German mines contain the same metals as those of Cobalt, the ores are by no means as rich as ours, either in silver, cobalt or nickel.
Possessing as it does these unique features, it is not surprising that Cobalt’s reputation has, spread far and wide. There is sure to be a great rush to the camp this year. The movement has already begun and railway authorities have estimated that anywhere up to 250,000 people may find their way to the Cobalt country this season. The decision of the Government to withhold from the public the territory within the Gillies timber limits., and to develop the mines as Government property, may deter quite a number from going to Cobalt, but still it is expected the rush northwards will assume large proportions and that the Town of Cobalt will be taxed to the utmost to ¡provide »accommodation for the visitors.
Cobalt is. indeed becoming a subject of absorbing interest to Canadians, and especially to the people of' Ontario. It is said by men who ought to know whereof they speak, that the revenue from the mines in the Gillies’ timber limit will be suffi-
cient to defray all the expenses of governing the province. This is the opinion of Mr. W. K. McNaught, M. P.P., for instance, who stated pub-' licly the other night that the value of the mines in the limits might safely be placed at 100 million dollars. In addition to these mines the Government owns the mineral rights along the railway right of way, and these have been advertised for sale. The operation of the mines by the Government as a source of revenue for the conduct of the public business makes Cobalt a uniquely interesting proposition.
Columns and columns have been written in the press about Cobalt, but we must turn to the official reports to obtain the exact truth about the camp as it stands to-day. According to a memorandum recently published by the Bureau of Mines, there were shipped in 1905, 2,144 tons of ore yielding to the shippers $1,468,524 net. The silver produced was 2,441,421 ounces valued at $1,355,306.
The nickel amounted to 75 tons valued at $10,525. The cobalt production was 118 tons valued at $100,000. The arsenic accounted for was 549 tons, and the sum realized thereon was $2,693. On a large proportion of the shipments no value at all was received for the nickel, cobalt and arsenic. These are the aggregate returns from the seventeen mines which had reached the shipping stage previous to December last year. During 1905 the camp was laboring under not a few disadvantages and it is necessary to take these into consideration in making an estimate of the present possibilities of the camp. In the first place it must be borne in mind that in 1905 the camp was practically without machinery. It was only in
November last that the Trethewey mine, for instance, installed a compressor plant. This is a mine which has* already netted $400,000 for its proprietors. Some of the silver from this has been exchanged for a valuable office block in Toronto street and a fine new residence in Rosedale.
The Larose mine was equipped with a plant during the whole of the year and there was a steam plant at the Nipissing Go’s mines, but at all the other mines the drilling was done by hand and the hoisting by men and horses.
Another thing that must be borne in mind in forming an estimate of the camp is the fact that the mining in 1905 was carried on by inexpert workmen. I have in mind one of the properties owned by people in New Liskeard, which wa^ managed by a board of thirteen directors not one of whom had any practical experience whatever in mining. ,One of them was a good sawmill man, another was a reputable horse doctor, while a third preached a fairly good sermon on Sundays. The actual development of the mine was left to a man to whom $20 a week was big wages. The men working under him were farm hands, lumbermen and unskilled laborers. Several of the other mines were managed in the same unbusinesslike way. During 1905 Cobalt was practically in the hands of farmers.
Litigation is another factor that retarded production in Cobalt last year. Several of the mines were tied up absolutely while impending litigation paralyzed a big portion of the camp. We must also bear in mind that a majority of the 17 shipping mines of 1905 did not become productive until after July. Several of them were not discovered till May, June and later months.
Finally we must include in the list of unfavorable conditions to which Cobalt was subjected in 1905, the fact that the ore produced could not be sold to advantage. The characteristic ore of Cobalt is highly refractory and difficult to reduce. As a matter of fact, no smelter in America was prepared to treat it advantageously and the ore consequently had to be sacrificed to obtain a market. At some of the mines the ore was stored away awaiting the discovery of an improved reduction process.
Taking all these circumstances, into consideration the production of Cobalt for 1905 is a fact full of significance. The actual product of the camp is a fact of itself sufficient to justify one in forming a somewhat optimistic opinion of (Cobalt’s, future.
¡That the camp will remain productive for many years to come, there is no doubt at all. Dr. Bell visited Cobalt in the Fall of 1905 and in an interview with me, published in the Globe, he said “lie had no hesitation in saying that the ores found at Cobalt were the richest of their kind in the world, and he was impressed with the large number of veins and the great variety of metals contained in the ore bodies. Cobalt, in his opinion, is a new proposition in the mining world. He thinks there will be a good healthy camp at Cobalt for years to come.”
