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Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Iron Springs Mine Municipal Heritage Site is the site of an early to mid twentieth century fluorspar mine, located in the community of St. Lawrence on the Burin Peninsula of Newfoundland. This community is the site of one of the largest fluorspar deposits in North America. This designation encompasses the entire mine site, both under and above the ground.
The Iron Springs Mine Municipal Heritage Site was designated because is holds historic, scientific, and cultural values.
The Iron Springs Mine Municipal Heritage Site is historically valuable for the opportunities this mine represented. In the wake of the devastating 1929 Tidal Wave Disaster interest in St. Lawrence’s mineral deposits was revived. Fluorspar was noted as early as 1843, but it was not until 1933 that commercial mining began. American entrepreneur, Walter Seibert, formed the St. Lawrence Corporation (referred to as the Corporation) and began mining fluorspar.
The Iron Springs Mine was discovered in 1931 when men were returning from prospecting the Salt Cove area. A source of high grade fluorspar was revealed as a two meter wide vein, 76m long. In 1933, the men of the area, eager for the promise of steady, paying work, began the arduous task of extracting and shipping the ore, initially from Black Duck Mine, for the Corporation. Early mining techniques consisted of surface stripping, but due to surface depletion and because poor weather conditions often meant that mining often had to be suspended, underground methods were soon put into effect. This vein was narrow, which resulted in narrow underground working conditions with poor ventilation. Water problems were prevalent but the mine stayed in operation until June 1957. By 1948 Newfoundland ranked fifth in world fluorspar production. During its lifetime the Iron Springs Mine produced over 400 000 tons of fluorspar, some of which was used in the war effort.
The Iron Springs Mine Municipal Heritage Site is scientifically valuable because at the time it was discovered it revealed a source of fluorspar which was unparalleled in the world. Between 1933 and 1978 St. Lawrence ranked as one of the world’s chief producers. In nature, fluorine combines with calcium to become the mineral fluorspar. Products containing fluorine include Teflon, refrigerants, foam packaging, aerosol sprays and sodium fluoride. It is used as a flux during smelting to promote fluidity and is an essential component of aluminum manufacture.
The Iron Springs Mine Municipal Heritage Site is culturally valuable for several reasons. The mine had a profound effect on the community of St. Lawrence, providing jobs for area residents in the midst of an economic depression. Following the tidal wave of 1929 the community was forced to find alternate means of work. When the mining industry began operations in 1933 many men were able to make a living again.
The Iron Springs Mine is also culturally valuable because of the industrial disease which afflicted hundreds of men who worked in unsafe conditions in the early days of the mine. The earliest processes of extraction involved less than adequate ventilation areas and dry drilling methods. By the late 1940s a growing number of miners had become seriously ill from silicosis, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. The practice of dry drilling, which released particles of silica into the air, was held largely responsible. Iron Springs shut down operations permanently in 1957 but other mines in the area received improved ventilation beginning in 1960 following the discovery of radon gas in the mines in 1959. It is believed to be present as a result of the breakdown of minor amounts of uranium in the granite host rock.
The Iron Springs Mine is culturally valuable because of its association with the wartime naval disaster involving the USS Truxtun and USS Pollux, which ran aground just off the coast of St. Lawrence, in 1942. It was at this mine that help was first sought. Miners were dispatched to begin the treacherous rescue of the sailors over the sheer cliffs just south of the mine. It was at this mine that a temporary first aid shelter was established to help the survivors.
Source: Town of St. Lawrence Motion 05-120 and 05-121, July 19, 2005.
All those elements that define the mine, its industrial purpose and its natural features, including:
-any and all remnants of mining activity including the mine shafts, all wooden beams and any other remaining underground features; and
-any remaining above ground features including the open space remaining from the original work site and earth mounds covering the mine shaft and raises.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Municipal Heritage Building, Structure or Land
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Extraction and Production
Function - Category and Type
- Natural Resource Extraction Facility or Site
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, P.O. Box 5171, St. John's, NL, A1C 5V5.
Cross-Reference to Collection