Nechalacho 2011 Archaeological Investigations

Gabriella Prager (NWT Archaeologist’s Permit 2011-007)

The Nechalacho Rare Earth Metals Project is located on the north side of the east arm of Great Slave Lake, approximately 95 km southeast of Yellowknife. The mine development is focused around Thor Lake, about 4 km due north of Great Slave Lake. The Points West Heritage Consulting Ltd. archaeological team consisted of Gabriella Prager (Project Director), Carol Rushworth of Points West, and a local person from each of the three closest communities. These people were Peter Sangris from Dettah, Gabriel Enzoe from Lutselke and Lloyd Norn from Deninu Kue (Fort Resolution).

Archaeological investigations were conducted in August of 2011 under a Class 2 permit. The archaeological field work consisted of pedestrian surveys of the proposed mine site and associated developments, principally, the plant site, tailings containment facility, airstrip, dock and laydown areas at Great Slave Lake, and various roads.

During this field project, six archaeological sites were found, all along the north sides of two small lakes associated with proposed tailings containment northeast of the mine site. These sites are small, comprising one or two stone circles that were probably tent rings, hearths and a rock structure identified by our local crew members as a marten trap. The small sizes of the circles suggest that they probably represent one night stops by a lone traveller. These sites are very interesting in terms of providing information about past people’s travel routes and regional use patterns. Their presence suggests that interior parts of the study area were used more than might have been expected.

Three sites found during the original 1988 archaeological survey of the Thor Lake project were revisited. One is the existing exploration camp, one was a small quartz scatter and the third was represented by three quartz tool fragments found on different beach ridges on Great Slave Lake. Although no additional artifacts were found this year at the latter site, it is the only one that likely requires some further work. Since it is close to the proposed dock and associated laydown areas, the site boundaries need to be defined so that impacts can be avoided if possible. Further detailed recording and investigations will be completed at all the newly recorded sites.

(Edited by Shelley Crouch, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre)