Tungsten, Northwest Territories

Tungsten, Northwest Territories

The townsite of Tungsten is located at Cantung Mine in the Northwest Territories. It is accessible from Watson Lake, Yukon. Tungsten was built in 1961 and the tungsten mine went into operation in 1962 as a large open pit mine high in the Mackenzie Mountains. It originally consisted of several small bungalow houses. Total population of Cantung during the 1960s was approximately 120 persons, including about 27 families. In 1968 families were housed in 28 units (single and duplex housing).

Because of extremely good wages and benefits, turnover rates for the entire operation were quite low. Families benefited from the K-8 Grade school, and later a K-9 system. During the summer months, because of the open pit operation, manpower and townsite population grew to 160. In the mid 1970s, the townsite expanded to include a trailer court, three condominiums, bunkhouse trailers, and in 1982, a modern recreation complex. The town and mine was serviced with an all-weather road to Watson Lake and a 3700’ x 100’ airstrip. A new 80-man bunkhouse was built in 1983. In 1979 it was estimated that there were 506 people living at Tungsten, 200 of which were employees. There were 450 residents of Tungsten in 1982. About 100 children were enrolled in the school in 1982. The community also had a public telephone exchange operated by Northwestel, area code 403, prefix 777. By 1986, it was estimated that only 280 people were living at Tungsten. The Cantung Mine closed in May 1986, and the townsite was closed. A year or two later, the telephone exchange, with only a handful of active lines on obsolescent electromechanical equipment, was shut down.

Although the mine reopened in 2002, the nature of the mine has changed so that there is no longer an operating townsite with families. The company has apparently demolished many of the old houses. The mine closed again in 2003. Following an investment by the Kaska Dena Council in the Yukon in December 2004 the mine was reopened in 2005.

The community has the distinction of being the only place in the Northwest Territories that is on Pacific Time rather than Mountain Time.

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