In 1992, a labour dispute that would last 18 months tore Yellowknife apart, culminating in an explosion that killed nine miners. The fallout of one of Canada’s largest mass murders still lingers in this northern city.
Today, Yellowknife only tangentially resembles its history as a gold mining town. The city sits atop the Canadian Shield, a large expanse of ancient bedrock, one of the world’s richest areas in terms of its mineral ores.
But a dilapidated mining headframe is one of the last vestiges of the area’s days as a gold mining capital. The city’s biggest gold mine has been closed for decades.
The Canadian Mining Hall of Fame held its 34th annual induction ceremony on Aug. 18 at the Palais Royale in Toronto, welcoming five new honourees. This year’s event was historic.
Not only did the CMHF induct its 200th member, but the slate of inductees was the most diverse in the history of the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame dating back to its origins in 1989. Three of the five that would be considered diverse include the first Black man to be inducted, the first openly gay person, and the sixth woman.
Many places in the Cariboo, Prince George named after early Chinese Canadian miners Ah Bau and Chew Nam Sing
For May’s Asian Heritage Month in Canada, two historians in B.C.’s Interior are remembering the legacies of two early Chinese Canadian miners.
For more than a decade, Lorna Townsend in Quesnel and Richard Wright in Kamloops have both studied the history of Ah Bau and Chew Nam Sing, two of the most well-known pioneers among an estimated 5,000 people who came from China to B.C.’s Cariboo region in the late 19th century to prospect for gold.
Celebrating Canada’s mining history and the 140th anniversary of Canadian Mining Journal – one of Canada’s oldest continuously published magazines
When this publication was born in 1882 (no, Marilyn Scales and I were not around then!), it was a very slim newsletter named The Canadian Mining Review. Within five years it had taken on a hot-headed and bold young Scottish cricketer/editor, B.T.A. Bell.
He not only transformed The Review into a national must-read monthly, but organized and energized the fledgeling mining groups across the country. He tried his best to rout out the scoundrels, while cajoling the country’s politicians and associations to get together.
The late Yukon legend Peter Risby ‘just had so many unbelievable experiences’
Growing up, Tara Risby heard plenty of stories from her dad, the late Yukon prospector Peter Risby. She heard about how Peter, injured in the Korean War, once spent a few months in a Japanese hospital. Then there was the time he went over a cliff in a truck and came away uninjured. Oh, and there was also that helicopter crash that almost killed him and left him with a permanent scar on his cheek.
“We dubbed him ‘the cat with nine lives’ because he just had so many unbelievable experiences,” Tara recalled. “Yeah, he had quite a storied life.” When Peter Risby finally succumbed to cancer a decade ago, he was a local legend among Northern prospectors. Later this year he’ll be entered into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame — becoming the first Black person to be inducted.
Back Roads Bill Steer is the founder and remains the GM of the Canadian Ecology Centre. He teaches part-time at Nipissing University (Schulich School of Education) and Canadore College. His features can be found across Village Media’s Northern Ontario sites.
With the help of the region’s scholars, Back Roads Bill recounts the struggles and horrific working conditions endured by early miners and the reason we should all remember them
It is part of a history lesson we know little about, so perhaps we need a little schooling. Envision hard rock miners, once toiling far underground in dark, cramped and dangerous conditions; it was arduous and risky work.
They emerged tired and dirty at the end of their shifts, walking back to small wood-sided homes and their immigrant families. Mining, along with forestry, created what was then called ‘New Ontario,’ — what we know as Northern Ontario.
Indigenous mining in the north began after the last period of glaciations, people of the Plano culture moved into the area and began quarrying quartzite at Sheguiandah on Manitoulin Island. Mining is an important economic activity in Northern Ontario. It has been since the first copper mines at Bruce Mines in 1846 and Silver Islet in 1868.
As work continues to create a greener, cleaner future for the planet, the rush to find critical minerals that will spearhead the transition away from fossil-fueled energy has taken on a greater urgency. Explorers and developers are actively seeking out new sources of nickel, copper and lithium throughout the globe.
And then there’s cobalt, a metal whose ability to store energy has already made it crucial for everything from laptops to smartphones, and gives it an even more important role in the green revolution. This has led to a renewed interest in securing sources of the metal across Canada, including around the namesake community of Cobalt, in northern Ontario.
“There’s something absolutely beguiling about these great mineral rushes,” Angus says.
