The man who first discovered rare earths by a lake east of Yellowknife returned last month to the working mine that has since developed.
Gren Thomas, an occupant of the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame since 2009, is best known for his role in the diamond discovery that established the NWT’s Diavik diamond mine in the 1990s.
However, in the 1970s, his first major breakthrough in the territory was the discovery of various minerals at Thor Lake, some 100 km east of the territorial capital. Thomas flew back to Thor Lake in August, his first visit in a decade, to see what is now the Nechalacho mine, Canada’s first producer of rare earths and an operating mine since 2021.
“It’s great. It still has the same pleasant atmosphere it had when I first set foot here, it’s a very pleasant place to be,” said Thomas, now in his eighties. “I once calculated 100 people from Yellowknife alone had worked out here. I could name them all. Since then, there has been double or triple that.”
Nechalacho employs around 30 seasonal workers at the site, shipping rare earths south for processing and ultimate sale to the likes of auto parts firms and manufacturers in Europe.
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