Uranium City sits atop the northernmost corner of Saskatchewan, divided from the rest of the province by the inland sea that is Lake Athabasca. Depending on the survey, anywhere from 70 to a little over a hundred people live there now, but once it was a thriving town, the locus of the Cold War uranium industry in the ’50s, lynchpin of Canada’s own nuclear aspirations in the ’60s and ’70s when the government was stockpiling uranium for its domestically engineered and produced Candu reactor.
On its way to becoming a model mining town by the late ’70s, when dozens of fine, architecture-award winning houses, condos and apartment complexes were built up all around the townsite, UC’s fate took a dramatic turn downwards with the announcement by Eldorado Nuclear on Dec. 3rd, 1981, that it would be closing its Beaverlodge mine in six months. By the time the mine shut its doors, in early June, 1982, 90% of the population had left, some by jet, many by the ice road that had opened for six weeks over Lake Athabasca, the only land route in or out.
Uranium City has survived 40 years since, with a small nucleus of people inhabiting town center and adjoining Hospital Hill, surrounded by miles of empty houses and buildings, a modern ghost town. But Uranium City still lives, not just in the beating heart of the still occupied town, but in the thousands of ex-residents who keep the memory of the town alive through reunions, by the Friends of Uranium City website that was set up in the late ’90s to facilitate the reunions and provide a hub for residents, former and current, to reconnect (no longer active), by several active communities on facebook:
Friends of Uranium City: https://www.facebook.com/groups/4168822363
Eldorado, Sask: https://www.facebook.com/groups/224218291028784
Where it all began: Port Radium, NWT: https://www.facebook.com/PortRadium
This website is an attempt to document that history, to give permanence to stories and photographs that might otherwise disappear into forgotten corners of someone’s attic, or be lost in the ephemeral nature of social media, to provide a bridge between the town’s past, its present, and hopefully its future.
This is very much a work in progress, evolving with the material that arrives, participation by residents, current and former, and the time I have to update and add to both Uranium City’s history and its ongoing present.
78 thoughts on “Uranium City: A Short History”
Lived in Eldorado July 1955 to July 1957, attended UCHS gr 10, 55/56, gr 11, 59/57.
Have B & W & colour slides of July 1, 1956 & 1957 Dominion day parades in UC, these are posted on Uranium City Friends FB site. Would be happy to share to this site if you wish them.
Thanks for the message – I just sent you an email. Would love to have your photos on the site, was meaning to contact you but hadn’t gotten around to it.
My grandparents ran the UC Bay in the mid 50’s.
My son was born in Dec 1986 with bilateral cataracts, not quite blind, but pretty close
When consulting with doctors I was under the impression that they were attempting to attribute the condition to Chernobyl.
Has anyone had a similar experience?
Hi Peter –
I can’t answer that. Not from Chernobyl – where were you living in 1986? As far as I’m aware, the only places affected were the former republics of the USSR, and possibly parts of Europe. I’m sorry to hear about your son. Hope he recovered.
There were many incidents in UC alleged to be byproducts of radiation, whether from house foundations (which were often built with waste rock from the mine in the ’50s) to actually working in the mines themselves. Many miners died of lung cancer and there is almost certainly a link, since so little was understood about the health effects of low-level radiation in the ’50s, ’60s and even the ’70s. You might try the ‘Friends of Uranium City‘ Facebook group to see if anyone had similar experiences.
Chernobyl (used as an apparent reason for unusual birth time cataracts by doctors in this account), affected the entire globe with traces of radioactive particles, but in most places, that was just traces. Fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster swept across parts of Europe to the UK, where radioactivity affected livestock, mainly sheep. Those animals in large areas of Wales and Northern England, or found with radioactivity detected, were marked with spray paint. Eating meat from those sheep was very strongly discouraged. Wool was painted to prevent it being sold or used.
Oh yeah, radiation from Chernobyl spread far and wide. It was really quite astonishing and we haven’t measured all its health effects even now.
My brother worked there shortly before shuting down i n the late 50’s and I have an actual recording of him and friends keeping warm in the bunkhousewhen it was 50 below. This music will blow you away…they were awesome.
My brother sadly passed away in 1980 in a helicopter crash doing what he loved doing best …trying to make the woeld a better place
Sorry about the slight delay in publishing this. Would love to hear your recording. 50 below! I’ve experienced that more than once . . . hard to believe how cold that is. Sorry for your loss of your brother.