There were the cockroach races that saw miners betting as much as a $1,000 on the outcome. There was the day vaudeville performer Daisy Primrose walked down the street in Harem pants, a new form of female apparel so scandalous that it had been condemned by the Pope. There’s even an appearance by a dog named Bobbie Burns who may well have been the inspiration for Hollywood’s most celebrated canine star.
So if Charlie Angus had wanted, he could easily have confined himself to delivering a robust history of Cobalt, the fabled Northern Ontario mining town in which the New Democrat MP has long lived. But although he is a born storyteller with a passion for popular history that matches the best of Pierre Berton and James H. Gray, Angus had a lot more on his mind when he set out to write his latest book, Cobalt.
Town was ‘somewhere between a squatter’s camp and elegant cosmopolitan power’ Angus says
The rich, colourful history of Cobalt, Ontario is the subject of Charlie Angus’ new book Cobalt: Cradle of the Demon Metals, Birth of a Mining Superpower. In it, Angus traces Cobalt’s history– the community was one of Canada’s first boomtowns– and the eccentric characters who dotted its landscape .
“There was a great description of Cobalt in 1909,” Angus said. “It looked somewhat like a cross between a wild west town and a medieval slum.” The town had its own banks, theatres and bordellos, Angus said, and even had a stock exchange long before Vancouver or Toronto.
Charlie Angus looks at lessons from an early 20th-century mining rush. An excerpt from the new book by the New Democrat MP for Timmins—James Bay, “Cobalt: Cradle of the Demon Metals, Birth of a Mining Superpower.”
The world is searching for cobalt, the miracle ingredient of the digital age. The metal’s capacity to store energy and stabilize conductors has made possible the proliferation of rechargeable batteries, smartphones and laptops. More crucially, in the face of catastrophic climate change, cobalt offers the hope of a clean-energy future.
In the early days, Canada’s most western province, British Columbia, was built on gold. While there were the famous gold rushes of the Fraser River in 1858 and Barkerville in 1862, there is one gold rush that stands apart from the rest – the Granite Creek gold rush near Princeton, southwest B.C.
What make Granite Creek different is that besides gold, there are also platinum nuggets – one of only two places in the world – the other being the Amur River in Russia.
In the dog days of summer in 1916, directors of the International Nickel Co. — or Inco — met to discuss the acquisition of land in Port Colborne, with its abundance of access to hydroelectricity and transportation, as the site for the company’s first Canadian nickel refinery.
With that the die was cast and Port Colborne, then a sleepy little village at the entrance to the Welland Canal, would never be the same. “It changed the whole of Port Colborne; it refined and defined Port Colborne,” said Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum assistant co-ordinator Michelle Mason.
Found within the newest territory of Canada, Nunavut may seem barren and inhospitable, yet it has provided resources and succor to its First Peoples for thousands of years.
While European colonizers and the indigenous peoples in their ancestral home suffered many differences, it was the shared efforts of the two groups in trade and labor that bridged this gap, eventually leading to the formation of Nunavut itself.
DAWSON CITY, the Yukon Territory — The first tourists to Dawson City arrived in July of 1898, a few weeks before the boomtown’s second birthday.
Mrs. Mary E. Hitchcock (widow of a U.S. Navy officer) and Miss Edith Van Buren (niece of the former U.S. president) swept into the new gold-mining settlement, 170 miles south of the Arctic Circle, with opulent cargo: a zither, a parrot, canaries, a portable bowling alley, crates of fancy foods (pâté, truffles, olives), a movie projector, an exhaustive wardrobe (silks, furs, starched collars, sombreros), two Great Danes and a 2,800 square-foot marquee tent for their lodgings.
When he died on Aug. 22, 1951, J. P. Bickell was one of Canada’s wealthiest and most powerful men. A millionaire before age 30, Bickell rose from an impoverished background to become a successful mining magnate, investment broker, theatre impresario, patron of the arts, aircraft pioneer, auto racer, adventurer, philanthropist and patriot.
Bickell was also one of Huron County’s extraordinary sons. John Paris Bickell was born on Sept. 26, 1884 in the Molesworth Presbyterian Church manse to Rev. David Bickell and his wife, Annie Paris.
He was the second of four children in a family that saw its share of tragedy. His father died in 1891, his younger brother died in 1892. His older brother died of appendicitis in 1898.