Gunnar Reclamation Woes

Gunnar’s reclamation woes means that I focus a lot of attention on its current state.  When I lived in Gunnar Mines in the 1950s and ’60s on the banks of St. Mary’s Channel (off Lake Athabasca by a pinch), it was a halcyon world. Forty years later, I learned that it – my home town – was a contaminated site.

Gunnar reclamation woes
Gunnar a ‘protected place’ under the Atomic Energy Control Act.

The objective of the Gunnar reclamation is to eliminate or reduce human and ecological impact so that traditional use of resources next to the site can continue safely.

Full disclosure

Full disclosure: I earned my living as a mining and securities lawyer. Second full disclosure: mining makes this world go round. Try to think of one thing you possess or do that is not connected to mining. Everything is made with, made of, transported by or otherwise involves minerals. And no mining occurs without some impact on the earth. Unless we go back to the stone age, we are going to mine.

I wrote Sun Dogs and Yellowcake to celebrate the magical life that most people enjoyed in Gunnar.  But I knew I could not write it without discussing the aftermath of the uranium mining conducted there.

The facts

Here are the bare facts. The mining was conducted in great haste and under  considerable secrecy. The federal government promoted the mining in order to supply the United States with uranium during the Cold War. Northern Saskatchewan was wilderness and Canada had a lot of wilderness – what did a mine and its residue matter in such a remote area? No significant environmental rules governed the mine’s operation or closing save one decision regarding the open pit which did more harm than good.

At closing, the mine moved out or sold only some houses, machinery, the Johnny B tug and barges, and the DC-3 plane. Subsequent visitors found coffee cups left on tables, clothing in drawers, personnel information in office cabinets. Mine buildings, machinery, the school, recreation centre and hospital remained to slowly deteriorate over the years. The headframe stood as monument to the town until demolished in 2011.

In the early 2000s, Saskatchewan undertook the reclamation of the site as the company that owned the mine ceased to exist decades prior. Saskatchewan is now suing the federal government for not paying its share of costs. The original agreement between them contemplated costs of just under $25 million. Costs are now estimated at $280 million.

Gunnar reclamation woes

The site will never be perfect but the reclamation can achieve its objective and reasonable success. Why can’t they just get it done? Here is my interview on the John Gormley Live show regarding this.

Mining History convention, Fairbanks Alaska

On June 21, I am so pleased to have been asked to give a talk about Canada’s history of uranium mining to the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame Foundation museum in Fairbanks.

This will be my first trip to Alaska where I will be attending the Mining History convention and visiting an old school friend from Gunnar again – after many (emphasis on many) years.

Stay tuned for more details on the speaking engagement.

Presentation: Scandinavian contribution to early Canadian mining

Scandinavian contribution to early Canadian mining

Patricia will give a lunchtime speech at the Association for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies Conference (AASSC) on May 30, 2017. Her talk will centre on the contribution of Scandinavians to the discovery and development of mines in western Canada from the 1930s through the 1950s. In particular, she will draw on research that she conducted while writing her book Sun Dogs and Yellowcake, a book that weaves personal stories of people in an isolated northern mining town into the history of Canada’s production of uranium for World War II and the Cold War.

The AASSC Conference will be held from May 28 to 31, 2017 at Congress 2017, Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario

Please check back on this site for information regarding the time and place and other details regarding Patricia’s talk.

Don’s tenthouse in background. Photo courtesy Ollie Sandberg

Sun Dogs and Yellowcake wins 2nd International award

Sun Dogs has just won its second international award – it is winner of the International Book Award in the ‘History: General’ category.

My book tells the story of a small uranium mining town in northern Canada, set against the backdrop of the Cold War. I am so pleased that it has received this recognition. Not only does the book reveal history which is long forgotten but the people in Gunnar Mines, Saskatchewan share their lives, laughs, triumphs, and tragedies in this portrait of 1950s Canada. It’s the book about a little town that could and did defy its label as a regional story because it touches everyone who reads it.

Jeffrey Keen, President & CEO of American Book Fest which administers the competition, says of the awards, “The 2017 results represent a phenomenal mix of books from a wide array of publishers throughout the world…. IBA’s success begins with the enthusiastic participation of authors and publishers and continues with our distinguished panel of industry judges who bring to the table their extensive editorial, PR, marketing, and design expertise.”
American Book Fest covers books from all sections of the publishing industry—mainstream, independent, & self-published.
…..

IPPY Award

For information about the first award, see the posting on this site about the International Publishers Award (IPPY)  which was also for history.

Books & Company, signing in Prince George

Signing copies of Sun Dogs and Yellowcake at Books & Company in Prince George, May 12

Looking forward to signing copies of Sun Dogs and Yellowcake at Books & Company in Prince George – the place where people who love books gather.

The date is Friday, May 12th (time will be provided later). A chance to perhaps meet some old school chums from junior and secondary school and then spend Mother’s Day with my mom.

IPPY Award recognizes Sun Dogs!

IPPY award winners announced.

