The La Manche Lead Mine of Placentia Bay
La Manche, Placentia Bay
Located on the North side of Placentia Bay is the long forgotten La Manche Lead Mine. Not to be confused with the Provincial Park south of St. Johns with the same name, the mine was named after the nearby resettled community of La Manche. The Lead Mine was discovered in 1855 by the Telegraph Land Company while surveying a route to place the trans-Atlantic cable which was planned to enter Trinity Bay and cross into Placentia Bay.
History of the Mine
The site was first prospected by H.T. Verran in 1857 before Ripley and Company, a subsidiary of the Newfoundland and London Company began production at the mine site. In 1860 the Placentia Lead Mine Company took control of the mine and continued mining until it shut down the project in 1873. During the years of operations approximately 3175 tonnes of galena (highly concentrated lead mineral) was mined.
Ownership of the mine passed to the Newfoundland Canadian Trust Company (the former Telegraph Land Company) in 1889. The mine is believed to have reopened in 1890 by W. Beyn but no production was recorded. After this the mine remained dormant for 30 years before the land and mineral rights were acquired by the La Manche Mining Syndicate Ltd in 1924. Three years after the purchase the company began mining by sinking a shaft deep underground. Unexpectedly the shaft flooded ceasing operation at the mine once again.
The next year the mine was transferred once again to the Newfoundland Mining Corporation who in 1929 sank a 120 meter (400 ft.) shaft into the ore layer with drifts (horizontal shafts) on several levels. As with previous ventures the mine did not remain in production for long and soon closed due to financial difficulties. While the mine was not around for a long time, it was open long enough for the Newfoundland Mining Corporation to estimate that 196,200 tonnes of ore remained to be mined.
Several more parties showed interest in the mines during the middle of the 20th century and in 1946 the Buchans Mining Company acquired a 99 year lease for the property. After extensive research and prospecting was finished, the mine was not found to be economically viable and was reverted back to crown land in 1972.
The most recent exploration took place in the late 1970s when an immense geochemical, soil and geologic investigation began involving the digging of several trenches to bedrock. The investigation did not discover anything new and the mine was proven to still not be economically viable.
The Mine Today
While no equipment or buildings remain standing today, the area still has much to offer. The gully where the mine was once located is now scarred with tailing deposits and what appears to be a dried up river bed. Following the old river bed away from the coast you slowly begin to hear the sound of running water. After passing through a narrow, rocky gorge the old river bed drops off and a small river flowing down from a nearby lake, disappears into the darkness of a small cave opening.
Nearly half a kilometer away the river exits the cave and pools inside a narrow rock cut in the hillside. After this the water flows over a small concrete dam and into the ocean. This rock cut is all that remains of the mine shaft today.
Sources & Further Exploring
La Manche. Department of Natural Resources’ Mineral Occurrence Database System Report found using the Newfoundland and Labrador Geoscience Atlas found at geoatlas.gov.nl.ca.
Martin, W., & Canadian Institute of Mining Metallurgy. (1983). Once Upon a Mine: Story of pre-Confederation mines on the Island of Newfoundland. Special Volume no. 26. Montreal: The Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. (Available online through the NL Heritage Website at www.heritage.nf.ca)
Smallwood, J. R., & Pitt, R. D. W. (1981). Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador. St. John's, N.L.: Newfoundland Book Publishers. (Article: “La Manche”. Available online through the Centre for Newfoundland Studies collections database)
White, J. (2008). Fourth Year Assessment Report of Prospecting on License 10108M, La Manche Property, NTS 1N/12 La Manche, Newfoundland. Mineral Lands Division, Department of Natural Resources, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Retrieved from https://gis.geosurv.gov.nl.ca/geofilePDFS/ReceivedBatch63/001N_0857.pdf.
La Manche, Placentia Bay
A grassy hillside is the only remaining evidence that the area was once a small fishing community on the shore of Placentia Bay. The community is located 4 km south of Southern Harbour and while the date of establishment is not known the first census taken in the area of La Manche and Little Harbour East showed 20 people living in the area in 1833.