Gahcho Kue Project

Jean Bussey (NWT Archaeologist’s Permit 2014-004)

Points West Heritage Consulting Ltd. conducted archaeological investigations for De Beers Canada Inc. at Kennady Lake, the location of the proposed Gahcho Kué Mine. The project area is approximately 280 km northeast of Yellowknife and 140 km north of Lutselk’e. Jean Bussey directed the investigations under Class 2 Northwest Territories Archaeologist’s Permit 2014-004. She was assisted by Gabriella Prager and Carol Rushworth, of Points West, and Maurice Boucher and Roy Desjarlais, residents of the NWT.

One objective of the 2014 field investigation was to complete the recommendations provided in the 2012 Gahcho Kué Archaeological Management Plan, which identified the type and level of archaeological investigation required at sites to be affected by development. This document was prepared in consultation with the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre and indicated a need for further work at 13 of the 80 sites in the Kennady Lake area; all 13 are within the mine footprint. In 2013, the management objectives were achieved at 10 sites. In 2014, excavation was undertaken at three sites, KiNp-15, KiNp-27 and KiNp-35; all archaeological field requirements within the mine footprint have now been met. During the winter of 2014-2015, the collected archaeological material will be analyzed and interpreted.

The second objective involved the Mackay Lake to Kennady Lake winter access road. During the winter of 2013-2014 it was necessary to improve sections, which required portage revision, aggregate sources and a new camp. As a result, archaeological investigation was conducted in summer 2014, with 15 recorded sites revisited and 20 new sites discovered. As a protection measure, stakes were installed at five recorded and four new sites. The stakes were sprayed with fluorescent paint to make them more visible in winter. Monitoring of these stakes to ensure sites are not disturbed and to replace or repaint the markers as needed, will be undertaken. This technique has been successfully used along the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road since 2003.

Twelve new sites are located on a 2 km section of esker south of Portage 15. These sites are of interest because they contain a variety of lithic (stone) materials, including quartzite, shale and siltstone-like specimens, in addition to the commonly used quartz. Also found were two small white chert tools suggestive of the Arctic Small Tool tradition. The number of sites present on this landform and their potential to contribute substantially to the prehistory of the region, resulted in a recommendation that the area south of Portage 15 be avoided in future.

Five new sites are located on an esker south of Portage 19. For safety reasons, an alternate route is required at this portage and two options were examined. Field reconnaissance determined that Option A would impact three archaeological sites, including a large and potentially significant recorded site, KjNq-2. Option B can be constructed without affecting any archaeological sites by using a site-free portion of esker that is approximately 300 m wide. The area was intensively examined and painted stakes were installed to define the eastern and western boundaries of this site-free corridor.

One new site, KlNs-16 is located within 30 m of an existing portage and more detailed archaeological investigation is recommended for 2015; stakes were installed to protect the site during the winter of 2014-2015. The final two new sites are avoidable; one is located on a discontinuous esker southwest of the new Margaret Lake camp and the other on high ground overlooking Portage 10. All 15 of the previously recorded sites that were revisited are avoidable. The 2014 investigations have confirmed that high archaeological potential is exhibited in portions of this region and all activities that could disturb the surface should be preceded by archaeological assessment.

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