1932 Mining Towns
It wasn’t until 1932, two years after the discovery of pitchblende on Great Bear Lake that the Northwest Territories saw a new type of community, the company-owned mining town.
Prior to the 1930s all Northwest Territories’ communities began as fur trading posts, with the exception of Fort Providence which began as a mission. These trading posts were established at locations that provided easy access for Dene, Métis and Inuvialuit trappers to bring their furs and to buy supplies. These trading posts grew and became communities when families moved, during the 1950s and 60s, from outlying camps to find work, to receive government services such as health care and education, or simply to be closer to where they could buy groceries and supplies.
The history and origin of mining towns in the Northwest Territories is very different. Mining towns, by necessity, were located where minerals were discovered. This was often many miles from the nearest community so mining companies, in order to attract employees for the mine, had to build complete towns in the wilderness. The company that owned the mine often owned the homes, the stores, and the recreation facilities. The town continued to exist only as long as the mine continued to produce and when the mine closed, so did the town.
Northern mining towns like Port Radium (map), Discovery near Yellowknife, and Pine Point no longer exist. Others, like Tungsten, are empty waiting for a change in the market to perhaps, one day, live again. The single community that started as a mining town and managed to survive market fluctuations and mine closures was Yellowknife.
Timeline Link: 1930 Eldorado Mine
Timeline Link: 1926 Ted Nagle and the Pine Point Discovery