Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

The site of the Detour Gold mine project near Cochrane, Ont. (Moe Doiron/Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)
The site of the Detour Gold mine project near Cochrane, Ont. (Moe Doiron/Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)

Precious metals

The new Canadian gold rush Add to ...

The value of construction permits hit a record in 2011, reaching nearly $13-million, compared with about $4-million in 2010 and $2-million in 2009. This year, the figure is expected to be even higher.

The mayor believes the town’s population of 5,300 could increase as much as 50 per cent over the next two years. Strains tied to the economic surge have already surfaced: Rents and housing prices have soared, and bar fights have multiplied.

“You can’t wait until 2013 to build. You’ve got to prepare now,” Mr. Politis says. “People are looking at where they’re going to live and where they’re going to stay. We don’t want to lose those people. We want them here.”

But it's hard to tell how many of Detour's employees will make Cochrane their home once the mine starts operating next year. While the company will encourage its 500 permanent workers to consider settling in the town, many may choose to live in less-expensive northern communities or nowhere near Cochrane. Most shifts at the remote mine will be one week on, one week off.

Still, many in Cochrane are counting on big things.

The town’s tired-looking retail district is being made over. A women's clothing store has opened and one of the pharmacies is moving to a bigger location with double the space. A second taxi company has started operating and the new Ice Hut Bar and Grill, with a dance floor, big-screen TVs and sleek black stools, is busy at lunch and at nights.

A few blocks from the Ice Hut, lifelong Cochrane resident Lynne Cheff-Lawson has started a hair salon and a laundromat.

The nine-month-old laundromat offers self-serve machines and drop-off service. Business hasn’t been bad, but it hasn't been as busy as expected.

“Right now, they’re just transients,” Ms. Cheff-Lawson says of the project’s construction workers. “But I think when they start moving here and you get all these single men that haven’t washed their shorts ... on their own, they’ll be looking for me. I’ll wash their shorts.”

After making enough money in Alberta to pay off their student loans, the Ulvstals are in debt again, taking out a $12,000 line of credit to cover basic living expenses: food, gas and daycare. They want to buy their first house and Mr. Ulvstal wants to grow his graphic-design business, but neither is possible right now. A lot depends on whether Ms. Ulvstal can secure a job at Detour, where she’s applied but not been hired. She's driving a rock hauler nearly 100 km away at a mine in Kapuskasing for now, but has to pay for transportation and lodging, costs that Detour would cover, while providing better pay.

She plans to try Detour again, hoping a few months of experience will make the difference.

The Ulvstals will give the Cochrane gold rush one more year. Sitting at the kitchen table in her father-in-law’s house in Cochrane, Ms. Ulvstal says that “if I got on with Detour, then I think that would probably really solidify us staying here.”

--------------------------------------------

THE CANADIAN CONNECTION

--------------------------------------------

Many Canadian miners operate overseas, but there are a number whose promising, and sometimes only, asset is within Canada’s borders. This is particularly common with gold miners such as those listed below, which are ranked by market value.

Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd.

Market value: $6.3-billion

Canadian gold project(s): LaRonde and Lapa, Quebec; Meadowbank, Nunavut

Proven and probable reserves: 7.4 million ounces

New Gold Inc.

Market value: $5.3-billion

Canadian gold project(s): Blackwater and New Afton, British Columbia

Proven and probable reserves: To be determined

Osisko Mining Corp.

Market value: $4.8-billion

Canadian gold project(s): Canadian Malartic, Quebec; Hammond Reef, Ontario

Proven and probable reserves: 10.7 million ounces

Detour Gold Corp.

Market value: $2.7-billion

Canadian gold project(s): Detour Lake, Ontario

Proven and probable reserves: 15.6 million ounces

Pretium Resources Inc.

Market value: $1.5-billion

Canadian gold project(s): Brucejack and Snowfield, British Columbia

Proven and probable reserves: To be determined

Sabina Gold & Silver Corp.

Market value: $580-million

Canadian gold project(s): Back River, Nunavut

Proven and probable reserves: To be determined

Tim Kiladze

Single page

Follow on Twitter: @renatadaliesio

In the know

Most popular videos »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular