Corundum & Mining

In 1876, Corundum crystals (Aluminum Oxide AL2O3) were discovered by Annie and her father Henry Robillard on the mountain near their home (referred to as “Robillard Mountain”) as they were looking for cranberries on the flats of Conroy’s Marsh of the York River. Corundum is one of the hardest minerals on earth, second only to diamonds. It was an abrasive and used to cut and polish steel and a hardener in the making of steel wheels for locomotives and train cars. Due to its unique qualities, corundum was also used for grinding optical lenses.
In 1899, the newly formed Canadian Corundum Company leased the mining rights to 1,400 acres and began to develop the site at what would later be known as “Craigmont”. The first mill was a pilot project, which started in April 1900 and produced 20 tons of ore per day. It proved to be a success and in February 1904 a new larger mine was opened. It was the largest ore-concentrating mill in Canada with a capacity of 300 tons per day. The crushing mills were the heaviest and most powerful ever built in North America. The ore was drilled from the rock at the top of the mountain and transported by stone boat to a tramway that fed into the processors. The mine used 25 to 30 bush cords of wood every 24 hours in its’ three boilers to produce steam for drilling the rock and operate the concentrators. The finished product was a 75-100 pound canvas bag filled with “sand like” ore. A short rail line was built on some of the tailings to a loading dock for boats on the York River. There were two wooden sheds there to store the bags of corundum until the steamers arrived. The ore was then transported to Barry’s Bay by boat and barge such as steamers “Mayflower”, “Ruby” and “Geneva”. It was then loaded onto boxcars of the Canada Atlantic Railway and shipped to England, Germany, Belgium, France and the USA. In 1906, the mill produced 2,914 tons and sold for $209,973 - equivalent to over $30 million today. Canadian grain corundum sold for $220 per ton or equivalent to $10 per pound today.

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