The first organized attempt at processing resources came with the arrival in 1665 of the Intendant Jean Talon, who established various "manufactories" that used agricultural products to satisfy the settlers' needs and launch revenue-producing export industries. Large numbers of farm animals were introduced to New France. Wool from sheep and hides from cattle provided clothing and shoes. Talon encouraged the growing of hemp, barley and hops and the production of tar. Wood and tar were used for SHIPBUILDING in a yard on the banks of the St-Charles R. Hemp was used to make rigging for sails. With the hops and barley, beer was made in the "King's brewery" located near the shipyard. Surplus agricultural products, fish, wood and beer were exported to the West Indies on locally built ships. Talon also recognized that COPPER, LEAD, iron and COAL were potential sources of wealth for the colony. There was considerable PROSPECTING activity, but these efforts failed to discover minerals that could be exploited with the limited MINING technology of the time.
The impetus for exploitation of most resources was lost after Talon departed. Even the fur trade became more difficult as fur reserves were depleted and the French were forced to travel to Indian villages to trade. The departure of men for the woods (COUREURS DE BOIS) depleted the agricultural labour force and farming declined. Processing of minerals was stopped in 1704 when Louis XIV ordered the colonies not to compete with industries in France. This edict limited colonial economic activity to sending raw materials back to France and was a harbinger of the "further processing" issue, a principal concern in the 20th-century exploitation of Canada's resources. Thus, early in the 18th century, furs again became the principal economic resource of New France. Following the British Conquest (1760), the trade flourished until the middle of the 19th century and declined rapidly thereafter.
The exploitation of Canada's MINERAL RESOURCES began before the arrival of Europeans. The Inuit and Indians used and traded copper implements (see COPPER INUIT; PREHISTORY). In 1604 an exploration party under Champlain found native copper at Cap d'Or, NS. IRON ORE was one of the first minerals mined in Canada. Around 1670, deposits were found in swampy areas near Trois-Rivières. By the 1740s, Canada's first ironworks, the FORGES ST-MAURICE at Trois-Rivières, was turning out top-quality cast-iron stoves, pots, kettles, bullets and cannon for settlers and the military. Samuel HEARNE journeyed N in search of copper. He was to be disappointed, despite being the first white man to reach the Arctic Ocean overland. In 1770 Jesuit fathers experimented with native copper found at Point Mamainse on the N shore of Lk Superior. However, copper mining in Canada began with the discovery that led to the establishment of the Bruce Mine in the Algoma district of Ontario.
Although reports of SILVER deposits dated back to the voyages of Cartier, the first accurate account was that of Pierre, Chevalier de TROYES, a French military commander who recorded finding a silver-bearing vein of ore on the eastern shore of Lk Timiskaming in 1686. The first commercial deposit was discovered in 1868 at SILVER ISLET, a tiny rock island in Lk Superior, about 30 km E of Thunder Bay. The first discovery of GOLD in Canada, in the sands of the Fraser R (1857), led to the CARIBOO GOLD RUSH (1862). Further discoveries were made in Nova Scotia and Ontario. The KLONDIKE GOLD RUSH began in 1897. Gold rushes had a profound effect on the development of BC, and on the opening of the Yukon and North-West Territories to settlement.
Much of the exploration of western Canada was the result of the quest for beaver pelts. The railway later opened the mineral riches of the West to exploitation. Railways also brought pioneer farmers who began to reap the rich agricultural potential (see AGRICULTURE HISTORY). The explorers had opened up the vast reaches of the West and North and later scientists and surveyors (particularly from the GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF CANADA) would gather useful details of terrain and resources. The old fur-trading posts of the Hudson's Bay Co and North West Co were quickly transformed into settlements.
Author MAURICE CUTLER
Links to Other Sites
Natural Elements Newsletter
See feature articles from the "Natural Elements Newsletter," produced by Natural Resources Canada. Focuses on scientific and technological programs related to sustainable development of natural resources, including energy, minerals, metals, and forests.
Strathcona Provincial Park
This nicely illustrated website traces the dynamic geological history of British Columbia’s first provincial park. Learn about rocks in the park, fossils, plate tectonics, volcanoes, glaciers, and more. From the BC Geological Survey.