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Description found in Archives
Place of creation
No place, unknown, or undetermined
ca. 12 000 maps
2,291 photographs ; b&w
147 photo negative ; b&w
10 photo negative ; colour
12 slides ; colour
44 audio cassettes (30 hrs).
[plus an additional ca. 132 m of unprocessed textual records at the accession level]
Added language of material: French
Scope and content
Fonds consists of records created and/or maintained by Eldorado Nuclear Limited and its predecessors. Cartographic material consists of maps, geological data and engineering plans pertaining to the Beaverlodge mining operation, and a geological interpretive model of the mine area. Fonds also consists of photographic material related to the Development of Radium and Uranium operations of the Eldorado Mining and Refining Ltd., Port Hope, Ont. and Port Radium, N.W.T.
Copyright belongs to the Crown. Credit Library and Archives Canada.
Cartographic material: Credit Library and Archives Canada.
Finding aids are available. See lower level descriptions and accession records. (Other)
Biography / Administrative history
Eldorado Gold Mines Limited was incorporated under provincial charter in Ontario in February 1926, by two brothers, Gilbert and Charles Labine. In 1930, while prospecting in the Great Bear Lake region, Gilbert Labine discovered pitchblende deposits containing uranium and radium. In those days, radium was the interesting product from an economic point of view, and uranium was only a byproduct.
In 1932, the company set up a radium refinery in Port Hope, Ontario, under the direction of Marcel Pochon, a student of Pierre Curie. The following year, the company began extraction at Port Radium on Great Bear Lake. The ore was crushed and shipped by water, air and land to Port Hope 6 000 km away. The 74 tonnes of ore extracted in 1933 gave a little more than 3 grams of radium that sold for 0 000 a gram at the time. In 1936, the Labine brothers bought a maritime transportation company, Northern Waterways Limited, which they rebaptized Northern Transportation Company Limited (NTCL). The NTCL transported freight and passengers between Waterways, Alberta, and the Mackenzie delta. In 1940, the Labine brothers had to close the mine at Port Radium because of falling radium prices and disorganized markets resulting from the war.
The discovery of uranium fission energy led to a race to develop atomic weapons and uranium acquired strategic importance, becoming highly sought after. In 1942, uranium prospecting, extraction and production were placed under government control and the Cabinet authorized the purchase of Eldorado shares. The federal government reserved all rights to radioactive substances contained in ore located on Crown land in the territories as well as British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In 1944 Eldorado and the NTCL were nationalized and placed under the responsibility of the Minister of Munitions and Supplies, C.D. Howe (Cabinet decree 535 of June 27, 1944). The company, which had been known as Eldorado Mining and Refining Limited since 1943, became Eldorado Mining and Refining (1944) Limited. It reverted to Eldorado Mining and Refining Limited in 1952.
Shortly after nationalization, the Minister became aware of serious management problems at Eldorado. In 1945, he asked J. Grant Glassco to undertake an inquiry into all aspects of management at Eldorado (decree 3329 of May 7, 1945). The inquiry took two years and led to fraud charges against Marcel Pochon and Boris Pregel, in charge of sales abroad. The case was settled out of court. Also during this period, the company's founding directors, Gilbert and Charles Labine, retired. William J. Bennett, C.D. Howe's assistant, became president of the NTCL in 1946 and president of Eldorado in 1947. Company headquarters were moved from Port Hope to Ottawa.
