The moss mine was an areas of interest of ours for years and we had two unsuccessful excursions during the summer season. We were unable to locate the mine because of thick brush and too many mosquitoes as it is a swampy area. After plenty of research through historical documents we finally pinpointed the location of the moss mine. This year we decide to go in spring and to our amazement we found many foundations, relics and mine openings. If you visit please consider the preservation of this historical site and take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints. Keep in mind that the mine openings even though located in the far west corner of Gastineau Park are not fenced in. Therefore tread with caution through the dense forest.
The following historical information was provided and written by the Gatineau Valley Historical Society.
In the far western corner of Gatineau Park, there are several mine pits, underground tunnels, building foundations and crumbling structures standing as silent witnesses to an important episode of our industrial heritage. Nearly 100 years ago, this area of North Onslow Township was the epicentre for one of the biggest mines of its type in the world. Well over 100 men worked and toiled in the pits of the Wood Molybdenite Mine, with their families living above the underground shafts. At the time, the mining camp was one of the largest towns west of Aylmer. There were over 40 buildings, and more than 300 people living at the mine site during the First World War, the mine's greatest period of prosperity.
Molybdenite comes from the Greek word meaning "lead." Indeed, the first owner of the land thought that he had found lead while target shooting at cans on an outcrop of rock behind the family farm. The odd stray bullet would chip flakes off the rock. Examining these chips, the owner noticed a bluish coloured metal.A nearby mine on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River was mining lead, so he thought he might have found a lead deposit. The chips were sent to the Dominion government for testing, and were found to contain 15 percent molybdenum disulfide (M0S2). The men from the Galetta mine tried to stake a claim, but discovered that the farmer had the mineral rights. Negotiations ensued, and soon a new company was formed. Henry Wood of Denver, Colorado, a pioneer in developing economical ways of extracting vmolybdenum from ore (achieving 80 percent efficiency), was brought in to develop this mine site. It was soon producing at full capacity. Molybdenite has a high melting temperature, so it was used vin alloys with steel to strengthen arma- vments. The miners processed 150 tons v(136 metric tons) of ore daily. Over the vlifetime of the mine, nearly 250,000 tons (226,795 metric tons) of ore were milled, 1,000,000 pounds (453,600 kilograms) of concentrates were created, and 25,000 tons (22,680 metric tons) of waste rock were mined. All of this was transported by horse power to the PPJ Railroad, several kilometres to the south.
The value of molybdenum during the First World War was over $2,000/ton, and the mine earned back the cost of opening it within the first few months. With the worldwide depression following the end of the war, the price for the commodity dropped, and the mine closed. The mine changed hands - and names - several times over the next 20 years. It was reopened with a skeleton staff during the boom times of the 1920s, but closed with the onset of the Great Depression. The Second World War saw a resumption of production at nearly the same level of intensity as during the previous war. However, once the United States joined the war effort in 1942, cheaper sources of molybdenum could be exploited via open-pit mining, and the mine in Onslow closed down.
The mine was never known officially as the "Moss Mine," but perhaps the origin of that name comes from the procession of crates of mineral, drawn by horses down the long road to the train station, each one with the chemical formula "MoS2" written on it. Even as recently as the 1960s, there still stood some structures on the site but, after the mine was closed, most of the buildings were sold and dismantled (much of modern Quyon's building stock has its origins in the mine buildings), the equipment was shipped away, and the forest was allowed to reclaim the site. The ruins stand in mute testimony to the men who worked in the deeps, making their own contributions to the Allied war effort with every swing of the hammer.