Bell Island is a rock mesa or tableland, about six miles long and two and one half miles wide, rising from the waters of Conception Bay. It is surrounded by almost continuous cliffs from 100 to 200 feet in height. In general the surface of the island slopes gently toward the northeast being influenced by the dip of the rock strata.
Formerly the home of a few fishermen, Bell Island is now the location of one of the important iron mines in the world. Bell Island is a small rocky mesa in Conception Bay, on which three rich beds of iron ore outcrop. The pit heads are on the north side of the island but most of the Wabana ore production comes from the undersea workings.
Three workable seams, or beds, of iron ore outcrop near the northwestern shore. The pit heads are located here but the mine levels run far out under the water. Four slopes varying in length from one to two and one-half miles are in operation. Cable cars carry the ore across the island to the southeast side. Here, there are two piers at which vessels can moor in deep water, while the ore is loaded by endless bucket-convey-ors from the top of the cliff. During the winter the ore is stored in stockpiles. The mines are operated almost entirely by electricity which is transmitted to the island by two submarine cables from plants of the Newfoundland Light and Power Company.
The Urban Landscape
In general Wabana is older than the pulpmill towns and has more weatherbeaten appearance. It is a town of 2679 inhabitants, but its built-up areas are rather scattered and seem entirely without plan. The landscape may be said to be dominated by the mine buildings, and to some extent the houses of the workmen are grouped near them. This may, in part, be due to the fact that the mines were formerly operated by two separate companies. Scattered settlement also occurs along the roads leading toward the pier.