Cantung Minesite Archaeology Project

Naomi Smethurst (NWT Archaeologist’s Permit 2014-003)

At the request of the North American Tungsten Corporation, Kleanza Consulting Ltd. (Kleanza) conducted an archaeological assessment at the Cantung Minesite (Cantung) in June 2014. The assessment included a preliminary field reconnaissance (PFR) of a proposed tailings storage facility and road corridor extensions. The objective was to assess the overall archaeological potential of the project area, and determine the scope of future archaeological work. The PFR was planned in conjunction with the Nahanni Butte, and Dehcho First Nations.

The field crew consisted of Naomi Smethurst (Kleanza), and Jenny Lewis (Kleanza), Cantung employees, as well as experienced hunters Ernie Ceasar (Liard First Nation), and Frank Fairclough (Tahltan First Nation). At the time of survey, participants from the Nahanni Butte, and Dehcho First Nations were unavailable to join the crew. Mr. Ceasar and Mr. Fairclough were invaluable resources sharing their experience, traditional knowledge, and advice regarding cultural significance of the project area.

The PFR for the tailings storage facility and road corridor extensions took three days to complete. Particular attention was paid to the southwest portion of the proposed tailings storage facility as it is adjacent to the Flat River. A significant portion of the project area has been previously cleared of vegetation and the terrain has been levelled. Two historical era features were identified within and adjacent to the proposed tailings storage facility. Both features (described below) are thought to be associated with mining exploration activities and a general use of the area by residents of the Town of Tungsten. No new archaeological sites were identified during fieldwork.

The first historical era feature was a well-used game trail that was likely a hiking path for the residents of Tungsten. No trail markers (eg. blazed trees) were identified along this trail, however refuse along the trail indicated it was likely used during the latter half of the 20th century (1970’s and 1980’s) for recreational hiking activities.

The second historical era feature identified within the project area was a straight cutline located within the boundaries of the proposed tailings storage facility. The cutline consisted of a cleared 1.5 m wide section of forest. On either side of the cutline were blazed trees. Kleanza collected an increment core sample from one of the trees in an effort to date the construction of the line. The date of modification of the tree is no older than about 1961 and the cutline is likely associated with mining exploration (possibly seismic) activities. Though the cutline may have been made slightly over or up to 50 years ago, Kleanza believes that it is likely associated with mining activities of the 1960’s or 1970’s and does not meet all the criteria required to be designated as an archaeological site under the Northwest Territories Archaeological Site Regulations.

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