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Environment and History

Claiming the New North: Development and Colonialism at the Pine Point Mine, Northwest Territories, Canada

John Sandlos and Arn Keeling

Environment and History 18 (2012): 5-34. doi: 10.3197/096734012X13225062753543

This paper explores the history of economic, social and environmental change associated with the Pine Point lead-zinc mine, a now-abandoned industrial site and town in the Northwest Territories. Recent perspectives in cultural geography and environmental history have sought to rehabilitate mining landscapes from their reputation as places of degradation and exploitation - the so-called ‘mining imaginary’. We argue that the landscapes of Pine Point epitomise the failures and contradictions of mega-project resource development in the north. While the mine and planned town built to service it flourished for nearly a quarter century, the larger goals of modernisation, industrial development and Aboriginal assimilation were unrealised. Ultimately, the mine’s closure in 1988 resulted in the town’s abandonment and the removal of the rail link, leaving behind a legacy of environmental destruction that remains unremediated. At Pine Point, the forces of mega-project development joined with modern mining’s technologies of ‘mass destruction’ to produce a deeply scarred and problematic landscape that failed in its quest to bring modern industrialism to the Canadian sub-Arctic.

KEYWORDS: Cominico, mineral development, political ecology, Dene, Native Communities, Northwest Territories, Canada


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