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Cominco's Polaris Mine

When we think about old lost mines our thoughts and ideas tend to gravitate toward mines that were around in the last century. Old wild west type mines of Nevada or Arizona or BC. Those sort of mines. We don't usally think about mines that were found and worked in the last 50 years or so but this story is about just one of those mines. And this mine had some very different aspects to it as you will see.

It was in 1964 that Cominco bought out some mineral claims in the high Canadain arctic from a company called Bankaro Mines. When I say high arctic, I really do mean high arctic. These claims and where the mine was build was 700 miles north of the arctic circle on a barren island surrounded by ice called Little Cornwallis Island. These mineral claims contained about 23 million tons of high grade zinc ore and so for the next 10 or so years the company was negotiating with the Canadian government to be able to build this mine.

By 1979 the project was approved and the government of Canada even offered services of one of it's arctic ice breakers to be made available for ships to be able to come in the short summer months and be able to load out ore. The entire complex of the above ground buildings, staff housing, mill and power house were all built in Quebec and then barged almost 4000 miles through the inside passage where they were off loaded and assembled. In 1981 the mine went into production and mining started. The mine had a storage shed built to store the concentrates over the long winter months. This storage shed was over 700 feet long. There were about 250 workers in the mine. There was no town build like so many of the old mines we read about. The nearst town was Resolute which was about 60 miles away but there were no roads. Workers had to be flown in into the mine site where they would work a shift and then fly home while another crew was flown in.

The mines closed down in 2002 and a complete reclaimaton of the area was completed two years after that. The mine had produced 21 million tons of zinc lead ore which had a value of over 15 billon dollars. Today there is no sign left that a huge mine and mill had been on this area. To this date no other mine has ever been the same latitude north as the Polaris Mine.

Polaris while in operation

Polaris mine site today