Cobalt

Cobalt

Cradle of the Demon Metals, Birth of a Mining Superpower

Written by: Angus, Charlie

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The world is desperate for cobalt. It drives the proliferation of digital and clean technologies. But this “demon metal” has a horrific present and a troubled history.

The modern search for cobalt has brought investors back to a small town in Northern Canada, a place called Cobalt. Like the demon metal, this town has a dark and turbulent history. 

The tale of the early-twentieth-century mining rush at Cobalt has been told as a settler’s adventure, but Indigenous people had already been trading in metals from the region for two thousand years. And the events that happened here — the theft of Indigenous lands, the exploitation of a multicultural workforce, and the destruction of the natural environment — established a template for resource extraction that has been exported around the world. 

Charlie Angus reframes the complex and intersectional history of Cobalt within a broader international frame — from the conquistadores to the Western gold rush to the struggles in the Democratic Republic of Congo today. He demonstrates how Cobalt set Canada on its path to become the world’s dominant mining superpower.

The world is desperate for cobalt. It drives the proliferation of digital and clean technologies. But this “demon metal” has a horrific present and a troubled history.

The modern search for cobalt has brought investors back to a small town in Northern Canada, a place called Cobalt. Like the demon metal, this town has a dark and turbulent history. 

The tale of the early-twentieth-century mining rush at Cobalt has been told as a settler’s adventure, but Indigenous people had already been trading in metals from the region for two thousand years. And the events that happened here — the theft of Indigenous lands, the exploitation of a multicultural workforce, and the destruction of the natural environment — established a template for resource extraction that has been exported around the world. 

Charlie Angus reframes the complex and intersectional history of Cobalt within a broader international frame — from the conquistadores to the Western gold rush to the struggles in the Democratic Republic of Congo today. He demonstrates how Cobalt set Canada on its path to become the world’s dominant mining superpower.

Published By House of Anansi Press Inc — Feb 1, 2022
Specifications 336 pages | 5.5 in x 8.5 in
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Excerpt
Written By

CHARLIE ANGUS has been the Member of Parliament for Timmins-James Bay since 2004. He is the author of eight books about the North, Indigenous issues, and mining culture, including the award-winning Children of the Broken Treaty. He is also the lead singer of the Juno-nominated alt country band Grievous Angels. Charlie and his wife, author Brit Griffin, raised their three daughters at an abandoned mine site in Cobalt, Ontario, that looks like a Crusader castle.

Written By

CHARLIE ANGUS has been the Member of Parliament for Timmins-James Bay since 2004. He is the author of eight books about the North, Indigenous issues, and mining culture, including the award-winning Children of the Broken Treaty. He is also the lead singer of the Juno-nominated alt country band Grievous Angels. Charlie and his wife, author Brit Griffin, raised their three daughters at an abandoned mine site in Cobalt, Ontario, that looks like a Crusader castle.

This immersive history includes a trenchant warning about the unknown costs of the race to a clean energy future.

” —Publishers Weekly

Charlie Angus passionately and comprehensively pulls apart the existing narrative about Northern Ontario by exploring the extraordinary history of an overlooked town … In deftly handled prose, Angus details the media manipulation, violence, and government collusion (or ineptitude) that would gradually turn mining corporations into superpowers that spin fictional stories of a ‘nicer’ frontier in Ontario’s north. In actuality, Cobalt suffered municipal dysfunction, disease, xenophobia, murder, and catastrophe, and ushered in an era where the land was transformed into a series of company towns in order to bolster economies in the south and grow a nation.

” —Quill & Quire

Cobalt is an epic story of a mostly forgotten town. From the silver screen to Silicon Valley, from the Guggenheims to the Montreal Canadiens, from the predatory capitalism of the Gilded Age to the Cold War to the globalized mining industry of the twenty-first century, the power unleashed in Cobalt more than a century ago continues to reverberate in Canada and the world. It is a cautionary tale of a land and economy based on resource extraction, and, as a northerner, I was at once elevated and infuriated by the events recounted so masterfully in this book. With Cobalt, Charlie Angus has hit paydirt.

” —James Daschuk, author of Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life

Fantastic! Gripping! A page-turner. In telling the story of Cobalt, Ontario, Charlie Angus has told the story of Canada: the rapacious search for easy wealth, the plunder of nature and Indigenous lands, the abuse of women and ethnic minorities, and the creation of a Canadian mining industry still leaving its terrible footprint in the Global South. But Cobalt is also the story of resistance and reconciliation; the birth of union power and the rights of working people; the collective fight for health care, education, and social security for all; and the pursuit of justice. The book is filled with great stories, larger-than-life characters, and rich history. I highly recommend it.

” —Maude Barlow, activist and author