Gold Occurrences in Newfoundland

Gold from the Nugget Pond Mine in Betts Cove on the Baie Verte Peninsula of Newfoundland.
Photo by Rob Lavinsky

Gold was originally discovered in Newfoundland in the 1870s when there was a flurry of gold mining and prospecting in the Canadian Maritime provinces and Newfoundland.  This activity died down after a few mines were opened and closed again.  My great grandfather was one of those caught up in this early gold rush, but at least he mined enough gold for my great grandmother’s wedding ring.  It was this same gold rush that led to his leaving Canada for the United States as it was discovered he was poaching gold from Crown Lands; he decamped from Canada rather suddenly.

Most of the gold occurrences in Newfoundland are found in the central part of the island, and at latest count there were over 200 mines or prospects.  This is significant because the Baie Verte fault that marks a suture zone where gold is deposited.  The Baie Verte fault cuts across the island from north to south as the dividing line between continental rocks to the west and oceanic rocks to the east already has active gold mines along the strike of the fault.  This fault has been interpreted as a subduction zone that is dipping toward the west. The fault is one of the major faults that were in the super-continent of Pangaea. It extends from Staten Island, New York northwards with several name changes to Newfoundland.  It is also found in Europe from Ireland across Scotland finally cropping out in western Norway.

Gold is only one of the metals associated with this fault where others include copper and other heavy metals.  There have been several important mines found in the area controlled by the fault including the asbestos mines around Thetford Mines, Quebec and numerous gold occurrences.  

Mings Bight was where the first gold was discovered in the 1870s that were followed ca. 1903 by some short-lived mines.  By 1935 there were only 26 recorded instances of gold being found in Newfoundland.  It wasn’t until 1976 when significant gold mineralization was found near Cape Ray on the south coast.  In 1984 another deposit was found at Hope Brook.

A surge in prospecting followed the Hope Brook discovery that lasted until 1990.  The prospecting was focused on some dismembered ultramafic belts that were analogies of the mother lode deposits of California.   Then the search broadened until it included most of central Newfoundland.  The low price of gold during the 1990s virtually stopped exploration until it started to pick-up in 2002 and remains very active.

The island of Newfoundland has produced more then 64 tonnes of gold with previously discovered, and new deposits being explored promising a rich future for gold prospecting in Newfoundland. Gold exploration waned as the gold price fell in the late 1990s but began to accelerate in 2002-03 in conjunction with the strong rebound in the price. As of late 2004,with the price continuing to rise, exploration is very active.
Previously discovered deposits and prospects are all being re-investigated and several promising new grassroots discoveries have been made.

The Province has produced over 64 tonnes of gold, about half of which has been derived as a by-product of base-metal mining.