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NL GenWeb

"The Daily News"

Year End Review 1934 - Fortieth Anniversary of Wabana Mines, Bell Island

"Reprinted courtesy of Robinson-Blackmore Printing and Publishing" Any monetary or commercial gain from using this material is strictly prohibited and subject to legal action.
The records were transcribed by JOHN BAIRD and SUE O'NEILL. While we have endeavored to be as correct as humanly possible, there may be typographical errors.

The Fortieth Anniversary of Wabana Mines , Bell Island

Able to Supply Unlimited Demands

Shows Great progression—Complete Electrification of Mines—From a Small beginning of Open Quarrying in 1894 to Vast Operations of 1934—Great problems of Ventilation Overcome—Safety Inaugurated—Big production Possible—Scientific handling—Great Strides in Local Development—Big hopes of Future—Betterment of Operatives,

By Fred F Jardine, Bell Island

Looking back through the years and seeing the great advancement made in the operation of this vast Iron Ore Area called Wabana Mines, one is inclined to doubt that such great improvements have taken place. Actual demonstration of those improvements blow away even the slightest cloud of doubt.

To the newcomer the greatest achievements are out of sight, the days of open-pit mining are gone. Time was when the great mining activities were within the vision of everyone. The swish of steam from the ever chugging drills, the belching coal smoke from pit boilers, and the insistent throbbing of the busy hoisting engine were the visible indications that big operations were going on .

Then came a change. The open quarrying gradually ceased and following the rich veins of iron ore, the operations began to go deeper into the earth. Slopes became the order of the time. Now the great operations are mainly underground. There the rich veins are torn away from the rib of mother earth and the thundering trips bring into the light of day on the surface the rich deposit that was laid down aeons of time ago. About the 25th anniversary of mining on Bell Island, problems began to loom up. The rule of thumb had to give way to expert and scientific operations. The problem of ventilation as the mines went deeper and spread out, was a great cause of concern. To meet this problem a large outlay of capital was necessary, with the resultant installation of four giant electric fans that place into the mines, to cope with bad air, over 200,000 cubic feet of free air per minute. This air with the aid of 72 inch wide Brattice Cloth is diverted by means of stopping into areas and working that need pure air.

Then again as the working became deeper greater hoisting facilities had to come into being, and huge Vulcan hoists with great horsepower were installed to cope with the longer haul, and the larger 4-ton cars. The Fraser-Chalmers engine with its great winding drum situate at No. 3 Submarine is one of the largest this side the Atlantic. This giant hauls twenty ton cars. Then was another problem taken up. Safety. This in 1934 assumed a high state of efficiency. Safety is one of the great factors in mining here that has eliminated much suffering. It is so insistently kept before the notice of operators that it has become part and parcel of the daily regime.

To-day those in daily contact with the vast workings can hardly grasp the extent of the operation. The history of mining on Bell Island and it gradual metamorphosis from the open pit to the high state of mining efficiency that prevails to-day, must be read with the eyes not with the prejudices.

The Electrification of the Mines and Efficiency

The electrification of the mines was a gradual process and had its beginning some seventeen years ago. Then the direct current was the agent, later developing into alternating current. With the building of the great Power House at the Dominion Pier costing nearly three quarters of a million dollars the electrification was further advanced.

Pumping and Hoisting All Done By Electricity

At the beginning of 1934 the complete electrification of the plants was consummated to the plants compressors were installed in No.6 mine. These compressors are of English make from Bellis-Morcom, Wigan, each generating 2600 cubic feet of air per minute. They operate drills, pumps and hoisting engine under ground. This move tends towards greater efficiency as it was found that air pressure when carried from the surface lost in efficiency by lost pressure. With compressors at the scene of operations, full pressure, compact, are the very latest type of air compression machine. The Drags that have been installed during the last year are proving their worth in re production.

1n 1934 there was also added to the surface equipment a Bucyrus Electric Shovel. This will operate at No. 6 stock pile and has a capacity of 2,500 tons per day.

