The following account from New York published in the last century glowingly sketches the activities of the mining industry in this area. This article concludes the two part series.
“The uses to which this newly-found wealth of ore is to be applied may be grouped under two heads. In the first place, it has been proved by a series of experiments that nickel steel, a material made of four parts of nickel to ninety-six of steel, is superior to the plain steel used at present.
Breaking and hoisting tests have been applied to the new combination, and it is found that the strength of the metal is largely increased: two pounds weight of nickel steel will effect the purposes of four pounds of the old substance. Again, the non-corrodibility of the material is established. It is easy to see that with such qualities as these the new metal will be adopted for such things as locomotives, bridges, and rails, while it will change the character of machinery and revolutionize the present armament system. As to the part it will play in the future warfare of the world, experiments lately conducted by the American government have given ample testimony.
If introduced into the construction of heavy guns, it will reduce the chances of bursting to a minimum; if used in heavy armor-plating, it will be almost impenetrable. For further proof of its value, we have only to point to the fact that England, France, and Germany have offered ten years’ contracts to one company working the mines for all the material they can supply. The offer has been refused and for this reason, in addition to its nickel, there have been discovered in this neighborhood enormous iron beds, and it is from a combination of these two that the material of the future is formed. Other lands have nickel, other lands have iron; none, it may be said, have both in such profusion.
It is the aim of those owning the mines to complete the whole process of manufacture on the spot, instead of exporting the raw material to be reduced elsewhere. The American Government have already shown that they are anxious to perform the separation of the metal from its accompanying substances in their own country and in their own manufactures.
Heavy duty is imposed on pure nickel, but none whatever on the “matte” – the name given to the combination of nickel and copper; therefore, until this restriction is removed, Canada will have to rely on her English and European markets if she wishes to separate the “matte” herself.
It is expected that in a short time millions of money will be added to that already invested in this country, and that nickel will thus draw capital across the water to work the hitherto untouched iron mines. The mines in the neighborhood of Sudbury are, indeed, rapidly absorbing the nickel supply of the world, to the detriment of the New Caledonia mines, which up till recent years monopolized the market. Nor could it be the otherwise; for New Caledonia, in addition to its distance, is a French colony, tied down by the strictest protective regulations. Sudbury wants but one thing to place it first and foremost in the market, and that is an improved method for the separation of the copper from the nickel as it is extracted from the mines.
To the outward eye, copper is the principal factor of any piece of rock picked up by a visitor to this district, but there is a large percentage of nickel always there, as well as a quantity of sulphur. The ore is first crushed and then laid on stacks of wood, where it is roasted for months, during which dense columns of sulphur smoke pass off waste into the air. Doubtless, a method for preserving this sulphur will soon be found. The ore is then smelted, and the nickel and copper sink to the bottom of the smelting pot: this substance, called the “matte: is drawn into iron vessels, and run out on wheels to cool. The usual means employed to separate bodies thus blended here fall, for nickel and copper are of the same specific gravity. This difficulty is, however, said to be almost overcome.
At the present moment, while the mines are in their infancy and the demand for nickel has to be met, copper is at a discount, and, strange as it may seem the ore is valued by the absence of copper. Thus 15 per cent of the nickel and 10 per cent of copper is of greater value than 15 percent of nickel and 20 per cent of copper. It is obvious that it cannot be long before science has reversed this state of things.
The second great use to which the new metal is to be put in the future is in a combination of nickel and copper, which will supplant German silver and Britannia metal; hence it will be used in the making of household utensils and fancy articles of every description. It is to these two uses that the nickel and copper just found ar to be applied, and it is to be hoped, for the sake of the country that owns them, that science and legislation will join in giving her the full benefits of her wealth.
Gary Peck is a retired Sudbury school teacher with a passion for history.