My father, Cornel nickel worked in uranium city for fourteen years. I was born in 1978. Born missing my left hand at the wrist. The offspring Children of Chernobyl many have the exact same congenital defect. My father died in 2000 of an extreme rare and aggressive lung cancer. I am curious if any other residents or their children have suffered any possibly related”side effects”
Thanks for your message and very sorry to hear about both your father and your own situation. The short answer is – I’m sure many people had ‘side effects’. Regulation – and knowledge – was very limited in the ’50s and ’60s, even into the late ’70s. I think it’s quite a bit better now, but I have heard some shocking stories. Among other things, many of the foundations of the older houses were built with waste rock from the mine (in the ’50s). By the late ’70s, awareness of radon gas buildup in the basements led to the government putting an extra meter on houses in town – one for gas, one to regulate radon buildup (to be fair I’ve heard of this happening naturally – as far south as Nova Scotia). I’ve heard somewhere the Eldorado president even kept some refined uranium in a glass case in his office until the late ’60s until someone said, you know, that really isn’t a good idea.
There was a group a few years ago of ex-miners who had come together because of high rates of lung cancer from working at Eldorado (and other mines). Haven’t heard about them for awhile. You could try posting at the ‘Uranium City Friends’. I’ll send out a message and see if anyone has heard anything about it recently and send you an email.
I worked with your father for several years at a bush flying company in Uranium city. Nick worked in the office and I was a aircraft machanic and later a bush pilot. Would like to talk to you about his years in Uranium city You can callme at 250 428 5182
My husband worked for Eldorado Nuclear from 1977-Mar.1982. I taught in Gilchrist School. Our girls went to Ben McIntyre and then Candu. We loved Uranium but were upset to find that the mine backfill was used for the schools foundations and our home foundations. My husband Jerry was diagnosed with Pernicious Anemia (a blood disease) after we left Uranium and we are sure that it has something to do with his time in the mine. We moved to Ft. McMurray after Uranium, then Pemberton/Whistler and retired in Victoria in2005. Love hearing from Uranium City people and seeing photos. Gerald and Andrea Martin (Use our email address or look us up on Glen Lake Rd., Victoria, B.C.)
I worked in the mill in the summer of 1963. I was there for about 11 weeks and lived in the mine bunkhouse.
I’m trying to write up some memoirs of my younger days, including this working summer. Looking at the various pictures posted, I can’t fully identify the mine complex as much is written about the Gunnar mine that must have closed down, perhaps the year I was there. The site I worked on used carbonate/bicarbonate leaching. I did a little project on extracting vanadium from the yellow cake. Are there any pictures of the mine residences and the plants?
Apologies for the late late reply – I was traveling in Asia and not checking notifications too frequently.
I’m assuming you’re talking about this page: http://uraniumcity-history.com/places/gunnar-part-1/
There is a book coming out about Gunnar, I believe this fall, by a woman named Patricia Sandberg. It’s called ‘Sun Dogs and Yellowcake’. She grew up in Gunnar, and her parents and I believe her grandparents lived there as well. She’s interviewed me and many others about Gunnar and put together a history, with many photos. If you haven’t seen it yet, try the ‘Gunnar Mines Rediscovered’ facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/752454294796177/ or contact her directly, I’m sure she can help you out (since she lived there when it was an actual town – as I wrote, I only knew it when it was abandoned:
Here’s a review of Patricia’s book: http://www.peacearchnews.com/entertainment/389340701.html
If you ever want to publish on the site, let me know, I’m happy to put up other people’s stories. I’m in the middle of a site revamp, hopefully get it together before the new year.
Hi Nicholas – you could also try contacting Patricia at her site: https://patriciasandberg.com/
I was on the Lashburn Bantam Hockey team ,we flew in to uranium city for the last games of hockey to be played there ,we were billeted, with family’s there. a lot of the houses were boarded up already, it was a state of the art facility.
Just a little piece of history I remember and thought I would share.
Thanks Mark – interesting snapshot. Must have been strange to see as a kid, this combination of state of the art and abandoned. They put so much money into the town in the years before they closed, I think that rink re-opened after renovations in ’78. Luckily it was still going last time I was there in 2003. Sadly, the roof of the curling rink next door collapsed a few years ago though it was still being used in 2003. That winter, there was a big curling bonspiel and dozens of people came in from neighboring towns. For a couple of days, it was a bit like the old days, if you could ignore the abandoned buildings across the street.
