Late at night around a campfire, a local miner may share their story. This one was told on an informal basis, but, there’s no need to name names. We all know someone like this.
If not, imagine this is you: you’re lured to the Yukon to mine for gold. Maybe you don’t have to tax your imagination.
Perhaps a friend of yours was here two years ago and brought home stories. The idea was born. The work and responsibility of running a claim rests with you alone. The stress and worry as well, but the reverse side is that most of the rewards are also yours.
You’re self-reliant – not subject to layoffs, or answerable to “the man” – you’re investing your money in your future. Your friends think you’re crazy, but face it: gold is the stock market’s plan B.
You pack up house and home and drive up north to stake your claim. Your first attempts might not be so successful, so you find a “regular” job. You need time on the claims to develop them, but you need work to fund your hobby.
Several years, and a couple of jobs later, a co-worker mentions claims for sale.
During the 1980s, rumour had it the claims were active and evidence of this is onsite. It looks as if there is ample fine gold on your claim, under overburden varying from next to nothing to 15 metres. And there’s quite a bit of activity moving into the area.
After discussions and a quick site visit, you jump on the opportunity, looking for gold, silver, and fun.
Time and resources are your biggest challenges. You spend most of the year thinking, or dreaming, about the claims. At present you only get out to them for about three or four weeks total over the season. Taking vacation leave from your full time job to go mining may not seem like a great plan to your friends, but you enjoy the challenge. You may never get a return on investment, but you’ll make a valiant attempt.
You’ll have your frustrations, like running around the mulberry bush for years seeking answers about regulations. Or losing a boot in the mud.
In the meantime, you start the difficult, expensive process to get all the equipment, parts, buckets, pans, shovels, wheel barrows, pumps, hose, fuel tanks, fuel hoses, safety gear, tools, oils, greases – and everything else under the midnight sun – together. A few more years and you should have a good equipment base.
Finally, you’re up and running.
Or staking, that is. With multiple claims on your property, there is a lot of area to explore. The flora and fauna are the best reward.
This year, you’re attempting some drilling and expect a whole new learning curve.
Mining is a lot harder than it looks. But you love every minute of it. Well almost. No one likes losing a boot in the mud.
Jessica Simon passed away unexpectedly before this article was printed. She was a frequent contributor to What’s Up Yukon who wrote columns on books, mining and a variety of other topics. She will be sadly missed.