Boom Town Blues: Elliot Lake-Collapse and Revival in a Single Industry Community


346 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography
ISBN 1-55002-291-1
DDC 971.3'132





Edited by Anne-Marie Mawhiney and Jane Pitblado
Reviewed by John R. Abbott

John Abbott is a professor of history at Laurentian University’s Algoma University College. He is the co-author of The Border at Sault Ste Marie and The History of Fort St. Joseph.


The near-death and partial resuscitation of Elliot Lake is the subject
of this collection of essays. The erstwhile uranium mining community,
situated in northeastern Ontario, is now being marketed as a retirement
community where surplus housing may be purchased at attractive prices.

Elliot Lake suffered its first reversal of fortune in 1959, when the
Pentagon decided not to renew its contract with community’s mining
companies. Elliot Lake’s population, which topped out at nearly 25,000
by 1959, had declined to some 6600 souls by 1965. However, the
increasing demands of the Ontario nuclear power industry and a
sweetheart, long-term contract with Ontario Hydro, the province’s
public power monolith, drove the population back up to 18,000 by the
mid–1980s. By 1992, Ontario Hydro, having realized the folly of paying
a premium price for Elliot Lake’s uranium, had terminated its
contracts. Elliot Lake’s unemployment rate stood at 60 percent in
1991; the exodus had begun in earnest, and a small, isolated city
blessed (or cursed) with a superb stock of modern housing contemplated a
legacy of mining wastes and sought alternative forms of economic

This clinical study, which will appeal mainly to social scientists, has
much to say about the dynamics of angst (now largely a secular activity
that supports an entire industry stocked with facilitators of every
kind). The challenges are examined from gender, retraining, job search,
union, fiscal, financial, welfare, demographic, commercial,
professional, educational, and environmental perspectives; absent is any
systematic reference to the role of religion in the healing process.


“Boom Town Blues: Elliot Lake-Collapse and Revival in a Single Industry Community,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024,