My ex husband and I lived in Uranium City from Nov. 1978 until March of 1980. We both worked at Eldorado Nuclear, him in the mill and I in the lab. It was a great experience!
I am trying to find out about a plant that was located by the mines close to the Athabasca lake. Does anyone know the name of the plant or how owned/operated it? How I might get in touch with someone with knowledge of the plant?
‘Plant’ is a pretty broad description. There were 3 refineries operating north of Lake Athabasca at one point – at Eldorado, Lorado and one right on Lake Athabasca belonging to Gunnar Mines. Do you have any more info about it?
My mother grew up in Uranium and she moved back there in the early 80’s. My step dad’s name was William Dominque and my mothers name was Theresa Ladouceur. I remember snaring rabbits and going to Shannon School. I also remember my mother telling me about a baby boy she had when she was 16 that froze to death, the cross at the graveyard had his name “Chikadee” on it. That’s all I remember for now.
Hi all, this is great reading………i was a bush pilot with Norcanair up until we shut down when the mine shut down. I’ve flown into the old Gunnar mines a lot and am quite familiar with the area. I do have some snaps, always available for info anyone needs. These are valuable memories for me up in U city. Have been doing some writing lately and one memory is of a young widow I took up in the Beaver to spread her husband’s ashes over the Beaverlodge archipelago where they used to sail when he got time off at the mine. Cheers all for now……Luke Giesbrecht (Darrel Giesbrecht)
I was born in Uranium City in July 1958. My parents were Erika Deutschmann Jeske and Gerhard Jeske. I know that my Mom worked for a local doctor who had two sons (I have a picture of the sons and I) and that my step father drove a red and white taxi (I have pics of me and the taxi) I would be interested in hearing from anyone who remembers my parents. Also would be interested from hearing from other children born around the same time/year who have had health issues. I will be going through boxes of photos and collect all that I have from our time in Uranium City to add to the collection on this site. My Mom has passed away and my step father’s memories are fading fast but I would like to pass on to my sons stories from our time in Uranium City. My Mom’s brother was in Uranium City around 1960, he worked in the Chinese laundry according to family lore, any stories about him will be passed on to his sons. Fingers crossed I hear from someone who might remember us or their children who heard stories and can pass them on. Photos can only tell so much without back stories. I know everyone scattered across Canada but I have hope……..
2 of my sisters and I were born in UC we left before my first birthday. My oldest sister was born 1960 I was born in 1964. My dad worked in the mine and also drove Taxi. He passed away 2010 (Robert Brown) my mom is still around and may have information. Marjorie Brown residing in Bluffton Alberta. Although I have no memory of UC I am interested in the stories and history.
Good day everyone
I worked for Eldorado Nuclear as surface carpenter from 1975 – 1979 had a wonderful esperance, and living in a log cabin most of time in the bush, off the grid sharing and enjoying nature’s wonderful gifts. Have recovered now from Uranium toxicity.
I had emigrated from New Zealand and find the sessions more to my liking so have returned NZ.
thanks for your comment. Yes, those northern winters . . . I live in relatively balmy NYC at the moment, and wonder if i could take the winters up North now. Was back in 2003 (February) for a couple of weeks and 40 below . . . is 40 below. No matter how many layers. Thankfully not usually that cold and people who live there beat winter by getting out in the country, but it can be a hard haul.
Sadly, even in the late ’70s the effects of low-level radiation was not well understood. Recent efforts by the Saskatchewan government have gone a long way to cleaning up the legacy of uranium mining in the area, but still a ways to go (look for the next posting, about the Lorado mine and its aftereffects). If you want to connect with some UC people, both former and current, look for the FB group: Uranium City Friends.
