Malagash Salt Miners' Museum
Malagash, Nova Scotia

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The First Rock Salt Mine in Canada




The Malagash Mine was an intricately folded but seldom broken mass 300 feet thick. In the 300 feet there were three seams (beds) of relatively high purity which conformed one with the other. Two were competant, the Lucas and MacKay, and the other incompetent (Chambers); that is it and its adjoining beds fractured.

One should realize that salt is a plastic the flows under pressue. It will fill any cavity it may encounter under the earth's crust.

Under the provinces of Ontario and Saskatchewan the evaporite beds are undisturbed, that is they are almost perfectly flat lying, and just as they were laid down when ancient seas from which they came evaporated. They are almost as flat as ice on a lake.

However, this is not the case in the Maritimes. When the forces in the earth's crust that caused the Appalachian Mountains to form exerted pressure, all of the many salt deposits began to flow and were highly contorted - and adjoining evaporite beds which were more brittle; chiefly gypsum (plaster) fractured and became dispersed in the relatively plastic salt. At both Malagash and Pugwash gypsum or anhydrite (calcium sulphate) is the chief impurity

The bed that extends to depth in Malagash, the Lucas Seam, could be likened to a crumpled sheet of writing paper, folded and bent but never broken. The thickness of the sheet would represent a salt bed thickness averaging about 12 feet, and the sheet of paper would represent a dimension, one half mile on each side, the whole dipping to the South at an average of 40 degrees.

Actually the dip varied from a flat of 24 degrees to an extreme of 120 degrees when it turned under itself in a 200 foot plunge that made spectacular scenery after the salt was extracted.

Salt was mined from 110 feet below the surface to 1,250 feet below. The travelled distance, at an average of about 40 degrees, was over 2,800 feet. Three hoists were used to get the salt to the surface and someone christened the system "a mechanical bucket brigade".

Everyone working in the Mine at Malagash became a mountain climber. Instead of stairs or ladders (and they were numerous) in many stopes a 3/4 " rope would be hanging and this rope was the sole means of elevating or lowering oneself. Sneakers or running shoes were excellent for clinging to the steep walls, but when hard-toed boots became a safety feature the canvas shoes had to go.

Stairs and ladders were as if from a story book. From &-A level to 11 level, one continuos stair had 220 steps, each step made of a piece of 2 x 6 - 30 inches long. Another stair had 167 steps. One ladder reached almost vertically 200 feet.

A second way in and out of the new slope of the Mine was commenced 900 feet west of the Shaft by engineer James Anderson in 1941. It connected with No. 3 & 5 levels by 1943 and in 1948 it was sunk to join 7-A level.

After 1949 this "New Slope" was used to hoist salt to the pilot plant building where a small rock salt mill had been built.

(Taken from the book 'Malagash Salt', first published in 1975)


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