The Far North Can Wait

C. M. CAMPBELL April 1 1932

The Far North Can Wait

C. M. CAMPBELL April 1 1932

The Far North Can Wait


“We should exploit the Near North first,” says this writer, “—it is still undeveloped and doesn’t need new railroads”

CANADA. Sweeps North,” “Carving Out a Northern Empire,” “North to See Vast Growth,” “Go North, Young Man,” "The Great North Calls,” are some of the headings which we see in the paper these days.

“Why Should Not N. W. Territories be a Second Finland in Prosperity?” is a heading in heavy type covering five columns in a daily newspaper. “The Barren Lands, abounding in mineral riches excelling anything yet found in Canada,” is another newspaper reference to the Far North.

“Winston Churchill,” says a dispatch, “told England recently of Canada’s vast and new mineral wealth in the North. He pointed in ringing phrases to the great march northward.” A Canadian Club chairman not long ago made the statement that possibilities as great exist to the north of the fifty-ninth parallel as lie to the south.

A newspaper article recently said: “W’hen and from where will the railways come?

That is the question frequently asked at Mackenzie district points. Already lines of steel are being visualized as a new artery of traffic.”

We are tuning up for another boom. That means speculation, extravagance, and a following slump. Booms have never done Canada any good—and they never will. Our boom debts are already greater than our war debts.

Some day resources in the Far North may be fjound on a sufficient

scale, and the demand for them will be so great that a railway from the south will be needed. Neither of these conditions prevails at present.

Known Resources are Limited

"C*OR the purpose of this article, the Far North comprises

the districts of Keewatin and Mackenzie, covering an area of a million square miles. Ten meteorological stations show an average temperature for the year of eighteen degrees above zero, with the months of June, July, and August generally free from frost. The northwestern half, known as the Barren Lands, is treeless and has negligible agricultural possibilities; the southwestern half has a light forest cover and in some parts crops are grown. Wheat has matured at Fort Simpson, and there is little doubt but that considerable produce needed locally could be grown. The fish supply generally meets local needs, and this could very easily be considerably increased, while the fur output is worth $2,000,000 annually.

All this justifies only a small population per square mile. Though it is over 150 years since Heame crossed over to the Far-Off-Metal River, the census figures allot only 7,133 people to this huge area, a reduction of over ten per cent from 1921. This looks more like a march southward. WTe are told, however, that abounding mineral wealth is to stop this exodus.

A prominent Canadian writer recently referred to “The rich but unexplored North.” How can any area be said to be rich if it hasn’t been explored? It is on the basis of this and other similar and unsupported statements that the

myth of vast natural wealth has been built up in the minds of Canadians, not only in regard to our Northland but in regard to Canada in general.

What are the facts?

Years ago Tyrrell, exploring the Sub-Arctics, found areas which he considered favorable for prospecting. One of these was about Ranken Inlet, just south of Chesterfield Inlet. For three years recently this and other likely areas were examined by exploratory companies well supplied with capable men, money, and equipment. The net result was that one ore body, aggregating 120,000 tons, of good grade nickel ore, enough to last Sudbury two weeks, was located.

The exploration companies then moved their forces to the Coppermine area, about 800 miles distant. This area has the same geology as the famous copper area in Michigan and great hopes have been held out for it. Exploration, however, failed to reveal any commercial native copper ore, and the search was continued westward. Finally, at a jxjint forty miles west of the Coppermine River and also in the Great Bear area to the southwest, important finds of sulphide copper ore. pitchblende radium ore, and native silver ore were made.

Valuable Mineral Discoveries

FALLOWING established Canadian procedure, it was announced early in 1930 by a Canadian public man in a position to talk with authority that, “The northern part of the country holds one of the largest copper mines ever found.”

Anybody familiar with the details to be gone through in opening up one of the world’s greatest ore bodies will rule this statement out as highly improbable, and an investigation shows there is no warrant for it whatever. While

valuable copper ore has been found, no appreciable tonnage has been blocked out.

The radium-silver find is described by Leslie McFarlane in recent issues of Maclean’s. In Mr. McFarlane's first article the find is heralded as “the greatest find of the decade.” Mr. Mousser in the same issue of Maclean’s, declares that the stock of one of the companies interested is classed as "speculative,” and the property itself, though important, as an Continued on page J>5

Continued from page 17

“undeveloped prospect.” There is a great difference between the statements. Mr. Housser's comment is correct, and an examination of the details in McFarlane’s article bears this out.

Canadian mining literature is full of overestimation. The time has surely arrived to state as a fact only what can be prove.d What mineral wealth will eventually be produced in the Great Bear area nobody knows. The outlook at present is bright. Why not let it go at that?

