Monday, November 4, 2013

Industrial Cape Breton

Rail Bridge looking East, Iona, Cape Breton
For an area once known as "Industrial Cape Breton," present-day Cape Breton County has done a good job of covering up its history. Indeed, it is hard to find a community that wasn't once home to one or more coal mines during the last 200 years, but little traces are visible today. According to the NS Department of Natural Resources, there were once dozens of coal mines spread across the county. Today, even the 400 acre Sydney Steel plant has been entirely removed, and is now halfway covered by a system of public parks. The only remaining traces of the Sydney behemoth are some metal scraps, a loading crane, and a huge slag heap—unless you want to include the memorial plaque they have erected for visitors to the park.

It's not that the disappearance of these industrial places is a bad thing, as they do come with their fair share of environmental and human safety concerns—think, falling down an abandoned mine shaft, or living next to the tar ponds—but in twenty years will anyone really understand the scale of what went on in Cape Breton? Museums and memorials will play there part in reminding people of what "once was," but I expect much will be lost to the younger generations. In relation to our NS Industrial Project, if Liz and I had photographed even five years earlier, I think we would have seen a much different landscape. Thanks again to Arts Nova Scotia for making this project possible. Here is a selection of what we saw in CB recently:

Remnants of the Sydney Steel plant, Sydney, Cape Breton

Historic Miners Homes, Glace Bay, Cape Breton

Steel chunks from ingots poured years ago found while mining slag, Sydney, Cape Breton

Covering the reclaimed open-pit mine at Point Aconi, Cape Breton

Former Dominion No. 14 Mine, now a recreational park, New Waterford, Cape Breton


  1. I publish fiction novels based on what happened in industrial Cape Breton, especially, the tar ponds. I think these photos are amazing, hopefully they'll remind people that just because it's a memory, doesn't mean Cape Breton's past wasn't important in making the island what it is today.

    1. Thanks Sysco! I am glad that you find the images inspiring. I too hope that these images will help to remind people of their history. Thanks for the comment!