Flin Flon was founded in 1927 by Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting (HBM&S) to exploit the large copper and zinc ore resources in the region. In the 1920s HBM&S invested in a railway, mine, smelter, and 101 megawatt hydroelectric power plant at Island Falls, Saskatchewan. By 1928 the rail line reached the mine.
The town grew considerably during the 1930s as farmers, left impoverished by the Great Depression, abandoned their farms and came to work at the mines. The municipality was incorporated on January 1, 1933 and in 1970 the community reached city status. The city has continued to be a mining centre with the development of several mines adding to its industrial base, although its population has been in decline. With a scenic setting and a number of nearby lakes, Flin Flon has also become a moderately popular tourist destination.
The town's name is taken from the lead character in a paperback novel, The Sunless City by J. E. Preston Muddock. A prospector named Tom Creighton found the book in the wilderness. The story is about a man named Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin, who piloted a submarine through a bottomless lake. Upon passing through a hole lined with gold, he found a strange underground world.
When Tom Creighton discovered a rich vein of almost pure copper, he thought of the book and called it Flin Flon's mine. The town that sprang up around the mine adopted the name. Flin Flon shares with Tarzana, California, the distinction of being named after a character in a science fiction novel.
The character of "Flinty" is of such importance to the identity of the city that the local Chamber of Commerce commissioned the minting of a $3.00 coin, which was considered legal tender within the city during the year following its issue. A statue representing Flinty was designed by cartoonist Al Capp and is one of the points of interest of the city.
Flin Flon gained international notoriety in 2002 when the Government of Canada awarded a four-year contract to a Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based company for the production of medicinal marijuana. Medicinal marijuana is only available in Canada with a doctor's prescription. Canadian users of medicinal marijuana must agree to provide information to Health Canada for research purposes.
Prairie Plant Systems, based in Saskatoon, has used an inactive underground copper/zinc drift owned by the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company to produce approximately 400 kilograms of medicinal marijuana annually. The entire operation is several hundred metres under Flin Flon for security and climate control reasons.
Since the original stock of marijuana seeds were obtained from Royal Canadian Mounted Police drug raids, there was some lack of consistency in the early crops of medicinal marijuana. After selective use of seeds from the first crop, subsequent generations have shown to have a more consistent quality.
As of 2009, Prairie Plant Systems has discontinued operation at the mine, due to the ending of the lease and the impending closure of the Trout Lake mine.