Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Port Radium, NWT
Port Radium is the regional name for a mining area on the eastern shore of Great Bear Lake, Northwest Territories, Canada. It included the settlement of Cameron Bay and the Eldorado Mine and Echo Bay Mine. The name Port Radium did not come into use until 1936 and at the time it was in reference to the region as a whole. The Eldorado mine site at LaBine Point adopted the name for it's settlement in the 1940s and has generally stuck.
Port Radium is situated at on the shores of Great Bear Lake, the largest freshwater lake within the boundaries of Canada.
Port Radium is located near the Arctic Circle, which means that in December the sun does almost not rise and in June it doesnt set for 24 hours. The average temperature is 7.1°C, the prevailing wind direction is southeast.
Between 1950 and 1974, this climatic data was collected at Port Radium:
| Bright sunshine|
During a field trip along the east arm of Great Bear Lake in August 1900, James McIntosh Bell of the Geological Survey of Canada noted evidences of iron, copper, uranium and cobalt in the vicinity of Echo Bay. 30 years later, on May 16, 1930, prospector Gilbert LaBine discovered high-grade pitchblende and silver at this site. His company was Eldorado Mining and Refining Limited, then known as Eldorado Gold Mines Limited. Radium ores were highly valued at the time because the price of radium salts, used in cancer treatment and then monopolized by Belgium, was US$70,000 per gram.
Several settlements popped up in the 1930s in this area. Eldorado Mine became the first producing venture and it had it's own private camp for its employees. There were also operations at the Elbonanza silver property, at White Eagle on the Camsell River, and at Contact Lake. In 1932 prospectors and businesses settled down in a protective cove off Echo Bay, known as Cameron Bay. By 1933 the Canadian Government had surveyed a townsite. At it's peak the Cameron Bay settlement had 100 permanent residents, and the Port Radium area as a whole probably boasted 200+ residents. But by 1934 all the important deposits had been staked and activity died down. The Eldorado Mine at LaBine Point entered production in 1933 and the Contact Lake silver mine followed in 1936. At Cameron Bay, the government established a post office, a government office, and a wireless radio station. There was also an RCMP post and a Hudson's Bay Company post. In 1936, the government facilities were re-christened Port Radium to glorify the nature of the nearby mining operations.
With the closure of the Eldorado Mine in June 1940 and the general lack of activity, the government closed up the offices at Cameron Bay and except for a few native families which now occupied the abandoned buildings, Port Radium was empty. When the Eldorado Mine reopened in 1942 to supply uranium ores for the war effort, the mine settlement adopted the name of 'Port Radium'. Cameron Bay remained abandoned, but later in the 1960s Branson's Lodge would build a fishing lodge on the site.
Therefore, Port Radium, a name brought to use in 1936 to apply basically to the entire region, was now being used to name the Eldorado Mine site, which was the only operation in the area after 1942. Port Radium, as we can now call it, was occupied from 1942-1960 when the Eldorado Mine was a uranium producer, then again between 1964 and 1982 when Echo Bay Mines Limited produced silver from the so-named Echo Bay Mine, and the Eldorado Mine. When the mine finally closed in 1982, all the old buildings were burned down, and only an old log cabin remains today.
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