With roots back to early First Nation settlements, the fur trade and 19th century logging, the Elliot Lake area has a rich and remarkable history and a fascinating tale to tell. The City's modern story began in 1953 when the famous Backdoor Staking Bee that rivalled the Klondike Gold Rush put Elliot Lake on the worldwide map with the discovery of a massive, rich uranium ore body. Literally overnight, mining companies rapidly invested to build mines and create a community out of this vast wilderness. The majority of the world's uranium - used for Cold War nuclear arms and electricity production - originated in Elliot Lake. As a prosperous mining town with young workers and big paychecks, stories of early Elliot Lake hearken back to the Wild West Frontier, with a distinctively Northern Ontario flair.
By 1959, 9 mining companies were in operation and nearly 25,000 people resided in Elliot Lake. Later that same year, the United States declared that it would buy no more uranium from Canada after 1962. By 1966 Elliot Lake's population had dwindled to under 7,000 and by 1970 only Denison Mines and Rio Algom were in operation. During the 1970s, federal plans for CANDU Reactors and Ontario Hydro's interest in atomic energy led the town, anticipating a population of 30,000, to expand again. However, by the early 1990s, depleted reserves and low prices caused the last mines in the area to close and over 4,000 jobs were lost.
The announcement of mine closures had a devastating impact on community morale and the economy of Elliot Lake, but strong leadership combined with Elliot Lakers' instinct for survival allowed the community to move in new directions and seek out new opportunities. Vacated housing units were marketed to retirees and the Retirement Living program was born. The program is highly successful and world renown for saving and stabilizing the economy. Thousands of retirees have been attracted to the community for the unsurpassed quality of life, availability of varied services and affordable housing. Later, through an innovative and unprecedented project, cottage lots on undeveloped area lakes were established and a cottaging industry has been born.
Through boom, bust and renewal, Elliot Lake's contribution to mining has not eroded. The City has gone from the world's leading producer of uranium and a world leader in mining technology to an internationally prominent leader in mine decommissioning and environmental quality. City leaders have ensured that our mining routes are proudly remembered and displayed for past and future generations.
Today, residential and commercial growth is being seen on a new scale. The downtown core and highway corridor are being improved and beautified as the community, with a stable population of 11,500 and a healthy mix of urban and rural services, re-invests in its infrastructure for the new economy. Elliot Lake is in the midst of very exciting times and the future is bright.
Click below for articles, videos and stories about the history of Elliot Lake.