Other mineral resources include lignite, which occurs along the lower Mackenzie River. Oil has been found in one well at Fort Norman, while other wells showed very little or none at all. Some gas has also been encountered. In the future development of this area, these resources will be of local use. Lead and zinc are found in the Great Slave section, and while the showings are important no evidence has yet been offered that they represent a major find.

The Great Bear area is 1,500 miles bywater route through McMurray, or 1,700 miles by Peace River, from the nearest railway ]x>int. Great Bear Lake can be navigated for little more than two months. There are rapids on Great Bear River, and also at Fort Smith and at Vermilion, on the southern part of the waterway.

Railway Extensions Unwarranted

TO ELIMINATE these southern handicaps and ojien up this “promised land of the North,” a Vancouver pajxr in 1930 published an article demanding that 400 miles of railway should be built into "Canada’s Big Treasure Land,” meaning a line from Peace River to Great Slave Lake.

“Extension of the railway into that vast wilderness will doubtless be an eventuality of the decade,” says Leslie McFarlane. “The vast mineral areas of the North,” a newspaper says, “are calling the steel.”

Let them call.

Canadians have thrown thousands of miles of railways into other alleged “treasure lands,” “mineral storehouses,” etc., and the Canadians who recommended the exjxnditures have been unable to deliver the promised treasures.

Except that most of the rooms in these mineral storehouses are empty, the term is not inapt. A storehouse is not a place of residence; and great sections of Canada are, until the day of Malthusian congestion arrives, doomed to remain vacant. Let these mineralized sections be considered as storehouses, and let us draw on their resources, such as they are, only when they are needed. Such ore as may exist in the Far North will not run away. Potential ore, it may be said, bears no interest; but it is not yet clear that finding this potential wealth and taking it out now, with all the present handicaps, is the best proceeding, even from the standpoint of profit.

Keep a Future Reserve

THERE is no need to go away from present transportation routes for silver or copper. The over-supply of silver is notorious. The world’s capacity for refining copper is double the record production of 1929, with ore blocked out to supply fullblast operations for twenty-five years.

As for radium, Katanga produced sixty grams and Czechoslovakia 3.5 grams in 1929. The production in 1930 was the same. On a basis of $50,000 per gram, the latest quotation for more than four-gram lots, the output has an annual value of $3,165,000. What percentage of this output Canada can produce remains to le seen, but even at best it hardly represents a major job. From a. railway standpoint the entire operation could be handled annually by one trainload of supplies in and one trainload of ore out.

Now, in addition to the Great Bear find, a radium dejx>sit, featured in the press not long ago, is also being develojed near Wilberforce in Ontario. In this case a

railway crosses the property. The occurrence. though low grade, is encouraging from a tonnage standpoint. It is well situated for cheap mining, and capable of producing a good concentrate. In view of the fact that we are overbuilt in other things besides railways, there would seem to be no rush to add more radium operations than are necessary to the list. Why not first leam what can lx done with the Wilberforce dejx>sit?

Mr. McFarlane tells how LaBine prosjxxted in Ontario, then in Manitoba, and finally in the Great Bear area. Why did LaBine leave Ontario? W hy did he leave Manitoba? Why did the exploration comjianies leave Ontario for the Barren Lands? Why did they jump over 800 miles of the Pre-Cambrian area from Ranken Inlet to the Coppxrmine? Why did they leave the Copjxrmine for Great Bear Lake, the last stand of the Pre-Cambrian in Canada? The only reason is that they hunted all over these regions without success, and they moved only when the chances w ere too slim to justify their doing further work. “We have only reached the fringe,” we are told. Yes, but it is now the far fringe, and Canadians should realize that not only are we unable to pull our own weight as a mineral producer, but the limited result from long years of prospecting—the last twenty years of which have been of the most intensive kind—has cast some doubt on the Ixlief that we will ever be able to maintain ourselves as far as mineral needs are concerned.

Eight years ago the suggest ion was offered in a mining journal that the entire areas of KeeWatin and Mackenzie be withdrawn from staking and subjected to systematic geological and mineral exploration by Government forces, to the extent of an annual appropriation. Had this been done, the spectacular finds recently made w'ould have been found by Government explorers, and they w-ould have been held in reserve as a conservation measure and leased or otherwise disjxised of when the projxr time arrived, subject to the control of the Government. Operation at present means increased taxation for transpx)rtation and other facilities, little or no profit for the ojxrator, limited revenue for the Government, and rapid exhaustion of irreplaceable resources. The Government is the only organization large enough to hold back exploitation until warranted, hence the suggestion that it control the exploration. It is not too late to take some action along this line.

The argument is therefore advanced that the contemplated production from Great Bear is premature, with the corollary that increased production, mineral and otherwise, from other areas, already tributary to transportation routes, is overdue.

