On the north coast of British Columbia in Canada, where the Alaskan border is closer than the nearest town, lies a mysterious hidden place, accessible only by a long arduous gravel road behind a locked gate. Ninety-four homes, two hundred apartments, a hospital, shopping mall, Town & Country restaurant, movie theatre, sports centre, a Royal Bank; all the amenities you could possibly need in this remote part of the world await behind the towering mountains. The only thing missing are the people. Welcome to Kitsault, BC.
Established in 1979 by U.S. mining conglomerate Phelps Dodge to house workers for their latest molybdenum, the town was built on promise and prosperity but delivered on neither. At its peak, 1200 people lived in Kitsault, but only 18 months after it had opened, the prices of molybdenum, a metal used in steel production, crashed and the mine shut down.
Phelps Dodge ordered everyone to leave Kitsault and bought back the homes from the residents. Some people had to be forcefully evicted, unwilling to leave their homes. By 1983, seemingly overnight, Kitsault was empty.
But as the mine closed and the last residents packed up and left, the power in Kitsault was left on. For 30 years, the town just sat there, as if it was waiting for people to return. Everything is still there and has been strangely well-maintained. The houses still have that same late 1970s decor, books are still in the library, names are still written on a tournament scoreboard at the sports centre.
A place where time stood still, a town that time forgot, a giant time capsule– whatever you want to call it, Kitsault is waiting to pick up right where it left off. This is one abandoned ghost town just waiting for life to be breathed back into it.
Kitsault’s fortune changed in 2004 when the entire town was put up for sale. Indo-Canadian entrepreneur and businessman Krishnan Suthanthiran, saw an article about the sale in the newspaper. He had never been to Kitsault until he bought it for $5 million in cash.
Krishnan began its resurrection with the hopes of transforming it into a resort for intellectuals, a sort of Shangri-La for scientists, engineers and artists. With seventy corporations to his name, Krishnan has said Kitsault is not about making money but about giving back.
A completion date for the entrepreneur’s “Heaven on Earth” was set for 2011, but in recent years, a few things have changed. For one, Malibdinum prices have rebounded. In January of 2013, Mr. Suthanthiran formed Kitsault Energy and began pitching the empty town as an ideal location to build a liquid natural gas plant and pipeline terminal to ship British Columbia’s vast natural gas resources to markets in Asia. CBC news reported in July that the project would require up to $30 billion to get off the ground and that the entrepreneur is currently trying to gather international investors.
“I think with Kitsault Energy, the pipeline will be shorter. The housing infrastructure is there,” he told CBC. “So, I think this will be the thing that brings Kitsault back to life.”
But back in the empty town of Kitsault, the news that the abandoned town is no longer to become a utopian resort but a major natural gas hub, has been hard to swallow for one woman. In this report by CBC, we meet Indhu Mathew, Kitsault’s only resident.
Hired by Mr. Suthanthiran as a caretaker and mayor of sorts, Indhu grew passionate about the town and aside from cleaning and repairing, she has paid special attention to preserving it like a museum, just as it was left. She has been inside every room of every building in Kitsault and feels a great respect for the residents who were so abruptly uprooted from their once promising new lives.
Indhu Mathew is not the only one who holds a great respect for the residents, as theatre director Car Pucl was immediately captivated when he saw a short clip about the community. He wanted to learn more about the mining town and developed an aspiration to create a contemporary musical in order to tell the story of the lives that the people once had there. After two years of writing songs and trying to develop scenes Paul and his co-creater Doug Price are hoping to bring the Canadian musical to stage by the end of the year 2017. Who knows if the musical will be a success or not, but at least the Kitsault town and the people who shaped it will be remembered..
See more images of Kitsault by Chad Graham here