Nechalacho 2012 Archaeological Investigations

Gabriella Prager (NWT Archaeologist’s Permit 2012-005)

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, with a dock on the GSL shore; a marshalling yard is proposed at Pine Point on the south side of Great Slave Lake. The 2012 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: they were Fred Sangris from Dettah, Gabriel Enzoe from Lutselke and Victor Mandeville from Deninu Kue (Fort Resolution). For the Pine Point work, Wilfred Beaulieu represented the Fort Resolution Metis Council.

The 2012 archaeological inventory survey of the mine area covered gaps that remained after our initial 2011 surveys, that is, where project components were revised or boundaries were not accurately identifiable. All mine related facilities proposed on the north side of Great Slave Lake as well as the proposed marshalling yard at Pine Point were examined by pedestrian transects sufficient to provide good visual coverage and subsurface testing in selected areas. No archaeological remains was found in the Pine Point marshalling area due to extensive past disturbance and ongoing use, but an interesting structure of driftwood logs was found on the shore just outside the identified yard that could have been a hunting blind.

Seven previously recorded sites (KaPb-4, KaPb-6 to KaPb-11, inclusive) in the north project area were subjected to systematic data recovery comprising detailed plan mapping, careful surface inspection of surrounding area, extensive photography, and subsurface testing of at least two tests units at each site where there was soil. No artifacts or additional features were uncovered during these mitigation actions. Because several finished tools had been found at KaPb-4 in 1988, this year we conducted very careful surface inspection of the beach and all surface exposures, and extensive shovel testing. Although no additional artifacts were found, this is a very large site area and the vegetation is thick; therefore, artifacts could still be present.

Two new sites were recorded at the Great Slave Lake north shore. One is a historic tipi style camp site that contains several prepared poles, a concentration of cut spruce boughs, and a hearth. It is adjacent to a fairly fresh looking skid trail that extends from the lakeshore to the road. This site was thoroughly recorded and three units were excavated. Nothing was found in the units except a metal snap which may be intrusive because it looks quite new.

The second site contains stone features situated on the southwest end of the lake point a short distance south of the existing road. These features consist of a rock pile that may have been used as a cache, a propped large, flat rock that could represent a possible trap or a platform for some purpose such as a table, and a hearth, all on bare bedrock. The site terrain and features were mapped to scale and extensively photographed. All known sites are now considered fully recorded.

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