Increased interest in uranium, stimulated by the Second World War and then by the Cold War and the nuclear arms race, considerably improved the financial health of Eldorado, which entered its most prosperous period. In 1942, the company reopened the Port Radium mine and signed contracts to supply uranium to the US army and, after the war, to the US Atomic Energy Commission. In 1949, Eldorado became the only agent in Canada authorized to buy uranium ore and uranium concentrate. Intensified prospecting efforts by Eldorado led to the discovery in 1946 of new pitchblende deposits near Lake Athabaska in Saskatchewan; production at the Beaverlodge mine, started in 1952, led to the birth of Uranium City. The Port Hope facilities were converted to a uranium refinery. At Port Radium, operations were begun to extract uranium from the slag resulting from radium extraction. Concurrently, Eldorado worked actively with the Directorate of Mines of the Department of Mines and Resources to increase the efficiency of uranium production. Government control over the uranium market was relaxed somewhat: in 1958 private producers were allowed to negotiate contracts for the sale of 2 500 pounds of uranium or less directly with "friendly" nations. In 1959 uranium was the principal mineral export of Canada, and fourth in line among natural resource exports.
Expanded operations at Eldorado led to a more diversified structure: the company opened an Exploration Division in 1943, an Aviation Division the following year and, in 1946, a Commercial Products Division for the processing and disposal of radium. This division was transferred to Atomic Energy Canada Limited in 1952, where its mandate was to develop radiation equipment for medical purposes and to market isotopes. In 1953 the Aviation Division became a separate company, Eldorado Aviation Limited. The new company, which was set up to meet Air Transportation Safety Board standards, was wholly owned by Eldorado. The research project being carried out by the Directorate of Mines became the Research and Development Division at Eldorado in 1953.
The period of prosperity ended in 1959, when the US government announced that it would not renew uranium purchase contracts beyond 1962. The signing of a contract with Great Britain and the Canadian government's decision to stockpile uranium merely attenuated the impact of the crisis. The number of Eldorado employees went from 1 557 in 1957 to 783 in 1965. In 1968 the name of the company was changed to Eldorado Nuclear Limited / Eldorado Nucléaire Limitée, and its mandate was expanded to include other minerals besides uranium and radium.
In the 1970s, the uranium market perked up somewhat with the development of nuclear power stations. In 1974 the Canadian government raised the moratorium it had imposed on prospecting for uranium. Eldorado employees numbered 1 288 in 1977. In 1982 Eldorado acquired Gulf Minerals Canada Limited (GMCL) and Uranerz. These two companies worked together to develop the mine sites at Rabbit Lake, Saskatchewan. The production of uranium at Rabbit Lake, started in 1975, reached 13.5% of the total Canadian production at the end of the 1970s. In contrast, the Beaverlodge mine was closed permanently in 1982. And the NTCL was transferred to the Department of Transport in 1975.
In 1983 Eldorado became a subsidiary of the Canadian Investment Development Corporation (CIDC), which was created in 1982 to manage the assets of Crown Corporations due to be privatized. In 1988, the Act respecting the reorganization and disposal of Eldorado Nuclear Limited / Eldorado Nucléaire Limitée (35-36-37 Eliz. II, chap. 41) amalgamated Eldorado Nuclear with the Saskatchewan Mining Development Corporation to form the Canadian Mining and Energy Company (CAMECO), still owned by CIDC. Around the same time, CIDC created another subsidiary, Canada Eldor, for the purpose of following up on the affairs of Eldorado (pensions, documents, etc). Between 1988 and 1995, the CIDC sold all the shares it held in CAMECO.
While it was a Crown Corporation, Eldorado successively reported to the Minister of Munitions and Supplies (1944-1946), the Minister of Reconstruction and Supplies (1946-1951), the Minister of Defence Production (1951-1955), the Minister of Trade (1955-1965), the Minister of Mines and Technical Surveys (1965-1966), the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources (1966-1983), and then to the CIDC. From 1965 on, the NTCL and Eldorado reported to different ministers. The NTCL reported to the Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources (1965-1966), the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (1966-1975), and then the Minister of Transport.
Successive presidents of Eldorado have been the following: A.E. Hall (1926), Charles and Gilbert Labine, alternately (1926-1947), William J. Bennett (1947-1958), Roy Henry (1958), William Gilchrist (1958-1974), Nicholas Ediger (1974-1987) and George Bonar (from 1987 on).
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