The lead-zinc Nanisivik mine was located on North Baffin Island in the Canadian High Arctic approximately 25km from the community of Arctic Bay and 750km south of Arctic Circle. In 1972, Mineral Resources International Limited (MRI) purchased the property and formed Nanisivik Mines Ltd. Later, in 1974 MRI signed the Strathcona Agreement with the federal government under which the federal government invested $18.3m into town site development, a dock and airstrip in return for an 18% stake in the company. Under the terms of the Strathcona Agreement, the company pledged compliance with government social, environmental and economic objectives for the north (Indian Affairs and Northern Development 1976). The mine began production in October 1976, and successfully continued production until 2002 when low zinc prices made the mine unfeasible.

As the first Arctic mine and northernmost mine in Canada at the time, the Nanisivik mine was very much viewed as a project to test the feasibility of operating in the Arctic. One report commented that “in the greater context of the Canadian mining industry the Nanisivik mine is not a large project but it is a significant one in terms of northern development… it will offer them [native people] an alternative to hunting, trapping and carving, an option hopefully not totally alien to their culture but one which will adapt itself to the culture, and to which they in turn can adapt” (Northern economic development branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development 1976, 6). Through research into the operational and post-closure history of the Nansivik mine, we hope to explore the impact of the mine on the environment and community of the Arctic Bay region.

Scott Midgley