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Towns prepare for surge of mine workers

December 1, 2010
by Adelle Larmour
In: News with 0 Comments

Kirkland Lake will need 100 new homes every year for the next six years and gold is the reason why. Prices exceeding $1,300 an ounce have led to Kirkland Lake Gold’s mine expansion and increasing workforce, as well as the construction of two new mines by Northgate Minerals and Detour Gold Corp.

Existing mines  – Brigus Gold Corp. and St. Andrew Goldfields Ltd. – are also increasing their output. Meanwhile, Armistice Resources, located 40 kilometres east of Kirkland Lake, is in advanced exploration and Kirkland Lake’s Queenston Mining Inc. is spending $15 million on exploration as it advances four projects toward the pre-feasibility stage over the next two years.The towns of Kirkland Lake, Matachewan and Cochrane are preparing to host a surge of miners and related workers who will be moving into the region over the next few years. Even Temiskaming Shores is seeing ripple effects in commercial, retail and business services.

Kirkland Lake

A September 2010 housing study for Kirkland Lake (population 10,000) indicated the town would need 100 new homes every year for the next six years in order to meet the needs of incoming workers.

“We’d be happy if we could get 200 or 300 homes,” said Wilf Hass, Kirkland Lake’s economic development officer.

The demand is exceeding available housing. As of October 27, sixty-five residential permits valued at almost $1.5 million were issued.  Kirkland Lake Gold’s forgivable relocation loan for employees is also enticing many newcomers to settle in the area.

“We spent $500,000 preparing subdivisions in June and everything was sold in September,” Hass said. “If a house comes on the market right now…it is usually bought before it is advertised. There are no homes or apartments available. Everything is maxed out.”

In response to this demand, the town has applied to senior levels of government for assistance in infrastructure funding. In the meantime, council struck a deal with Sudbury homebuilder Dalron, which purchased and began construction on 27 lots.

Kirkland Lake’s water system was upgraded about 10 years ago and construction of a new $32-million wastewater treatment facility is underway. Hass said the town has the capacity, but all these new residential developments coming on line will mean municipal water and sewer services need to be extended, presenting financial challenges.

On the heels of the housing boom, commercial and business startups are anticipated to increase in the next two to three years. Although the community has food and clothing stores, other than an aging Canadian Tire store, there are no large commercial or retail businesses. Thus, the community experiences a “big outflow of spending dollars” with weekend shoppers seeking deals in Temiskaming Shores, Rouyn-Noranda and Timmins, said Hass.

Temiskaming Shores

Temiskaming Shores has seen a surge of spending on commercial and institutional construction, including a $10-million expansion by Walmart, a new Staples office supply store, a $9-million, 69-room Holiday Inn Express, and a Toyota dealership.


The community of Matachewan is experiencing a housing shortage and is anticipating a construction surge within the next six to 12 months as Northgate Minerals moves toward production at its Young-Davidson Mine.

“Vacancy rates are zero and places for sale or rent are zero, but local entrepreneurs are stepping up and property developers are coming into town looking to address those needs,” said Andrew Van Oosten, the town’s chief administrative officer.

The community anticipates 65 new houses being built, said VanOosten. For a town with a population of 450 and only 275 houses, this is a considerable amount of construction activity.

Infrastructure stimulus money has helped upgrade municipal facilities and expand the water distribution system.

An eight-acre industrial lot and a 10-acre commercial park are available.


Further north along Highway 11, the Town of Cochrane is beginning to see more activity.

The mill town of 5,400 is positioning itself as the “stepping off” point for the Detour Lake gold mine, 180 kilometres to the north. Detour Gold has opened an office in the community and Town officials have received inquiries from residential, commercial and industrial developers, some of them mining related.

The town has 180-acres of industrial space in two parks along Highway 11.

Economic development officer Terry Vachon said the town is hoping to get around 250 to 350 new homes built in the next five years. “We’re promoting the community as a safe, small-town community with a lot to offer.”

Four new doctors moved into town this year, and the Niska Career Academy was set up this past spring to help train First Nations people interested in pursuing careers in the mining industry.


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