Boomers in British Columbia

IN 1930 an important Eastern convention met in Vancouver. It was addressed by one of the searchers after truth from the university, who featured the prophecy that British Columbia will ultimately have a population of 30,000,000. This is not a prophecy, which is a promise to pay, but a fairy tale. It is an opiate, productive of pleasant dreams, when the situation calls for an alarm clock set for an early hour. All one has to do to question the justification for such a statement is to look north from the university. That range of mountains along the skyline that blocks settlement is typical. British Columbia is too high for a dense jx>pulation.

To supply transportation for those 30.000,000 non-existent pxople we built railways and then more railways. Consider the British Columbia section of the Grand Trunk Pacific, 700 miles from Yellowhead to Prince Rujxrt through the centre of the province. On the whole line there are only two settlements in the interior that class better than small villages, viz., Smithers

with a pxijxilation of 999. and Prince George with 2.449. Prince Rujxrt w-as by this time to have a jx>pulation of anywhere from 100.000 up, yet the latest returns give it only 6,326 inhabitants, a reduction from | 1921. How soon will we reach 30,000,000 at ¡ that rate?

Whether this railway will ever pay a j profit is a matter of doubt, but it should be | making a far better record than is now the | case. Prince Rujxrt, with a Hamilton, Ontario, temperature, without the extremes, has an excellent ice-free harbor equipjxd with elevator, dry-dock, cold-storage plant, etc. It is 500 miles nearer the Orient than Vancouver. It is also the nearest seajx>rt to the Peace River area. It has particularly valuable fisheries, considerable mineral w-ealth is tributary, and it is the centre of one of the world’s best pulp-timber areas. There is justification for an intense industrial area here, trading with the Orient and elsewhere, yet the net result to date is that, though considerable water px>wer is available, only one stream has been harnessed and a plant capable of 6,000 horsejxwer installed, and of this only about 2,000 horsepxwer is being used. Is this the best that Canadians can do?

We are told that we can grow wheat at Fort Simpson. Fine. But why go to Fort Simpson? There is plenty of room for more farmers at Terrace, Smithers, Vanderhoof, Prince George, and other places along a railway already built, yet the papulation is so small and the market so restricted that a few hundred pxmnds of cabbage offered for sale is liable to cause a slump and cut the l>rice in tw-o. Complementary industrial activities are also warranted. Thus, along : the Bulkley River, within 200 miles of Prince Rujxrt, are four px>wer sites aggregating 191,600 horsejxwer that can be economically developxd. The admitted need in Canada is more population along the railways. Here is one area where more Canadians can find homes.

Hudson Bay Needs Attention

Y\ THAT has been said about jxxssibilities YV along the Grand Trunk Pacific also applies to other railways in British Columbia and, to a large extent, to railways elsewhere. We have recently put into opxration the line running to Hudson Bay, and opinions are being freely expressed, particularly in the East, that it will not pay its way. Possibly these opinions will prove to be correct. But if this railway, entirely south of the fiftyninth parallel, entirely in the southern half of the Dominion, in an inhabitable section of Canada, on the direct route to Europe, closely paralleling 2,500,000 horsejxwer of hydro-electric energy, and with tributary mineral wealth, cannot be made a success, then the sooner we forget about the northern half of this Dominion, as a worthwhile asset, the better.

Due to errors of judgment for which the road is not responsible, it has to face initial overhead charges because of changing the terminal from Nelson to Churchill which resulted in the direct loss of millions, also an additional opxrating charge due to the fact that freight lias now to travel around two sides of a triangle to Churchill. In addition, there is the fact that the area surrounding Hudson Bay is anything but a land flowing with milk and honey. The yearly temjxrature at The Pas averages about freezing point, the same as at Cochrane or Amos in Eastern Canada. The commercial timber wealth is small, and the approaching exhaustion of the limits that supply the big mill at The Pas will not help any. Though the railway crosses the PreCambrian, it crosses a barren granitic section. A few favorable areas are, however, tributary, and it is hojxd that they will jirovide ore deposits in addition to those at Flin Flon and Sherritt-Gordon. The results to date indicate mineral w-ealth limited but sufficiently large to justify important opxrations if used to the best advantage.

I Resources in fish are important, and fur farming can be greatly expanded. The : agricultural possibilities are limited to one important clay belt and some smaller areas. Though some of the water powers can be liamessed only at considerable cost, two of them, Whitemud Falls and Kettle Rapids, can place large amounts of power on the market at a low figure. Thanks to Lake Winnipeg and other lakes, there is a regulated flow. Picturesque locations for townsites occur at different places. The whole matter is one that warrants the attention 1 of a capable commission. It should be studied as a whole, just as town planning.

“Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war.” Here is an opportunity for a ; great victory that would be rejoiced in by j all Canadians regardless of their place of residence. It is a national project and its ! successful operation will mean a more prosperous prairie population, and thus help every part of the Dominion. Here is the place to develop a second Finland. The Hudson Bay Railway has been talked of for half a century, the whole world knows about it and is anxious to see what kind of a success or muddle we will make of it. Its profitable operation will lx; a great peacetime victory and will give added prestige j to the Dominion.

Wealth in Ontario—Maybe

DEALING with the area covered by the great provinces, Ontario and Quebec,

! it should be remembered that the most northerly railway crossing in these provinces averages no farther north than the fortyninth parallel. In Ontario, west of a line joining Sudbury and Timmins, including part of this railway and the territory to the south, is a railway belt larger than the Maritime Provinces, served by railways in triplicate. Over part of the area they are four deep; 3,200 deficit-producing miles of them. Though this belt is in the famous Pre-Cambrian area, it has produced no major mining operation and, after a half century of prospecting, does not have one in sight. The Ontario Government in a recent advertisement speaks of its “vast,” “overwhelming,” and “virtually inexhaustible" wealth. “Only a fraction of its possible mineral resources have been discovered,” it says. Let the Ontario Government make gcKxi its boasts in this area and it will save the taxpayers from Victoria to Sydney much money.

Along the Ontario-Quebec boundary, Cobalt is virtually finished ; and in Sudbury, Porcupine, Kirkland Lake, and even Rouyn ! the talk is more of deep mining and less of ! new local mining areas. New finds are few,

! and unless more are made and made soon Í this means the beginning of the end.

Much has been written about the PreCambrian shield mostly wrong, but the fact still remains that among Pre-Cambrian formations some at least have been very productive, and it has not yet been demonstrated that all these formations tributary to transportation routes have been thoroughly explored.

This is where we want mines at present, not in the Far North. This is where : systematic prospecting should be done now, even if we have to grant concessions. And this is where mining engineers, whose definite statements of mineral wealth without limit encouraged an era of extravagance and waste, should first do their stuff—not in the Far North.

The Dutch Point the Way

THERE is room for more development in the Maritimes, not only inland but on the sea. Not long ago a Canadian had occasion to go to Haiti. There being no Canadian service, accommodation was arranged for him on one of the Royal Netherland West India Mail boats, sailing from New York. It had quite a high sounding name, and he visualized an up-todate steamer. When he got on board he found that there were only two cabins, and on a calm day everything afloat passed his craft except a sailing boat.

The point is this: That Dutch boat was loaded to the hatches with Canadian goods or goods that might have been Canadian— “Canada Bloaters” by the hundred boxes, “St. John Alewives” by the dozen casks. If it wasn’t Canadian fish, it was American flour. That boat touched at eleven ports and then came back to New York.

Our Maritime Provinces jut out into the centre of the Atlantic. That is not all to their disadvantage, as Samuel Cunard found out, yet their ocean-borne exports are carried to New York largely by Old Country' boats and transferred from there in foreign ships. The Maritime Provinces now have highgrade boats running direct to the West Indies, and Canadians expect these boats to pay dividends. They have the Duncan report; they have the natural facilities for an iron and steel business possessed by few countries; they have the backing of all Canada in their endeavor to extend trade abroad; and they have the knowledge that Canadian organizations, Maritime organizations, can go into outside countries and compete successfully. Great things are therefore expected from the Maritimes.

Curse of Hurry and Waste

THE editor of a prominent American journal recently had the following to say:

“We believe that the curse of America has been her haste to develop and exhaust her resources ... It was our haste to have today and to hell with tomorrow that broke down every sane barrier against immigration. We wanted slave labor to exploit— first black and then white. The piper must always be paid for slave labor. We wanted the quick dollar, and we slashed down our forests and ruined our range. Our oil has been flowing in rivers, and our gas from our get-rich-quick wells has been dissipated in thin air—hurry, waste, wherever one looks.” Our record to date, coupled with our haste to boom Great Bear, indicates that a similar condition exists in Canada.

There can be no hesitation in endorsing the claim that remarkable work has been done by prospectors and exploration companies in the Far North. Like, however, the famous charge, it is magnificent but it is not war. It is not well-directed peace-time development. We have more important work to do than depleting and exporting in the raw state, at bankrupt sale prices, such resources as may exist in the Far North.

Much of the above will be denounced as pessimistic, and a pessimist is not a popular figure in Canada. Read, however, what the Prince of Wales is reported to have said after one of his investigations: “For a nation to admit a damning fact frankly and courageously is not pessimism but rather the first condition of success.” That is the idea at the back of this article.