Back to Coprolites main page


The mining of phosphate rock on the North American continent started in the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario in 1828. (Blakey,A.F. The Florida Phosphate Industry, Wertheim Committee, Harvard, 1973,pp.10-11,146)


Mining began in 1863 when hard rock phosphate was found near the township of Burness, Lanark County, in the province of Ontario. Extensive investments were made in lands in the township near the Rideau Canal, and prices as high as 300 dollars were paid in some cases. Until 1880, when English and American capitalists invested in the industry and brought in steam industry, only hand labour was employed. Gradually mining systems shifted from the early use of open trenches and quarries to the sinking of shafts. These operations were difficult as the hard rock had to be drilled and blasted, with steam the source of power. The phosphate was hand selected and yielded 70 to 85 % BPL. In 1885 about 29,000 tons were sold at 17 dollars per ton, but by 1892 the output fell to eight thousand at an average price of 15 dollars per ton. The decrease in Canadian production was the result of competition from the Florida mines which eventually caused their shutdown in 1893 (op.cit).

NORWEGIAN and CANADIAN PHOSPHATES. - Under the name of apatite , we import from Norway and Canada small quantities of phosphatic minerals, obtained from veins in the primitive rocks. They are hard and crystalline, of vitreous lustre, and of various shades of colour, white, yellowish white, and greenish white. According to Voelcker the Norway apatite contains no flouride of calcium, but the Canadian a great deal. Neither contain any carbonate of lime, and only a little iron and alumina. Some parcels have tested above 90 per cent phsophate of lime but on an average they do not exceed 75 per cent. Norwegian c90 Canada 91

Canadian phosphate is a variety of apatite, light green in colour with a glass like lustre, occurring in more or less distinct crystalline masses, found in large quantities in Canada and occurs in fissures of granitic rocks, generally associated with gneiss or mica-shale. Usually it reaches this country in hard and heavy pieces, varying in size, and
weighing from a quarter to three pounds and upwards. It was rather hard and difficult to reduce to powder but, if care was taken to well ventilate the mixing chamber to get rid of poisonous hydroflouric acid gases, it was well adapted for the manufacture of concentrated superphosphate. The expense of freight from Canada to England in a great measure checks the development of the trade in Canadian phosphate, and in consequence not many cargoes find their way into England in the course of the year. Voelcker,Dr.A.
On the Chemical Composition of Phosphatic Materials used for Agricultural Purposes, Journ.Agric.Soc.1875,pp408-9

From apatites alone it is difficult to make dry and powdery superphosphate; but, by mixture with weaker phosphatic materials that contain more carbonate of lime, they work very well indeed. Reid,W.C.Mineral Phosphates and Superphosphate of Lime,
Chemical News Aug.11th 1876 p56