In Parrsboro, N.S., I met a local rockhound who was rumoured to have found traces of iron ore near Moose River in Nova Scotia’s Cumberland Cty. Only it wasn’t iron — it was ilmenite, a titanium ore, and I knew of several mining firms on Canada’s East Coast that were interested in titanium deposits. His sample proved to be high-grade ilmenite and contained large chunks of feldspar labradorite, a semi-precious gemstone commonly associated with ilmenite deposits.
I told the rockhound that I wanted to see his discovery. He played coy and claimed to be tied up for the foreseeable future. He was looking for a sweetener. I suggested a 50/50 split on cash payments or royalties on any titanium produced; and all the labradorite would be ours to sell for tidy sums to collectors, museums and the like. All I had to do was stake the area and find a company to option the property.
He provided directions to a large gravel pit near Moose River where large chunks of ore were purported to be everywhere. Following a period of rain and sleet that kept me from investigating the discovery, I decided to return home to Truro, N.S., and look at an airborne magnetic survey of the pit area. No sooner had I pulled out the map than I homed in on a magnetic anomaly near the gravel pit. Bingo! In my discussions with the rockhound, he had noted that the ilmenite contained significant amounts of magnetite, thus the anomaly could reflect a titanium deposit of similar size, because the magnetic “high” was of considerable magnitude.
The next day, I drove to the gravel pit via a lumber road surrounded by thick brush on all sides. Large angular boulders of black titanium ore with many crystalline masses of beautiful labradorite were visible all through the ilmenite. It was a sight to behold! Just as the rockhound had said, the stuff was everywhere. It appeared that these large boulders had been transported there by glaciers many thousands of years before. I looked up to a scarp of ridge just north and I could see traces of the Cobequid fault — and I already had the strong magnetic anomaly from the airborne survey. All the signs were there. What more could an exploration geologist looking for a giant ilmenite deposit ask for?
I collected boulders for assaying and labradorite samples to show jewellers just as it started to snow — which kept me from exploring further. I soon found myself driving home in a blinding snowstorm.
The following morning, I made my way to Moose River under less than ideal conditions with the aim of prospecting and mapping the magnetic anomaly. When I arrived, I found the Cobequid Mountains and most of the pit covered in snow. I turned the truck around and drove to Halifax, where I staked a large block of claims at the claims office and looked at a more detailed airborne survey of the area. Holy cow! There were three linear magnetic anomalies on the face of the scarp ridge. If that wasn’t enough, I almost flipped when I got a regional geochemistry map showing the high titanium values in the heavy minerals concentrates in two streams draining the ridge near the magnetic highs. I now had visions of three large titaniumdeposits and labradorite galore, not to mention the big bucks that would be heading to yours truly.
I left my samples at an assay lab and returned to Truro to call the rockhound. I explained to him how all the ducks were lining up and that we could expect as many as three deposits of ilmenite. He said that the Cobequid Mountains were expected to be socked in with heavy snow until spring, which would virtually eliminate prospecting. I assured him I could find a mining company to carry out a ground magnetic survey, followed by drill- ing — once I had assays proving the high titanium content.
I had it all planned. I told him of how I would take company geologists by snowmobile to the pit, show them the boulders poking through the snow and present them with some cut slabs of ilmenite. It would be all downhill from there.
I looked up some phone numbers of mining companies and cut some ilmenite slabs while I waited for the assays. Three days later, I got the news: high-grade titanium with acceptable iron content. I set about creating a report that I would fax to several prospective mining companies, along with a sheet containing the assay results.
With the report finished and the fax ready for transmission, I sat down to eat. About 30 seconds later, Doug Boddie, a local prospector, called to say that he had heard I was interested in the black heavy ore in the pit at Moose River.
Boddie explained that it was none of his business, but that the source of the boulders was none other than Newfoundland, and that they had arrived in the pit by truck. It made no sense. Who the hell would want to truck ilmenite all the way from Newfoundland only to drop it in a pit on a secluded lumber road in Nova Scotia?
Boddie could tell I was shocked and dismayed. He said that many of the mineralized floats were in the overburden of gravel and sand, and not simply lying on the pit floor, thereby giving the impression they were placed there by glaciers.
A construction company had tested the ilmenite in a crushing and screening operation after trucking in several tonnes from The Rock. The tests were done to see if the material would be suitable for heavy ballast in a Hibernia oil platform. Some of it was later crushed and used in road construction. The rest was spread about by dozer in the pit and surrounding area.
Doug Boddie recently died, and his passing reminded me of that phone call. His words that evening kept me from making a fool of myself and possibly being accused of fraud.
— The author is a retired prospector living in Truro, N.S.