It is the capital and the most populous city of the Northwest Territories in Canada. It is on the north shore of Great Slave Lake, about 400 km (250 miles) south of the Arctic Circle, on the west side of Yellowknife Bay, near the mouth of the Yellowknife River.

Yellowknife and its surrounding bodies of water received their name from a local Dene tribe known as the "Copper Indians" or "Yellowknife Indians," known locally as the First Dene Nation of the Yellowknives, who exchanged tools made from copper deposits by of the Arctic Coast. Its population, which is ethnically mixed, was 19,569 in 2016. Of the eleven official languages of the Northwest Territories, five are spoken in significant numbers in Yellowknife: Dene Suline, Dogrib, South and North Slavey, English and French. In the Dogrib language, the city is known as Sǫmbak'è (Som-ba Kay) ("where is the money").

It is considered that the Yellowknife settlement was founded in 1934 after gold was found in the area, although commercial activity in the current coastal area did not begin until 1936. Yellowknife quickly became the center of economic activity in the TNM and was named the capital of the Northwest Territories in 1967. As gold production began to decline, Yellowknife went from being a mining city to a government service center in the 1980s. However, with the discovery of diamonds north of the city in 1991, this change began to reverse. In recent years, tourism, transportation, and communications have also become important Yellowknife industries.


Yellowknife has a subarctic climate and averages less than 300 mm (12 in) of precipitation per year since the city is in the shadow of the rain of the western mountain ranges. Because of its location on Great Slave Lake, Yellowknife has a frost-free growing season that averages more than 100 days. Most of the limited rainfall falls between June and October, with April as the driest month of the year and August with the most rain. The snow that falls in winter accumulates on the ground until the spring thaw.

Yellowknife experiences very cold winters and mild to warm summers. The average temperature in January is around -26 ° C (-15 ° F) and 17 ° C (63 ° F) in July. According to Environment Canada, Yellowknife has the sunniest summer in the country, with an average of 1,034 hours from June to August. The lowest temperature recorded in Yellowknife was -51.2 ° C (-60 ° F) on January 31, 1947, and the highest temperature was 32.5 ° C (90.5 ° F) on July 16, 1989. Yellowknife has an average of 2256.5 hours of sunshine per year or 43.5% of possible daylight hours, from a minimum of 15.4% in December to a maximum of 63.0% in June. Due to the warm summer temperatures, Yellowknife is well below the Arctic tree line, in stark contrast to the easternmost areas of Canada in similar parallels.

In 2014, Environment Canada ranked Yellowknife as having the coldest winter and longest snow season of any city in Canada, while also experiencing the sunniest spring and summer of any city in Canada.


As the largest city in the Northwest Territories, Yellowknife is the center of mining, industry, transportation, communications, education, health, tourism, commerce and government activity in the territory. Historically, the economic growth of Yellowknife came from the extraction of gold and, later, from the government; however, due to falling gold prices and rising operating costs, the final gold mine closed in 2004, marking a turning point for Yellowknife's economy.

After a slowdown in the 1990s during the closing of gold mines and the reduction of the government's workforce in 1999, Yellowknife's economy has recovered, largely due to the diamond boom; the Ekati diamond mine, owned by BHP Billiton sold to Dominion Diamond Corporation in 2013), opened in 1998. A second mine, Diavik Diamond Mine, began production in 2003. The production of the two mines in operation in 2004 was 12,618,000 carats (2,523.6 kg; 5,563.6 lb), valued at more than C $ 2.1 billion. This ranked Canada in third place in the world production of diamonds by value and in sixth by weight. A third mine, De Beers, which owns Snap Lake Diamond Mine, received final approval and funding in 2005 and went into production in 2007. De Beers also requested in 2005 a permit to open the Gahcho Kue Diamond Mine Project in the property formerly known as Kennady Lake. The mine was officially inaugurated on September 20, 2016, and commercial production began in March 2017. Growth and expansion in the natural gas exploration and development sectors have also contributed to this growth. Economic growth in the Northwest Territories was 10.6% in 2003.

The main employers in Yellowknife include the Territorial Government, the Federal Government, Diavik Diamond Mines, Dominion Diamonds, DeBeers Canada, First Air, NorthwesTel, RTL Robinson Trucking and the City of Yellowknife. Government employment represents 7,644 jobs, a large percentage of Yellowknife jobs. During the winter, the winter road from Tibbitt to Contwoyto is opened for the transit of trucks with semi-trailers to take supplies from Yellowknife northwards to several mines located in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. This ice route is usually open from the end of January to the end of March or the beginning of April, and Yellowknife becomes the point of dispatch for a large number of truck drivers who come north to drive on icy roads. During the 2007 ice road season, several drivers appeared on the History Channel television series Ice Road Truckers.

Tourism is the largest renewable industry in the NWT and Yellowknife is the main entry point for visitors. Many tourists come to experience the northern climate and traditional lifestyle, as well as to see the aurora. In 2004-05, visitors to the territory spent C $ 100.5 million.

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