“You know, there’s something fishy going on around Lac de Gras.” Tom Hoefer remembers hearing that from a local mining guy who dropped by his Yellowknife office one autumn day in 1991. “At the time nobody really cared about Lac de Gras because that was granite country,” Hoefer explains.
But a visit to the mining recorder’s office showed someone staked “a huge block of ground, abnormally large. Doubly suspicious, I think it was registered to Norm’s Manufacturing or Norm’s Mattress Company or something. It was so bizarre. Someone was hiding something.”
Hoefer’s friend offered an explanation. “The only thing I think this could be for is diamonds.” He had previous experience with Monopros, De Beers’ Canadian exploration company. He was also an habitué of the Miner’s Mess, a YK cafe where industry rumours circulated as thickly as the cigarette smoke.
The buzz was confirmed on a date variously given as November 6 or 7, 1991. That’s when the secretive Chuck Fipke stopped pretending to be a gold explorer and faxed a Dia Met news release reporting Northwest Territories diamond recovery, some of it gem quality. It was the first significant find in Canadian history.
“Of course it just went crazy,” recounts Hoefer, now executive director of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines. “We saw the entire Slave province staked in around two years.”
That may well be the biggest staking rush the world’s seen. As crews fanned out across northern and not-so-northern Canada, suppliers couldn’t provide claim posts fast enough.
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