Newfoundland National Convention, 14 April 1947, Debates on Confederation with Canada


April 14, 1947

Report of the Mining Committee:[1] Committee of the Whole

Mr. Higgins I would suggest that to summarise the paragraph on copper read on Saturday that the table marked Table l, at the end of the section on copper be read. That will summarise the report...
[The committee briefly discussed the sections on copper, gold, lead, asbestos, chrome, salt, petroleum, pyrophyllite, limestone, barite, nickel, mica, and marble. The Secretary read the section on cement.]
Mr. Smallwood When the report of the Local Industries Committee was brought in here, that report quoted a special memorandum prepared for the Committee by the Industrial Development Board, and I was particularly struck at the time by the reference to cement. The Industrial Development Board pointed out what a great pity it was that the two main ingredients necessary to make cement were separated from each other by roughly the width of the country. One was on the eastern side of the country, and the other on the western. The cost of bringing the two together was what caused it to be dropped. Now the Mining Committee brings a different light on the matter. I remember after the remarks I made when the Local Industries Report was being debated I ran into the Mayor of St. John's, who was very enthusiastic about the matter. He told me that the St. John's Municipal Council uses 50,000 bags a year.... That's only one case. If you could get cement in this country at reasonable price there would be thousands of people using it for foundations of their homes and for the erection of buildings of all kinds, with remarkable progress in construction and industry. This is evidently one of the most important sections of this report. It absolutely contradicts the report of the Industrial Development Board.
According to this, in the Port-au-Port area there are very extensive deposits of gypsum, limestone, and silica clay. These are the articles necessary for the manufacture of cement. They are all within a radius of two miles. The only thing is, you have to import coal to create the heat for dehydrating it, or else use hydro-electric power, and we understand there is sufficient power in that vicinity for this industry. I wonder if Mr. Higgins could tell us if anyone is interested, and if there is any move on foot to start a cement industry, and could he throw a little light on this: "The main question is, of course, whether or not cement could be produced at a cost comparable to the cost of the imported article." What is meant by that? What would be the cost? There would be the cost of mining and bringing them together to the point of the hydro-electric development, etc., all which, surely, should not cost any more, speaking generally, than anywhere else. Labour is certainly no better paid in this country than in Canada, generally speaking, and certainly no better than in the States. You can develop hydroelectric energy in this country as cheaply as anywhere. What are the prospects of making cement? Is there anything doing?
Mr. Higgins I don't know if I can enlighten you more than I have on this matter. The last sentence would be the cost of the finished product, that is the selling price compared to the finished article. With respect to our contradiction of the Local Industries Report, we are satisfied that the information we have given you is correct as far as our information goes....
Mr. Smallwood Why not develop cement out there on a worldwide scale? Why not develop it for export all over the world? In terms of that kind we have to think. I have been watching, looking for possibilities of using up our own raw materials. I know cement is used all over the world. When Mr. Higgins, Major Cashin and I form a government, we must see what we can do with that.
Mr. Bailey I think Mr. Smallwood answered his own question. There is too big a cement plant in Canada and the United States for us to have one.
Mr. Butt If the cost is too high, it is no use 492 NATIONAL CONVENTION April 1947 talking about it....
[The committee then discussed the sections on slate, molybdenum, gypsum, manganese, antimony and bismuth. The Secretary read the section on brick-making]
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, it is quite an eye-opener — two plants in Trinity Bay making 600,000 bricks each, 1,200,000 bricks, and Mr. Dawe over at Makinsons, over 2 million bricks a year. It's amazing. That's an eye-opener to the country.
Mr. Higgins I believe that this Section was prepared by Mr. Vardy, and he may have some comments to add. He will have to be the one to answer any comments.
Mr. Vincent Those Trinity Bay plants have modern methods — has Mr. Dawe's plant?
Mr. Vardy I worked on this with the other members of the Committee, but the plant at Snooks Harbour, Mr. Smith's plant, has some modern machinery, but they agree that it is not as modern as it should be. They tried to get in some machinery duty free but did not succeed, though finally they did get in one machine. It is quite an old industry, and naturally the people are very proud to find that the tests of the shale showed an abundant quantity, and it has proved very successful. We believe that the time is not far distant when the people owning the two brickyards over there will amalgamate. The chances are they will do that, and there will be a large company formed to manufacture brick out of this shale. In conversation with Professor Hayes, he informed us that this shale was of a very high quality, and the brick made from that will stand up against the very best imported article, and he could not see why there should not be an industry there employing from 100 to 200 men. One thing I would like to say for that brick industry over there, is that it has gone on continuously over a period of 40 or 50 years. One of the older brickyards closed down, but these other two yards have employed workers right through. They paid reasonable wages, and although the owners did not earn very much profit, yet, at the same time, those employed made a comfortable living and the owners of the yards have always come through If there is any further information I can give I will.
I may say I was responsible for the section on slate. I have been through the slate mines in England and Wales, and worked in a slate quarry when I was so young, that when a Welshman sent me in to see what time it was, I went in and looked up at the steam guage and told him it was quarter past 90. I remember that quite well. I did not even know the time. Those quarries were worked for the period given in the report, and finally they found that owing to the very great cost of transportation in moving the slate from here to England, they could not compete with the Welsh quarries. The last that was sent over, they finished up loading the ship with cod oil in common casks. The ship got out and met rough weather, and by the time they got over there the whole thing was slate dust. That finished it for Newfoundland. There is some talk of having the quarries opened to manufacture slate dust for mineralised roofing, but the smooth roofing seems to have taken the place of it, and there is not much hope of doing anything about it, but the brick industry has a future.
Mr. Starkes In connection with this report here about Mr. Dawe operating near Brigus, it says the quality is equal to the imported, and they have also got a lot of machinery coming in. Further on in the report is this, "We understand the company is operating without any concessions with regard to duty". Does not that machinery come in duty free as far as all local industries are concerned? Don't they get their machinery duty free?
Mr. Vardy No, you must be a large company to get anything in duty free. A small industry does not have a chance.
Mr. Smallwood And it has got to be foreign.
Mr. Vardy Yes, If you are a large company, sure, you can comera few politicians and you are OK for getting machinery in. I was for years with the present government trying to bring in wire netting free to dry fish on. A large American concern offered to give it free to the fishermen, the Philadelphia bankers guaranteed this firm and they offered to ship it, but the government would not consent to let the wire netting in duty free, with the result that the company withdrew. Samples were sent away, 900 bags by the Shaw Steamship Co., and the company would have done a large business in this country, but it was turned down because the material which they wanted to give away to the fishermen was not allowed in duty free.
Mr. Vincent If they had modern methods at George's Brook and Snooks Harbour, would April 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 493 production he stepped up?
Mr. Vardy It is more or less the old crude way. The clay is taken from the pits by wheelbarrow, and goes to elevators and into the crusher, and down into the moulds, and the bricks are cut off by a string of wires passing through the moulds. Afterwards they are taken out and pass to the kiln, then they are sun dried. It's the old crude methods, and I believe if they had more modern methods the production would be stepped up, but then again you are up against the imported article being superior, and in order to make the industry worthwhile you will have to condemn the clay pits and use the shale.
Mr. Higgins Mr. Chairman, the duty on machinery coming in for brick is free.
Mr. Smallwood Won't Mr. Vardy confirm the fact that one of the gentlemen making brick down his way went away recently to the States and visited a number of up-to-date brick factories, and has plans to improve his plant in Trinity Bay? Isn't that true?
Mr. Vardy Yes, I understand it is true. They have plans in mind to get together on it over there and try to use the shale. There is an unlimited quantity of shale.
Mr. Starkes The machinery for making brick is duty free, and your Committee must have made a mistake.
Mr. Vardy I have not consulted the tariff on this myself. That was always my knowledge, and I know Mr. Smith had trouble on that. Is that a recent tariff?
Mr. Hickman Well this tariff is issued by the Customs in June, 1946, and included quite a lot of machinery for various purposes, including machinery for making brick, and it's duty free the same as cordage machinery for making twine, that's duty free.
Mr. Higgins Its nice to know the Mining Committee made one slip!
Mr. Harrington All those bricks that are made, are they used locally?
Mr. Vardy I don't know of any local made brick being exported. I know we are importing a lot of brick, but I don't know of any being exported. It has been stated that the main complaint against our local brick is that it is very coarse and absorbs too much moisture. It can't stand up over a period of years against the hard brick. Of course, there is the hard and soft, I may say they use the hard brick for chimneys, but I think that's the main complaint. The brick manufactured from clay has been very porous, but the brick manufactured from this shale can be hardened up so that, as the report says, "it will be like steel". The opinion is that an industry should be started immediately.
Mr. Hickman I don't want to disagree with Mr. Vardy again, but there has been some brick exported.
Mr. Vardy I said "to my knowledge"; I did not say there was not any exported.
[The section was adopted. The committee began discussion of the section on water-power, and then rose and reported progress. The Convention adjourned]


Newfoundland. The Newfoundland National Convention, 1946-1948 Vol 1: Debates. Edited by J.K. Hiller and M.F. Harrington Montreal: Memorial University of Newfoundland by McGill-Queen's University Press, 1995).



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Notes de bas de page:

  • [1] Volume II:313. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]

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