So much of the credit for this book goes to the many former Gunnar residents who spent hours on the phone and on email with me – and sometimes in person – sharing their personal stories about life in a small mining town in northern Canada in the 1950s and 60s. Without them, this story would not have happened. With them, a part of Canada’s history was brought to life. I am so very pleased to announce that with their efforts and support Sun Dogs and Yellowcake has won an IPPY award.

I am grateful to all. Names such as raconteur banker Bill Shurniak, favourite teacher Phyl Cameron, Joan Buck who related her love story and Gary Ciochetti who did the same, Terry Schorn who continues to be a big Sun Dogs’ booster and George Imeson who was lucky to make it to another movie. Kids like the Irwins, Laroques, Ian Cosgrove, Ken Hoddinott, the McFaddens and others who had the time of their life and proved kids were lucky to survive. Schleiffer, Bengts and Georgijevic – the names of post-war immigrants. The Majeaus, Raineys and O’Neills who still make me laugh when I read their stories. As always, my mother Barbara Sandberg whose stories and memory made this book possible. Continue reading “IPPY Award recognizes Sun Dogs!”

Discussion and Reading, White Rock Library

Join Patricia and other authors for a reading and discussion of their books.

Join Patricia and other authors in the White Rock Library for an afternoon of reading and discussion of the books they have written. Questions are welcome and attendees will have the opportunity to talk to the authors after the presentations.

Patricia will talk about her book Sun Dogs and Yellowcake, a book that weaves personal stories of people in an isolated northern mining town into the history of Canada’s production of uranium for World War II and the Cold War.

Dressed in our Sunday best. Copyright Sandberg family

New Voices Reading, Vancouver Public Library

Join Patricia and other authors for a reading and discussion of their books at Vancouver Public Library.

Join Patricia and other authors -Jerome Baco, Carson Du, Patricia Donahue and Rena Graham – in the Vancouver Public Library for a fun evening of reading and discussion of the books they have written.

Patricia will talk about her book Sun Dogs and Yellowcake, a book that weaves personal stories of people in an isolated northern mining town into the history of Canada’s production of uranium for World War II and the Cold War.

Questions are welcome and attendees will have the opportunity to talk to the authors after the presentations. The address is 350 W. Georgia St. and the presentations will be in the Alma VanDusen & Peter Kaye Room on the Lower Level.

Trespassers may be prosecuted

Ormsby Review Sun Dogs and Yellowcake

The car sits submerged for months in the ice, held in place with a tripod and chains

So thrilled to have received this super positive review of Sun Dogs and Yellowcake by BC BookLook‘s Ormsby Review!

Some quotes:

  • You’ve likely never heard of it, but maybe you should have.
  • It’s one of those independently-published books that won’t sell a ton of copies, and yet a strong argument can be made that its appearance is vitally important. It recognizes an epoch of Canadian history that would otherwise have been buried–literally.
  • Not many books get written about the Cold War era of instant towns in isolated places…. it is a scarce research pool into which one dives in search of on-the-ground remembrances, analysis, history, or celebration. Herein lies a major value of this book: it provides a singular document telling, largely in the voices of those who were there, of a place and time unlikely to be retold, repeated anywhere else, or revived once forgotten.
  • Patricia Sandberg deserves a great [deal] of credit for resurrecting Gunnar Mines with a very readable, thorough and–best of all–memorable book.

Please check out the full version here and let me know what you think!

The Ormsby Review is a journal of serious non-fiction. BC BookLook states that its internet presence is to provide as much useful information as possible, about as many B.C. books and authors as possible, to as many people as possible, on a daily basis, via the internet.

The Ormsby Review recognizes excellence in writing and story-telling by independent authors. It is an honour to have received this recognition of the value of Sun Dogs, a book that resurrects the uranium mining town of Gunnar, celebrates miners and northern pioneers, and puts it all into the context of the Cold War and the Arms Race.

Nesbitt-LaBine Uranium Mines

Trespassers may be prosecuted

In the early 1950s, uranium mining was a highly secretive operation and the warning sign in the above photo warns prospective visitors.

The Nesbitt-LaBine ore body, discovered in 1950, was a hope and a promise that did not last. Investor interest was high as Gilbert LaBine, who had made Canada’s first discovery of uranium on Great Bear Lake, was a major owner. His partner in the venture was Johnnie Nesbitt, a daring and accomplished bush pilot. The mine was nestled beside Eagle Lake near Uranium City, in the famed Beaverlodge District at Lake Athabasca.

As he had done at the Port Radium, Beresford Lake and Long Lake mines run by Gilbert and Charles LaBine, my grandfather was overseeing the construction and my father working as part of the crew. In December 1951, my mother took me, at the tender age of three months, from a warm house in southern Saskatchewan to join my father where we would all live in a tent house.

My uncle Don Sandberg with Prince. Don’s tent house in background. Photo courtesy Ollie Sandberg

Forecasts for a home-run were high but neither the Eagle Lake deposit nor other small deposits found by Nesbitt-LaBine yielded much ore and the mine closed in 1956. The partnership between LaBine and Nesbitt would fizzle even earlier, over a controversy involving a new prospect on the Crackingstone Peninsula. A controversy? Of course – it was a mining deal. The new prospect? Gunnar Mines.