Dr. Bell’s theory is borne out by the results obtained by the working of the Government’s diamond drill in the Larose Mining Co’s property. The drill was set to work at the bottom of a 90-foot shaft. It reached a depth of 200 feet and was then taken away, the company having satisfied itself that the veins continued to that depth at least. In September
Jast M. Albert de Romen and M. Adolphe Chalas, of Paris, visited the camp on behalf of the French Government. The}^ gave it as their opinion “that even if the veins should not extend to a great ¡depth (although there was no evidence they would not) there was a large number of them in the proven territory and they would not be exhausted for a long time. Mining would go on in Cobalt for many years.77
Perhaps the strongest evidence of the permanency of the camp is found in the decision'of the mine owners to invest capital in the construction of a smelter. The building of a smelting plant requires a large capital and no one would undertake the risk of such a venture unless he was, assured of sufficient ore to keep the plant in operation for several years. The mine owners at Cobalt have formed a joint stock company for the purpose of erecting a smelter. The plant of the Hoeffner refinery works at Hamilton has been acquired and an expert has been engaged to make such changes in it as will be necessary for the treatment of the 'Cobalt ores. The starting of this works will give a great impetus to the production of ore at Cobalt.
For all these reasons it is safe to say that Cobalt is not a flash in the pan, but has all the ear marks of a healthy, permanent mining camp.
Having established the richness and permanency of r the camp, the next feature of interest is, the extent of the productive area. This area is at present confined to Coleman Township and to but a limited section of that township. The sketch map of the Bureau of Mines “showing location of veins in Coleman77 covers an area of two miles from eas,t to west by two and a half miles from north to south, in all five square
miles of territory or 3,200 acres including three small lakes. During 1906 a great deal of prospecting will be done north and south of Coleman Township. Speaking of this outside territory, Prof. Miller says : i ‘ Co-
balt bloom and related minerals have been found 30 miles north of Cobalt station in the northern part of the Township of Ingram and adjacent territory. Similar minerals have been found 15 or 20 miles to the south and southwest. The productive area is, however, oonfined to 'within about two miles of Cobalt station. Recently ores similar to those of Cobalt, but containing gold instead of silver, have been found in small quantities at Rabbit Lake, 30 miles south of Cobalt. 7 7 All this country will be overrun with prospectors this season. Everything in Coleman has been taken up and prospectors will be obliged to go further afield in search of the coveted treasure.
The ore occurs in narrow veins. The average width of the veins upon which work has been done is probably 10 or 12 inches. 'To give an idea of the wonderful richness of the veins I quote the following from the report of Prof. Miller : 11 An open
cut, about 50 feet long and 25 feet deep, on the Tretlrewey vein, location J.B. 7, has produced approximately $200,000 worth of ore, the maximum width of the vein being not more than 8 inches. The amount received for one carload of 30 tons of ore from this mine was between $75,000 and $80,000. A shipment of 50 tons of ore gave an analysis approximately the following percentages of metals: Arsenic, 38; cobalt, 12; nic-
kel. 3.5, and 190,000 ounces of silver. Pay was received for silver and cobalt only.77 In another portion of his report Prof. Miller states that approximately $1,000,000 worth of
ore has been blocked out on the first vein discovered on the Laros,e claim, known as JS14.
For the present, popular interest has shifted from the mines to the town of Cobalt. The “Silver City,” as it has been called, is the Mecca to which thousands of people from all over the continent will journey this Spring and Summer. The town is now in the hands of speculators and boomsters who are getting things in shape to receive the crowds that are expected to pour in later on at the rate of a thousand or more a day. On the first of April there were about 1,500 people, all told, in Cobalt, exclusive of those in the mining camps, and foundations had been laid for 150 new buildings. Two new hotels, each to accommodate over 100 guests, are under construction and many of the projected buildings are large boarding houses. Real estate has risen rapidly in value in the business, section. Property has changed hands at as high as $200 per foot. Several lots have brought ten times what they originally cost in August last. Cobalt has a stock exchange, several pool rooms, bowling alleys and such like adjuncts to a mining town. The camp, as yet, is very crude and it is difficult to secure the ordinary conveniences of life. Accommodation at the principal hotel is quite limited and the price of a nmht’s lodging, sometimes, with two in a bed, is two dollars. Nothing has as yet been done to improve the sanitation of the town and it is feared an epidemic of typhoid may be one of the features of Cobalt this Summer. A municipal
council has been elected and one of its first duties will be the installation of a plant to bring water from Clear Lake, about half a mile distant from the town. Reeve Finían expects to have this work accomplished within ninety days. In the meantime, Cobalt’s water supply will be obtained from springs which must necessarily become polluted when the refuse and filth of the Winter, released from the frost, finds its way down the rocky hills to the lower levels.
The discovery of silver at Cobalt has, to a certain extent, upset the equilibrium of the whole country north of North Bay. The pioneers of New Ontario went into that country to develop its agricultural resources, [Instead of becoming farmers they have turned miners, mining brokers and stock speculators. New Liskeard, which was once the most Arcadian settlement in Ontario, has became absolutely fast and giddy. A dozen joint stock companies have been formed and it is hard to find a resident who has not stock in at least half a dozen companies. The good luck of the Temiscaming & Hudson’s Bay Co. has turned their heads. This company had a paid up capital of $8,000, shares being $1.00 each. Early in April last these one dollar shares were selling at $65.00. The shares are all held by local people. The dozen companies above referred to were formed to duplicate what had been done by the Hudson Bay people. Up to date, however, they have not succeeded and the shares of these companies are somewhat of a drug on the market.