With the First World War, in Canada there was considerable agitation over what was coined the “Nickel Question.” One of the problems that arose pertained to the refining of nickel in Canada. For some, it may have been regretted that our nickel industry was controlled by foreigners. However, for a variety of reasons, it was argued that the refining at least should occur in Canada.
By the outbreak of The War, the necessity of nickel for modern warfare was established. Nickel was necessary for automobile parts, cartridge cases, bullet coverings, heavy ordnance, rifle barrels and armour-plate. Of course, its value was recognized by all of the then major powers. Canada had the new materials that in 1890, were mined by two foreign-owned companies. Yet, if the refining continued outside Canada, this country and the province of Ontario had no control over the ultimate destination of “the product”. For some, this was not satisfactory.
Evidence suggests that on numerous occasions federal and provincial governments had examined and indeed promoted the refining of nickel in Canada. In 1886, a committee of the House of Commons refused to report a bill authorizing the Canadian Copper Company (C.C. Co.) of Ohio to operate in Canada until its promoters indicated that they would build a refinery.