Many mineral occurrences have been found in the old rocks of Newfoundland. Silver, gold, nickel, chromium, antimony, asbestos and vanadium have all been reported but not in deposits capable of exploitation. Coal of good quality is reported near St. Georges Bay but the rock structure is unfavourable to mining. Nevertheless mining has become one of Newfoundland's three major industries. Two main developments, the Wabana iron mine on Bell Island and the copper-zinc-lead mine at Buchans, account for 95% of the output. The remainder is made up of limestone and fluorspar with small quantities of sand and gravel, brick clay, talc, quartzite and structural sandstone.
Bell Island, about six miles long and two miles wide, lies in Conception Bay, a few miles northwest of St. John's. It is a tabular mesa of Ordovician sandstone and shale whose strata dip gently to the northwest beneath the waters of the bay. Interbedded and outcropping on the island are three beds of red hematite. The ore is of good quality but rather high in silica and phosphorus. The hematite was identified in 1892 and the first cargo was shipped in 1895.
Because of the fluctuating market for iron ore, the town of Wabana has not been as prosperous as the pulp mill towns.
Copper, Lead and Zinc
Ore outcrops containing copper, lead and zinc were discovered near Red Indian Lake in 1907, but it was not until 1925 that an economic process of concentrating the ore was discovered. The mill went into operation in 1927 with a capacity of about 500 tons per day, which has since been increased. The concentrates are sent by rail to Botwood and shipped to the United States, Belgium, France, Norway and the United Kingdom.