Did you grow up or work in Tungsten, in the Northwest Territories? If so, you’re invited to a party and might not even know it. Expats from this now defunct mine and community are putting together a reunion June 24 to 28 at Mount Robson Provincial Park near Valemount, BC. The group hopes to get many of their childhood friends, family and neighbours back together again for the event.
The Cantung Mine and the town of Tungsten opened in 1960, and was controlled by Canada Tungsten Mining Corporation Limited, says Ingrid Isaac, one of the organizers of the event. The town is named for the mineral which the mine produced, although Isaac says they were supposedly originally looking for copper.
Tungsten, N.W.T., is located 5.5 hours from the Yukon community of Watson Lake, nestled in the Nahanni region of the Northwest Territories, not far from the border of the two territories. At it’s peak operations during the late 60s and 70s, the mine was one of the highest paying operations in North America, which meant turnover was low and people stayed on, Isaac says.
Isaac, a member of both the Kwanlin Dün and Liard First Nations, moved with her family from Watson Lake to Tungsten in 1977. She says it was a special opportunity for the children of the mine workers who grew up there.
“Living in Tungsten was a time and a place to share,” she says. “I can’t explain the camaraderie and friendship that came out of that. We literally made a community out of nothing.”
The mine – and, thus, the town – closed in 1986, and people were forced to move, Isaac says. During this period nearly 80 people lived there, and many relocated to British Columbia, she says, although ex-Tungstenites are now scattered all over the country. Valemount, B.C. was selected as the location for the reunion because it is the most central to the most people, she says.
People from Tungsten spent a lot of time in Whitehorse, she says, because it was the closest “big” town that provided goods and services.
“When we went into town (from Tungsten) we really added to the Yukon economy,” she says.
Isaac now lives in Whitehorse, where she works with residential school survivors.
The reunion has campsites booked for tent camping and that people can come and basically do what they wish, visit and spend time with their “Tungsten-family.”
“We are keeping it loose,” Isaac says. “We didn’t have much structure in Tungsten, so we don’t want to set too much in stone.”
Ex-Tungstenite Yukoners interested in attending can contact Isaac at Ingrid.Isaac@CYFN.net.
“We do have have a few surprises for people who show up,” Isaac adds with a smile.