Melissa Juried Kriebel
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BRIGUS, N.L. — More than 40 years ago, Paul Conway was in California to do some seismic work. While taking a break, he took a swing by the small city of Calistoga in the Napa Valley, a place known for its hot springs, wineries and mud baths.
“I said, ‘Look at this. The people in California, they’d make money where we would starve … Our mud is better than theirs, I’m sure,'” said the Brigus resident.
“That’s where the seed was created.”
That seed is now on the verge of blooming into Conway’s new business venture. Snowball Earth Glacial Products is a new cosmetics brand. Using mud hand-harvested in Conception Bay, the brand will produce bath bombs and facial products for wholesalers and retailers.
The name Snowball Earth is linked to the idea that ancient rocks show the world at a few points in its history was completely covered in ice.
Conway latches on to a concept covered in Newfoundland geologist Martha Hickman Hild’s book “Geology of Newfoundland” — that pink sediment commonly found in Conception Bay could have resulted from the gradual breaking of Pangea approximately 250 million years ago.
That breaking process eventually resulted in the separation of North America, South America and Africa. Hild’s book notes this sediment was amongst the first oxygen-enriched sediment due to the impact of Snowball Earth.
What mud can do
An assay test of local mud found it to be high in what Conway terms to be “necessary elements of life,” including manganese, magnesium and especially strontium.
He cites a 1999 dermatology study by Gary S. Hahn from the University of California’s Department of Pediatrics to highlight the beneficial attributes of strontium. That study found strontium to be a selective inhibitor that can reduce stings, burns, itches and general sensory irritation when applied to skin.
“Our mud is exceptionally worthy of developing to the next stage and forming a product,” Conway said, adding his product will be eco-friendly and can be sustainably harvested.
He noted mud baths have been commonly used by people looking for relief from arthritis and joint pain. Conway also credits mud for reducing wrinkles.
Once harvested and refined into a powder, the mud will be shipped to a cosmetics lab in Ontario that manufactures skincare products for private-label brands. The powder will then be used in bath bombs and facial products.
“When it walks back out the door, you have a world-class product line that’s going to be, hopefully, enough to keep us busy down here, extracting mud from our very eco-friendly and sustainable mine,” said Conway, who has a Nordic-inspired mud foot bath spa set up at one of his Airbnb rentals. “I’m so excited.”
The provincial government, through its Business Development Support program, has provided a non-repayable contribution of $73,875 to Conway’s company, Bull Cove Valley Development, which itself is investing $24,625 to support getting the product to market.
Snowball Earth Glacial Products will be sold later this year through an online store set up via the Shopify e-commerce platform.
To enhance marketing & business development, Minister @Andrew_Parsons1 today announced over $104,000 for 3 businesses – Snowball Earth Natural Products, Dear Dawcy & Ritual Botanicals, & Sea Salt & Twig Designs & Apothecary. Learn more: https://t.co/xK5Z55LUhw
— Industry, Energy and Technology NL (@IET_GovNL) February 9, 2023