This post is in response to questions from my readers.
[“…my readers.” What? All of a sudden I’m Ann Landers? Sheesh.]
Barb Pyett asked, “Is cobalt a mineral as well as a colour and a town?”
Short answer: Yes.
Longer answer? This blog post! And while we’re at it, I’ll answer Deb over at I am, Therefore I Write. She asked me to post a map of where Cobalt is situated, relative to the Arctic. Deb? Your wish is my command.
It all began back in 1903. Two railway workers, Mr. McKinley and Mr. Darragh trod through the woods adjacent to the right-of-way near Long Lake. They were looking for timber to use as railway ties. Instead, they found “cobalt bloom” on the face of an outcrop. They staked their claim, arranged for the proper assays and the rest, as they say, is history.
Pink erythrite (aka cobalt arsenate) or “cobalt bloom” is the weathering by-product of the mineral cobalt. It is an “indicator” mineral. The prospectors knew that cobalt and silver are often found together in these parts.
However! Mix some aluminum in with cobalt oxide and you get the pigment, Cobalt Blue.
For the tons and tons and TONS of cobalt that were found and that remain to be found in these parts, it’s interesting to note that cobaltite crystals are very, very rare from the Cobalt mine camp. Those that are found are very, very small. We haven’t found any yet, ourselves. Which is saying something considering the hundreds of hours spent traversing the mine dumps.
Until we find a local specimen, we’ll have to make do with this cobaltite crystal from Sweden.
OK, so that’s the science portion taken care of. On to the naming of the town site.
As you will recall, Messrs McKinley and Darragh hit pay dirt near Long Lake and the building site of the new railroad. They sent samples of their discovery off for assay.
A more colourful account of the discovery of the Cobalt Silver Mine Camp is attributed to Fred LaRose. Monsieur LaRose worked as a blacksmith for the railroad. Legend has it he threw a hammer at a pesky fox that happened by the forge one day. The hammer struck a glancing blow on the outcrop and, lo and behold, Fred found silver.
Actually, there was no fox. But Fred did dabble in prospecting in his free time. About a month after McKinley and Darragh made their find, Fred also discovered a pink stain on a rock. He thought he found copper. But further investigations by the geology department in Toronto determined that Fred found nickel.
It’s time to introduce Willet G. Miller the Ontario government geologist on duty during the late summer of 1903. Miller paid a visit to the mine camp to investigate the LaRose find.
Miller found that LaRose had exposed four veins. Three of the veins contained massive native silver including, as he reported, chunks “as large as stove lids or cannon balls.” The pink colour and mistakenly-identified nickel showing was cobalt bloom. [source]
Miller returned to the site the following year and continued his geological survey of the area. Apparently, he didn’t care for the “prosaic” name Long Lake. When he crafted a sign for the site of the new train terminal, it read, Cobalt Station, in keeping with the remarkable bounty of silver and cobalt ore.