my wifes father martin oscar isberg was a powder man in the mine he drowned while fishing this was in the late 1950s or early 1960s we do not know if he was buried in the local cemetery i would think there must be records kept. any help would be appreciated if there is any cost please let meknow
I was the first child baptized in Uranium City United church. Was born in PA in 1952 then moved to UC. Dad was very active in area mining and we lived on the shores of Athabasca for my first two years. Later got a house in town when Dad worked at Cayzor. Started school at Shannon and have great memories of UC. In 1957 fell out of truck and nearly died. Was cleaned up in UC by Dr Grey and shipped out to Edmonton. Mom and Dad were told I would probably not make it. The docs in edmonton said the reason I survived was the superb treatment I received in UC. Was an amazing place to be a kid Mrs Hard ,Worniuks,Somers.John Bazolla were all folks that had a major role for years to come. Amazing place amazing people
WHen you fell out of the truck my mom looked after you I berlieve you split your head open . Your dad name is Red? My mom was Bernice Webster and my Dad was Jack . I believe you moved to Regina afterwards but my dad always kept in touch my sister susan and brother jack
Amazing story, glad you made it. Yes, always heard good things about Dr. Grey though I was an infant during that period. You might possibly have been treated by my mother, who was a nurse at the UC hospital during that period.
My name is Ella Woroniuk. My husband John and I went to U.C. in 1955. I taught school and John worked as a miner at Eldorado Mining and Refining. We loved Uranium City. When we arrived there was only local radio and no television so friends became family. Some of the teachers I taught with are Merva Keller, Marj Beckwermert, Fran Aiken, and Barb Bekolay. Two daughters, Beth and Edith, and a son Scott were born before we left in 1967. In our spare time we curled in winter and played fastball all summer. Some of our friends were Claudette and Al Godbout, Jean and Harold Graham, Ruth and ” Red” McKinnon, Mr. and Mrs. Hardman, Norm and Joyce Scott (United Church minister) and so many others that I am ashamed I cannot list. John built our home in U.C. with the help of many of his mining buddies. Our next-door neighbours were Ed and Elvina Holmedalh and their son Dan. Playing ball was a passion for both John and I. John died in 1997 of methothelioma ( a lung disease). I have always felt it was due to the uranium mining but there was never any proof.
Hello Ella. I remember you and then we touch again in Saskatoon when my young son, Svend, had trouble adjusting to city life. I worked at the library with Mrs. Edith Coop and later on I was there all by myself. Library was located across Eldorado Store. I remember Mrs. Stobbe, Mrs. Beckwermert, Mrs. Keller and so many more teachers, nurses and others.
Just happened to see your posting! We, John and Margaret Stobbe ,came in a year before you left. Beth and my Nancy were in kindergarten together with Mary Lou McIntyre as teacher. I “taught” an upgrading class with Johnnie and Joe B-we had a great time. I re- invented myself and am now Margaret Munro. I live at the Palisades and Jean Graham and I often recall UC times
My late husband was the first to drive a loaded semi across the lake . He worked for Lays Transport out of Meadow lake sask. Does anyone have any info on this as I would like to share it with my kids. Thank you.
Thanks for your message. I would not, as I wasn’t born until the ’60s but you might want to try the facebook group: Uranium City Friends, as many people will remember that period. If you can’t get any info, try me again and I’ll ask some people directly.
i diamond drilled in uc in 79 80 hardest ground i ever met .good times went to yellowknife after .as said uc was a dreamy place
Hi Calum – ha! Long heard diamond drilling was a tough tough job. 79-80 was a good year, pretty much the last year I spent there. Real sense of optimism, growth and community togetherness which made what came later all the more painful.
does anyone remember a female mayor named Einhorn? What happened to her?
Hi Leo – my apologies for taking so long to get back. I do vaguely remember that name, but couldn’t place her – she might have been before my time. You might want to try the facebook group, some of the old-timers would remember her: https://www.facebook.com/groups/4168822363/.
I moved up there in 80 right out of high school. Followed a girl whose family moved back there Zakaluk was their name. I worked for Bougie Contracting and then got a job at the airport loading and unloading Eldorado’s 737. In early 1981, a friend who hauled waste from the mine told me he was getting laid off. I guess I saw the writing on the wall and came back south a couple months later. Went there to be with the girl, and came back alone, but all in all it was one of the best times and places in my life. Lots of great memories of the place and the areas around, nothing like it south of the 60th parallel!
