Saskatchewan has a wealth of mineral resources and ranks fourth in Canada in terms of the value of mineral production. Saskatchewan's mining history dates back to the mid-19th century, the same era when the homesteaders were arriving.
In 1857 the Palliser Expedition documented the presence of coal seams in the Estevan area, and in 1859 gold was discovered in the North Saskatchewan River by prospectors en route to the Cariboo gold rush in central British Columbia. Placer gold was extracted from the North Saskatchewan River between 1861 and 1918 using dredges and sluice boxes. Commercial coal production from underground operations in the Estevan area began in 1880. Other key events in Saskatchewan's mining history include: the first oil well, drilled at Fort Pelly in 1874; the first producing gas well, drilled at Belle Plaine in 1883; the earliest recorded clay production in 1886; the first significant gold discovery, made in 1913 at Amisk Lake - the staking rush that followed led to the discovery in 1915 of massive copper/zinc deposits straddling the border in the Flin Flon area, which are still being mined; the first attempts to recover sodium sulphate, made at Muskiki Lake in 1918; the first salt produced, near Senlac in 1920; a nickel, platinum, palladium deposit, discovered at Rottenstone Lake in 1928; gold and also pitchblende (uranium mineralization), discovered on the north shore of Lake Athabasca and leading to the establishment of Goldfields in 1934; potash, discovered in an oil and gaswell near Radville in the early 1940s; uranium deposits, discovered in the Beaverlodge area in 1945 and leading to the development of the Uranium City area; a 1948 report of diamonds found in an area between Prince Albert and Flin Flon (the discovery was never verified); the first underground potash mine, developed in 1958 just east of Saskatoon; high grade uranium deposits, first discovered in the Athabasca Basin in 1968; the first gold production from the La Ronge belt, in 1987 at Star Lake; and the first documented discovery of kimberlite (host rock for diamonds) at Sturgeon Lake in 1988.
Saskatchewan produces about one-third of the world's supply of both potash and uranium, and extensive reserves for future production have been identified. With the discovery of one of the largest clusters of kimberlite bodies in the world, the province could also become a significant diamond producer. With the broad diversity of mineral commodities identified to date (Figure MR-1), Saskatchewan will continue to be a significant mining jurisdiction.