The recorded history of the area goes back to the early 1600’s when both English and French fur traders were active in the area.
Fort Temiscamingue on Lake Temiskaming was established by the French in 1695. Missionaries and loggers were active on the lake as early as the 1830’s, but the first permanent settlement was at the present town of Haileybury in 1885. Several townships were surveyed in 1887, and during the 1890’s settler’s, most from “Old Ontario” moved into the agriculture areas of the ” Little Clay Belt” north of New Liskeard. Settlement was accelerated when the T&NO Railway arrived at Lake Temiskaming in 1904, but the railway also brought with it the discovery of silver at Cobalt.
The Larder Lake area in 1906 was the scene of the first gold rush in northeastern Ontario. Prospectors fanning out from the 1903 silver discoveries of Cobalt, Ontario, found gold on the shore of Larder Lake, which became the Kerr Addison mine. The gold for the first five dollar gold piece minted in Canada from Canadian gold (issued in 1909) came from the Kerr Addison property. Also in 1906, gold was discovered at Swastika 5 km west of Kirkland Lake. In 1911, Bill Wright discovered gold at Kirkland Lake. In the early stages of development, results at the mines were disappointing and might have discouraged developers less resourceful than the pioneers. The first gold production in the Kirkland Lake area from the Tough-Oakes (Toburn) property was in 1913, from Teck-Hughes in 1917, Lake Shore in 1918, Kirkland Lake Gold in 1919, Wright-Hargreaves in 1921, Sylvanite in 1927, and Macassa in 1933. It was not until 1936 that sufficient tonnage of ore was indicated at the site of the original Larder Lake discovery, in what then became known as the Kerr Addison mine, now a past producer.
During the 1930’s depression years, the Kirkland Lake-Larder Lake area, with 22 producing mines, was one of the most flourishing areas in Canada. After Word War II, rising costs of material and labour were not accompanied by an increased gold price. The resultant cost-price squeeze was partially compensated by the Canadian government’s Emergency Gold Mining Assistance. However, mining ceased at Toburn in 1953, Kirkland Minerals in 1960, Sylvanite in 1961, Lake Shore and Wright-Hargreaves in 1965 and Teck Hughes in 1968. The reduction in gold mining activities in the sixties was partly offset by production at the Adams iron mine, which closed in 1990.At the Macassa mine, mining operations ceased in 1999, two years following rock bursts, which caused extensive damage to the No. 3 shaft below 1800 m. Kirkland Lake Gold acquired five of the former seven Kirkland Lake gold producers from Foxpoint Resources and has since recommenced mining operations with a major discovery in its South Mine Complex. Two new mines were opened in the mid eighties in the north part of the district, the Holt-McDermott and Holloway mines and are currently operated by St Andrews Goldfields.
Diamonds, discovered in the 1990’s, brought a new commodity for exploration to the southern part of the district.
At present, the district is enjoying a rise in activity with 3 producing gold mines, 2 advanced exploration projects and numerous exploration programs underway. Population in the towns, declining for several years is once again on the rise.