My apologies, I don’t know why I didn’t see this. I live in NYC and we have, to put it mildly, been distracted by recent events. You moved to UC the year I moved out though I knew the Bougies, who lived just down the street from me. Actually I still know them – the girls Louise and Denise and their younger brother JJ still live (off and on) in UC, though Paul moved south some years ago. I remember that Zakaluk name, though I can’t exactly place them – the girl you referenced might have been a grade or two down from me.
yeah, great place. Interesting you saw the writing on the wall – almost no one else did. And that included the Eldorado president, Nick Zeideger, who was still telling everyone just a couple of weeks before the announcement that the mine would be going for another 10 years at least, probably another 25. Mining is a fickle business. Been back a few times, still a beautiful place with interesting people, though obviously many less of them, and much of the town, even on my last trip 17 years ago, was pretty much in ruins. But you’re right, nothing like south of the 60th, at least that I’m aware of.
Hi, I am trying to find out more details of my parents time in UC. My dad, Mack Miller was an RCMP constable around 1957 to 1960 I think. My mom, Lina (Lee) Eskowich came there in a similar time frame and taught high school. I have an archive of slides and some 8mm film I am trying to process to digital to see what I can find. I also have connected with a friend of my dad’s who was an RCMP constable at the same time. His name is Gian Bezzola. I would appreciate any connections or insights.
Sorry didn’t respond before, I live in NYC now and we’ve been very distracted by recent events. if you digitize your footage and slides would love to put them up. For information about your parents, you might try the ‘Friends of UC’ facebook page, which has a very active community of ex-UC residents. You can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/4168822363/. Your parent’s time would have been before I was born so not an era I’m familiar with, but post the question and see if anyone gets back. Quite a few of the old-timers are very active on the board, and they still know a lot about that era. Good luck.
Hi Everyone. I was born in La Ronge in 1971 and was shipped out soon after. I went to a foster home before being adopted to a Greek family at age 4. Technically, I was raised White. I know more about being Greek than Native. No records exist of my mother: apparently, they sealed all records from that time. Does anyone remember someone giving birth on December 15, 1971? My adoptive mom told me my original name was Sasha James Ludger. Any help would be greatly appreciated! TIA
Hi just wondering is there a record of people who worked there in 1958 looking for a James Purcell from Ireland he was there in 1957 1958 thanks Rosanna Purcell from Ireland
I wouldn’t have access to anything like this. If you’re on Facebook, you could try posting the above question there and see if any of the old-timers remember your relative. I’m not sure I’d know where else to look, since in the ’50s, James could have worked in any of the dozen or so mines that operated in the area, all of which are out of business now (including the main mine operated by Eldorado Nuclear). The FB group is at: Uranium City Friends. Let me know how your search comes along.
I found this site by accident and have enjoyed reading everyone’s posts. I, too, was born in UC – in 1958. We moved when I was still very young so don’t have any personal memories. My Dad worked at Eldorado and then did water delivery.
I remember him talking about the hotel fire – he was a volunteer firefighter – which happened in the middle of winter. Perhaps New Year’s? I can’t quite remember and my Dad passed away a few years ago. He talked about how cold it was fighting the fire and how awful if was in the aftermath of the fire.
Both my parents always spoke very fondly of their time in UC.
thanks for your comment and glad you’ve enjoyed reading through the site. The UC Hotel fire was long before my time, but yes, the original hotel burned down in I think 1957. It was rebuilt and the next hotel lasted until the decade after the mine closed when it too was burned down (Like most of the buildings in town it was abandoned in 1983 or so) after it had become structurally unsafe. All that remains now is the sign ‘Welcome to Uranium City’ – even the foundations have been filled in and the site returned to nature. If you haven’t read it already, I wrote about going into the old hotel in 1996, over a decade after it had been abandoned. An eerie experience: http://uraniumcity-history.com/writing/up-in-the-old-uc-hotel/
I was born in the Uranium City hospital in 1956. My parents were Rose and Russell who were newly weds. “Russ” drove a 1955 bus daily for 4 years driving miners to Eldorado. Mom, was a school teacher who eloped with my dad to have “12” children. They lived on Nuclear Avenue. I have family snapshots of his bus, Dad renovating his new home, and have memories of Joe the water man, Joe the garbage man and of Dr Grey as well as putting clothespins into shoes of visitors. My Dad took several small home movies of beautiful scenery along Athabasca Lake on his bus route. Mom worked some at a hardware store. My parents and 3 other siblings moved to the Edmonton area in 1960 or 61. My brother and I were baptized at the same time in Uranium City United Church. For Christmas one year, my mother gave each of us a volume of Ben MacIntyre’s book on Uranium City which I thoroughly enjoyed. Their first 5 years of marriage and family life were related lots to us by my Mother with being a teacher was a good story teller. I wish she would have written her memoirs down about their adventure. Please include me in Friends of Uranium City. How do I join?
