Rankin Inlet History

The first buildings at Rankin Inlet were those at the North Rankin Nickel Mine, which operated from 1957 to 1962 and employed many Inuit from the region, causing many families to camp near the minesite. When the mine closed, it left a small townsite, diesel generating plant and part of the underground utilidor (utility services corridor) system still in use today.

Traditionally, Inuit did not live in communities but traveled widely to different hunting and fishing spots. They fished for Arctic char and hunted caribou and geese in fall and spring at the mouth of Iqalugaarjuk (Meliadine River). Some occasionally worked for whaling ships in Hudson Bay.

During the 1950s, the caribou population west of Hudson Bay changed its migration patterns. Inuit hunted at traditional crossing places, and, when the caribou did not come to those exact places, many people starved. The Government of Canada moved people from their hunting areas to places where services could be provided, including rations. One of these places was Itivia, about one km from the minesite and current community. Here, people lived in canvas or caribou skin tents, and some small houses.

In the 1970s, the government of the Northwest Territories moved its administration offices from Churchill to Rankin Inlet. Rankin Inlet developed into quite an entrepreneurial center with a number of private businesses, many owned by local Inuit. With a population of about 2500, Rankin is the administrative, transportation, and medical services center for the Kivalliq Region today. Rankin Inlet boasts the first birthing center in Nunavut, and a new Health Centre will serve as a small hospital for the region.

History of Mining

In the 1950s nickel deposits were discovered on the shores of Rankin Inlet. The Korean War had caused the world price of nickel to rise sharply, and this mine shipped its first ore in 1957. Local Inuit made up 70% of the workforce for the North Rankin Nickel Mine, and were the first professional miners to work in Nunavut. They and their families are justifiably proud of their part in Canada's mining history. The headframe was located near the current power plant. It became a symbol of Rankin Inlet, and still adorns the Hamlet logo. The old headframe burned down in the late 1970s, but the remains of some of the old mills are still left.

Mining is still a prospect for Rankin Inlet. Only 16 km from Rankin, the Meliadine West gold project is one of the largest undeveloped gold deposits in Canada. Started by WMC International Ltd., it is a mature exploration project now owned by Cumberland Resources and Comaplex Minerals. Exploration continues and there is hope that it may be developed into a mine. In addition, there is very active exploration for diamond bearing deposits being carried out north of Rankin.