Commentary: Celebrating a century of mining at Yukon

Banyan Gold president and CEO Tara Christie (holding award) accepts the Yukon Women in Mining Kate Carmack Award in 2018 for excellence in championing women within the industry, alongside (from left) her brother Seamus Christie, mother Dagmar Christie and husband John McConnell. Credit: Yukon Women in Mining.Banyan Gold president and CEO Tara Christie (holding award) accepts the Yukon Women in Mining Kate Carmack Award in 2018 for excellence in championing women within the industry, alongside (from left) her brother Seamus Christie, mother Dagmar Christie and husband John McConnell. Credit: Yukon Women in Mining.

It was finding gold at Rabbit Creek and along the riverbeds of the Klondike that forever changed one of the world’s final frontiers — the Yukon Territory — and cemented the region’s roots as an inspiring Canadian mining district.

Yukon’s rich mining history continues to provide exciting discoveries, varied commodities and significant opportunities for northerners and investors alike.

As we kick off 2019, we reflect on our history and the last year that has proved — through achievements, advancements and accolades — that Yukon is a mining district to follow and to celebrate.

In 1896, a hundred-thousand stampeders journeyed north, following the news of “Gold, gold, gold!” and “The Klondike gold rush begins” in papers from Seattle to San Francisco.

Kate and George Carmack, Skookum Jim Mason, Dawson Charlie and Robert Henderson discovered placer gold at Rabbit Creek (later renamed Bonanza Creek) on Aug. 26.

Shaw Tláa, a Tagish First Nation woman commonly referred to as Kate Carmack, is said to have made the discovery while fishing with her family. The Klondike discoverers staked hundreds of feet of riverbed and recovered US$100,000 in gold — a remarkable sum for 1896.

Thousands of prospectors were greeted by the Tr’ondek Hwech’in people, the original travellers, and together they found gold, traded it for supplies, and built homes, communities and infrastructure that still services the mining industry today.

The Klondike prospectors and business people assembled in mining epicentre Dawson City, and the influx of miners rapidly advanced the territory’s development, which, in 1898, was dubbed “Yukon” from the First Nation Gwich’in word Yu-kun-ah, meaning “great river.”

Throughout the century Canada has celebrated Yukon explorers.

Kate Carmack officially gets recognition as one of the Klondike Discoverers with her induction into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame this January, following the induction of the other Klondike Discoverers in 1999.

Carmack is the third woman in Canadian history to receive the honour. It is believed that Carmack first found the gold and was successful because of her traditional knowledge of the land, which established methods of gold discovery that are still fundamental to placer exploration and mining.

Multi-generational placer miner Tara Christie, now president and CEO of Banyan Gold, was also recognized in 2018 by Yukon Women in Mining as a champion in the mining sector, and in November was awarded the renamed Kate Carmack Women in Mining Award — a full-circle recognition of Yukon women in mining who are providing leadership and advancement a century apart.

Between 1897 and 1899, US$29 million in gold was said to have been recovered, and while many prospectors left after they got their fix of gold fever, others settled down, and mining remains the economic mainstay of the region, with generations of families deeply engaged in the mining industry.

At the turn of the century, infrastructure and advancing technology established a hard-rock industry, with discoveries that include the high-grade Keno Hill silver district in Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation Traditional Territory.

Over the years, hard-rock exploration has uncovered the mineral potential hidden throughout Yukon and commodities have diversified, with generous gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc deposits, amongst others.

Mining in Yukon advanced on all fronts in 2018. From exploration to development and construction, we see the foundations to continue to advance Yukon’s mineral sector — ranking fourth in Canada for projected spending on mineral exploration and deposit evaluation, according to statistics by Natural Resources Canada.

The year also brought the construction of Canada’s next gold mine: Victoria Gold’s Eagle. Set to employ 350 to 400 people and pour gold in 2019, the economic impact will be significant, and will introduce the next generation of miners to gold fever, while creating opportunities across Yukon.

Archer Cathro and Associates (1981), founded in 1965, recently celebrated its 50-year anniversary in Yukon and won the Yukon Chamber of Mines Community award, and Archer Partner Heather Burrell won the YCM Member Award for significant contributions to a sustainable and responsible Yukon mining industry. The company has been integral in finding high-profile deposits, including: Western Copper and Gold’s Casino copper-gold porphyry, Nickel Creek Platinum’s Nickel Shaw nickel project, and ATAC Resources’ Carlin-type Osiris gold project.

Investors can visit Yukon and see first-hand the investment potential during the exclusive Yukon Investment Conference and Property Tours hosted from July 14–18, 2019, in Dawson City. With majors and juniors alike gearing up for a sizable exploration season, and companies advancing projects through development, Yukon continues to see exploration fever, but this time it’s a polymetallic rush.

From Kate Carmack’s original discovery to Eagle Gold’s construction, Yukon has grown and prospered throughout every economic landscape the century has delivered. With exploration companies making discoveries and adding resources, it is worth keeping an eye on what the next century holds for the territory, and celebrate the Yukon mining roots that set us on the path of innovation, partnerships and prosperity.

— Anne Turner (nee Lewis) is the executive director of the Yukon Mining Alliance (YMA). Lindsay Wilson is communications manager at YMA.

The YMA and its growing group of leaders in exploration and development promote Yukon at home, nationally and internationally. Through its unique partnership with the Government of Yukon and mining partner organizations, they connect with investors to share opportunities for investin g in Yukon. To learn more, visit www.yukonminingalliance.ca.

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