The community of Déline near Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories, where the indigenous Dene people were affected by uranium mining. The ore was transported from the Eldorado mine to the Manhattan Project, contributing to the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Decades later, the truth about the ore’s dangers emerged, revealing connections to illness and death in the community, with a subsequent delegation of Dene offering an apology to the bomb survivors in Japan. Despite some remediation efforts, the legacy of the mining operation continues to affect the community, even as potential new mining projects emerge.
- Indigenous Insight and Impact: An indigenous elder once prophesized the danger of the land; decades later, the Dene community near Great Bear Lake suffered significant illness and death from cancer after handling uranium sacks.
- Canada’s Role in WWII: Few Canadians knew that uranium ore from Great Bear Lake was used to develop the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, demonstrating Canada’s direct involvement in one of history’s most destructive acts of war.
- Realization of the Danger: Only in the 1990s did the Dene understand the full implications of the uranium taken from their land, leading to a formal apology to the bomb survivors in Japan and an ongoing investigation into the health and environmental impacts of the mining.
- Critical Reports and Ongoing Controversy: Various reports were written about the mining’s effects, including a comprehensive 2005 report with 26 recommendations. Criticism surrounds some conclusions, particularly regarding the linking of cancers to mining. Cleanup efforts are underway, but concerns remain.
- Future of Mining and Indigenous Stewardship: Mining exploration and potential recommencement continue to be controversial, balanced against the need for jobs. The Sahtúgot’ine (Bear Lake people) are pioneering land stewardship initiatives, displaying an active role in environmental management and the area’s future.