Nice to hear from you and thanks for your stories. My mother worked at the hospital though a little later – I believe her first year was ’66. A good friend of mine’s father drove the bus to the mine in the late ’70s and I rode that bus many times of course. Wish your mother had written down her memories yes, so many stories lost to time.
Would love to put up your videos and etc, though not sure how you’d get the video files to me. To join the ‘friends of UC’ group, you’ll need to have a Facebook account. Assuming you have one, just go to: https://www.facebook.com/groups/4168822363. You have to wait to be approved by the admins, but it’s pretty much automatic.
I have recently been going through some old notes and photos that I made during a working visit to U. City on 24 May 1985. I am in the process of digitizing the notes, but I some how have the name “Frame” as the owner of the barge company and also responsible for the distribution of fuel. Can anyone clarify if I have misnamed this individual, or his business. Once I have this bit of info (no idea why I don’t have it) I will offer my photos and notes to this board. This was during the time of shut-down of the facilities, and is a pretty bleak time in U. City history according to my photos.
thanks for your message. The Frames were quite a prominent family in town and the particular ‘Frame’ you’re seeing was very likely Andy Frame, who did own a large company, or possibly a couple of large companies as I believe the Frames as a whole had been in town since the very beginning. They had an old Gunnar house on top of the hill in town overlooking Uranium Road and I believe even had a swimming pool (I could be mis-remembering this one). I went to school with a couple of the Frame kids, Brandy and her brother whose name I can’t remember now.
I’m sure 1985 was pretty bleak indeed. The school had just closed and everyone by that point had left. If you have photos and papers we can put up on the site that would be fantastic. We’re hoping to give the site a facelift over the next few months so that would fit in well.
Good afternoon Tim: Thank you so much for getting back to me, and now that I think about it, his first name was Andy. Getting older is hard on the memory. I have a series of about 70 photos that I took that day, along with notes made at the time with information from my guide of the day. The photos are not digitized, but I do still have the negatives and the prints. I will try to find a way to have things digitized, and I would like you to preview them, along with my notes, to be sure they are appropriate. What I noticed the most was the waste that resulted from the closure, and I am sure I saw very little of the overall infrastructure that was lost, and can only imagine what the folks leaving the City must have thought. I will let you know when I get things digitized. Thanks for posting the above information.
Indeed, getting older is hard on the memory. Sure, whenever you get things digitized I’ll put them up. I’m sure they’ll be an important milestone in the town’s history.
The waste was indeed truly incredible. The company (Eldorado) had been building at a furious pace right up until the announcement. They spared no expense at all – a few years ago, I corresponded with a guy who’d been building houses for them who said they’d used the best of everything. Then they’d just abandoned everything.
Some materials were recycled – a friend had a cedar paneled bathroom when I went up in ’96 – and a few houses were taken south and re-appeared in places like Fort MacMurray and even Saskatoon (not 100% sure about the last one). A few abandoned buildings were reclaimed. But most buildings were left to descend back into the earth or were burnt down and buried over as part of a general cleanup. The few remaining are very likely well beyond any kind of reclamation now.
The period you were there must have been a very difficult one for the town, so soon after the abrupt mine closure and with very few prospects on the horizon. I’d welcome any mementoes you’d have of that time.
Hi all, my name is Gerard O’Reilly, I was born in UC July 1st 1964. My mom and dad moved to UC from Ireland , my father Larry worked for Eldorado Mining & Refining Ltd, my moms name was Marian. My dads brother Enda also worked for the same company. They moved back to Ireland a few years after I was born.
Not sure if anyone remembers them ? Unfortunately mam and dad and my uncle Enda have all passed away in recent years.
Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I was born just a year after you, in 1965, though wouldn’t make it to UC until the following year (66). I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your parents and your uncle. I would not remember them of course, and my own parents memory of those times has become pretty hazy. If you have a Facebook account, you might try the ‘Uranium City Friends’ FB group, which has a pretty active and lively community, with many members of all ages. Some of the old-timers might remember your parents: https://www.facebook.com/groups/4168822363
I worked in Uranium City from 1966 to 1971 and I knew Enda and I met him again in Avoca Mines in County Wicklow. So I remember him – Brian Magennis.
