Elliot Lake has been in existence since 1955, and grew out of the wilderness following geologist Franc Joubin’s uranium discovery earlier that decade.
Joubin’s discovery resulted in a dozen uranium mines in the area, 11 around Elliot Lake and one on the North Shore. Two mining companies were involved: Rio Algom, headed up by Joseph Hirshhorn and Denison Mines, headed by Stephen Roman.
The discovery attracted mine workers from across the province, the country and around the world.
However, the boom was followed by a bust in the early 1960s when the United States government cancelled its contracts with the two mining companies.
By 1965, many of the mines had closed, with only two still operating, Rio Algom’s Nordic Mine and Denison Mine.
In April of that year, Angelo D’Amato Sr., came to Elliot Lake to visit family in this declining mining community.
D’Amato, originally from Scandale – in southern Italy, came to Canada in February of 1960 looking for a better life. He had an uncle who operated a hotel in Kirkland Lake, who sponsored him to come to Canada.
When he went looking of a job in the gold mines of Kirkland Lake, he was turned down because he spoke very little English. D’Amato said the mine foreman told his uncle he would hire him when his English was good enough to ask for a job himself. The young D’Amato spent the next while learning English, and when he returned to the gold mine, he was hired.
He started off as a helper for a jackleg miner in a stope (an underground room) following the gold vein in the rock.
Then on vacation in 1965, he decided to visit family in Elliot Lake. While visiting them, they urged him to get a job in Elliot Lake. He was making $1.15 per hour in Kirkland Lake, while Elliot Lake miners were making $1.65 per hour.
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