Ore Mined in 1934

The approximate ore mined in 1934 was 500,000 tons, even this conservative amount when compared with other years represents in wages and stores a large amount of money. And when stocked in piles is actually a dead asset until disposed of.

Where The Ore Was Disposed of

The ore shipped in 1934 was as follows: to Germany 319,000; to England 20,000 and the balance to Sydney. The shipments to England are comparatively small , yet tough England took such a small quantity in the raw state she was a large importer of the finished product in steel and steel parts. So that in the long run Bell Island did benefit by sending a large quantity of the raw product to Sydney to be manufactured into steel.

This 40th anniversary of the Wabana Iron Mines is a memorable one as this year’s output brings the total of ore production up to over 40,000,000 tons of iron ore. Taking the small years with the most productive ones, it had produced 1,000,000 tons of ore per year an on average and the consequent outlay in wages, supplies, duties and taxes to produce same , has been a great factor in the economic life of the colony.

The biggest year in ore production was in 1928 when 1,500,000 tons was mined and disposed of.

Possibilities for the Future.

The interview that Sir Newton MOORE gave the Daily News while in St. John’s some time ago indicates the possibilities—all depends upon the demands. That Wabana Mines can supply unlimited demands is conceded, however if the stability of Germany was an established fact, there is no doubt that bell Island would again attain the peak in production.

Though economic progression has been gradual still the extra day given sometime in the early spring has left its impress on the special status of the community. This is patent when one finds that the relief for Harbor Main-Bell Island district shows a decrease of over $2,459. Though Bell Island many not be responsible for such a marked decreased it did surely play a leading depart in it. Indeed now relief is all be eliminated, this is partly due to the great impetus given to.

Land Development

Perhaps in no other locality or community was Land Development so enthusiastically taken up. 1933 saw large tracks of land taken in and good agricultural results accrued in 1934 land development was further augmented, more and more was taken in, much of it up till then untouched by cultivation. This year it was ripped asunder and put under tillage resulting in good crops of vegetables that are doing good much to lighten up a depression that was upon the community and full filling the two-fold purpose of providing wholesome food and developing self supporting efforts. The Corporation were most generous in their assistance to all whose enterprise led them to cultivate the land, providing horses to plough and supplying to enclose allotments. As an extra fillip to their operations the corporation gave prizes for the best garden on their property. The showing in this line was a remarkable example of what can be done by application of energy. The recent Agricultural Exhibition as showing what can be done in the raising of good and varied vegetables.

Conditions in General

In the year past 1934 intercourse between Capital and Labor has been on the friendly list and knowing the economic conditions of labor has been solicitous and hence in all cases where possible, conditions have been made whereby labor has given its best that capital would see their efforts were appreciated. Nothing but the kindliest feelings exist, and each hope that the dawn of the New Year will see ambitions fulfilled and greater activity commenced.


In looking back through the years one is filled with wonder that such changes took place. From practically a shack town has sprung up a town that houses nearly four thousand people. The shack is becoming extinct and good it is so. From the humble lantern is evolved the electric light, instead of the well—in nearly all cases—there is now running water, and improvements are still being inaugurated, so that though in retrospect some very dear faces that were one prominent in mining are missing yet all must concede that though the renaissance has been gradual it has been thorough. Plans for the future are very encouraging for the betterment of operatives and for the mines, in general. Technocracy as far as Bell Island is concerned is a debatable quantity. Modern mining requires modern methods and modern methods tend toward better production. That has been the case here. Modern machinery has been installed but it has not brought labor any hardship, on the contrary it has helped labor in so much as the back-breaking processes of the old-time mining is ceasing.

During 1934 the health of the community as a whole has been exceptional. No contagious outbreak occurred. Under the efficient guidance of the Health authorities health has been well looked after.

In 1933 the S. P. C. A. was established on Bell Island through the influence of Mr. F. R. EMERSON, K.C. , whose splendid humane efforts in this line is so very well known and deeply appreciated. During 1934 the movement made rapid strides and has become quite an institution on the Iron Isle.

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