I am very interested in your town and all the stories behind it! I have a few questions about Uranium town and I wonder if I could find some answers here.
Firstly, is the town can be reached by vehicles from outside since I cannot find any way to reach there by car on the Google map.
Secondly, Why did the mining company decide to close the mine in the 80s?
Thirdly, I do not know how the Canadian government decides whether a town would become a remote settlement. If Uranium city has become a remote town, how do the government ensure that the residents could have electricity or clean water to support their basic needs?
I really appreciate any comments and answers. Please forgive my poor English skill.
Thanks for your comment. Your English is fine. I have to write up a general history of Uranium City and put it on the site – I’m in the middle of a big site renovation but in the meantime I’ll try and answer your questions here.
Firstly, is the town can be reached by vehicles from outside since I cannot find any way to reach there by car on the Google map
– Uranium City cannot be reached by land except during the winter, when there is an ice road across Lake Athbasca. When the mine was still going, there was a major ice road, maintained by the government, from Bushell Bay across Lake Athabasca to the south shore, but now I believe it feeds from Fond Du Lac, crosses at the portage near the old Goldfields townsite, then across Beaverlodge Lake where it joins the highway to Uranium City itself. The ice road, then and now, is only open for a few weeks a year (usually late January into March) when the ice is thick enough to bear vehicles.
Otherwise, goods are barged or flown in.
The lack of a road link to the south is part of the town’s character, and a big reason why it emptied out so rapidly after the mine closed. It would be very expensive to boar a road through the bedrock around Lake Athbasca so for the time being, the town, and the towns around it north of the Big Lake, remain isolated from the south.
Secondly, Why did the mining company decide to close the mine in the 80s?
– that is a big unknown. Eldorado, which was then a crown corporation (ie owned by the government), along with the Saskatchewan government, poured in immense amounts of money into both the town and the mine in the years before the mine very abruptly closed. $100 million in total. They fully renovated the high school, skating and curling rinks, paved the mina roads, built entire neighborhoods (some of which would never be inhabited) of beautiful, cedar-paneled housing, poured some $20 million into a new ramping system at the mine (which was immense – with I believe four separate mineheads), a new head office. They encouraged townspeople to invest in local business. Then, on Dec 3rd, they announced they were leaving in six months.
There are a lot of theories as to the ‘why’ of this abrupt turnaround but I believe it had a lot to do with the economic circumstances of the time. Uranium ore prices had dropped rapidly during that period, and the ore at Eldorado was always relatively low-grade, and perhaps the company felt it couldn’t carry the mine at such low prices. The federal government had suffered a major defeat with its National Energy Policy (NEP), when oil prices plummeted, so perhaps they felt they had to shed an unprofitable and the town that went with it. Perhaps the authorities were becoming aware of long-term pollution issues – for most of Eldorado’s existence, pollution control and clean-up was non-existent.
Around that time, huge mines were opening up south of Lake Athabasca, with much richer ore than Eldorado (and much cheaper to mine, since these mines could be connected by a road). Eldorado would be sold off a couple of years later, and merged with SMDC, which had been owned by the Saskatchewan government, to become Cameco, which still manages some of the mines south of Lake Athabasca, and also contributes to the clean-up of the Eldorado mine, which continues to this day.
Thirdly, I do not know how the Canadian government decides whether a town would become a remote settlement. If Uranium city has become a remote town, how do the government ensure that the residents could have electricity or clean water to support their basic needs?
– I don’t know the process behind the former. Perhaps 20 years ago, there was some talk of the government cutting off the electricity but they decided against it. There HAS been some serious problems with clean water, but since I don’t live in Uranium City (and, actually, right now even Canada), I’m not sure of the details. Electricity is actually pretty cheap, since it comes from the nearby dam at I believe Churchill Falls, which supplies electricity to neighboring communities like Fond Du Lac and others.
There has been a great deal of exploration activity, as well as a steady stream of visitors in recent years, so I imagine this contributes to the government in wanting to keep the town supplied with basic necessities. You might want to write the town council in UC itself if you want more details on this question.
I hope these answer your questions. Feel free to write again.
I am looking to obtain names of physicians and nurses who would have worked in the Uranium City hospital between 1966 and 1968.
Thanks for your comment Well, I can give you the name of one nurse who worked at the UC Hospital during that period – my mother, whoe worked at the UC Hospital in the ’60s then again in the late ’70s. I’ll write you privately.
I was married to Dr John Sharpe and we went to uranium city in September 1967. He was a magnificent doctor managing all aspect of medicine and surgery. He worked in the clinic and did a lot of surgery delivering babies etc. He used to travel to Fond du Lac to the reservation looking after the local population.
My daughter was delivered by my husband a year later. It was a tough life we extremely interesting. He even did surgery on dogs in the morgue. I left in 1972 as my daughter needed educating in England, but John stayed on for a number of years
Thank you so much for commenting Fiona. I will provide you with my work email. If you would be interested in writing me privately it would be appreciated.
I was reading up on this (writing about UCity for a school project of mine) and I noticed you said that many of the new houses and apartments built during the 70s had won awards. I was just curious if you had a source on this, or knew which awards were won? Or honestly if there is just any other information/little tidbits of information you have I’d love to hear them.
I’ll have to remember where I first read about the awards. It was from a newspaper article that came out in the early ’80s, not long after the announcement. Let me look through my papers and see what I can find. I did correspond with someone in the early ’00s, who worked on these buildings in the mid to late ’70s. He said he’d never had a better job – no expense spared, best materials available etc. Then it was all shut up a couple of years later. Some condos in the so-called ‘New Town’ at the very end of town were finished just in time to be abandoned.
What other kind of information are you looking for?
Hi what happened to all the old vehicles in uranium city. I seen one old photo of an old Ford car
Most were likely driven out. When I was there, I saw a few around town – one old ’50s-era taxi in the bushes behind Nuclear Ave (why? No idea), an old Ford Falcon (I think) in an abandoned garage. A big pile of cars downtown, another at the bottom of Nuclear near the highway. Also, another junkyard on the road to Bushell Bay – only saw photos, didn’t see it personally. Some were used as filler for empty building foundations. My guess is the rest were salvaged in one way or another.
Hi, is anyone still operating this site?
Yes! In the middle of renovations. Have put up some new content recently, with more to come:
Why do you ask?
I Wes employed by Scintrex surveys and worked in UC in the early seventies stayed in the UC hotel.
Remember Gus Hawkins store what an interesting character
Thanks for your message. Yeah Gus was quite a guy. What was it like staying at the hotel? I only knew it as a kid, hanging out in the cafeteria.
I was the organist at the United church from 1977 to 1982. I took over from Merva Keller. I played for Gus Hawkins’ funeral. There weren’t many funerals with it being a young and transient population. I remember the minister –Frank Lough, reading a poem that Gus Hawker had written and had requested be read at his funeral. I seem to remember it wasn’t entirely of a positive nature!
Interesting about not many funerals. The graveyard is still there, fairly well-maintained. Not surprised the poem was of a somewhat salubrious nature! I was too young to have known Gus, but heard the stories of course. There’s a short tribute/history in this little booklet the last year students at Candu High put together in 1983: https://uraniumcity-history.com/memorabilia/uranium-city-history-booklet/
I think the United Church is still there, though taken over by an evangelical minister from the US who has been in UC since the ’90s (he and his group keep Beacon Bible Camp going as well). The Catholic Church is still there though hasn’t been used in awhile, sadly.
That’s interesting that there’s still an active church there. In 1980 or so we made a couple of stained glass windows for the United Church. I designed them and a couple in the congregation who were very accomplished with stained glass made them, with some help from congregational members now and then. The first one I had the children draw flowers and then there was the dove symbol from the United Church crest and rays of light. The second window was water of the lakes, then pine trees and a rainbow. The work was all voluntary and the cost of the materials from people giving memorial donations. The church did close at some point after the mine closed. The windows were moved to Saskatoon–St. Martin’s United Church. I have visited them there. So the church building maybe reopened at some point, though I think there was a small evangelical church there when I was there. I probably have some photos.
I see I used Hawkins and Hawker in my post. I checked and his name was definitely Hawker. You can find a video of him online if you Google Gus Hawker.
My Father Charlie somers owned the UC bus lines. I was born in the hospital 1959. I have many fond memories growing up in UC.
I wauld have ridden your Dad’s busses many times, going back and forth to Eldorado. I think my friend’s Dad drove one of the busses, though it might have been the crew bus for Eldorado. Thanks for writing in. When did you leave? What do you remember most about UC?