I Want to Try — Perspective of Gold-mining Up North

My friend Duncan, who has been spending time gold-mining up in the Yukon, read our blog and was inspired to write a post:


The Yukon, Canada’s best kept secret. More land than you could shake a stick at but try to buy some? A place where the land is still wild. Man has claimed part of her for himself, but there are still so many places left to be tamed. Mother nature is often cruel and with out mercy. Winters I am told can make it near impossible to leave your home and madness to attempt a road trip. Yet I am more comfortable here then I have been anywhere else I have ever been in my life.

I came up here this July on a by chance job through a high school cook. I new little about the man I was going to work for and I knew even less about mining. I had got a job in a Klondike Gold Mine. It was a 3 day drive and bang on 2700km from doorstep to doorstep. I pulled my camper trailer all the way from Alberta with enough clean cloths to go a month, work cloths ready for anything from 20 above to 30 below. I was ready… or so I thought.

The first night when I showed up, there was a wide array of people sitting around having some rum after work. People from all up and down the valley. An old boy Gregg who had been coming here since he was a kid with his dad, he has been running the show for a few years now. Two employees of a very large outfit up the creek and my new boss and some of my co workers. The first thing my boss said to me was “ Welcome to our living hell! What do you think?” with out even hesitation I said “It feels like home already”

We were up and working by 7am…ish. (I like this already) I had been warned that the first few days were going to tough but it was the way it had to be. They were repairing the undercarriage on an older D9 dozer. Tracks were off and it was sitting at an odd angle on top of some large timbers. I was given the grinder, pry bar and hammer and was explained that I was going to be pulling all these old track pads off and installing them on the new rails, ten feet away. Each pad new ways well over 125lbs. These weren’t, thank god they only weighed a whopping 110lbs. There were 86 in total and each one had 4 bolts that had to be hand torque to 1200ft/lb. I started at a sprint and by noon I was making no sweet time and I was gassed. Completely out of work form from last 3 months of traveling and the double fisting that goes with that.  It took me 3 full days to get them done. Everything else has been easier since then.

Since I have been here my tasks have not gotten that much easier really, it’s all grunt work and I love it. It doesn’t really matter who you are when you come here, everyone does their time, gives the needed effort, meets the given demands or you just won’t earn the better paying, less stressful jobs.  The Yukon itself is somewhat like that, reward out for effort in. It’s just a matter of do you have what it takes or not. I don’t even know if I do.  Keeping in mind less people have tamed the riverbeds then the Yukon has eroded away and washed them away as if they were never here. The old camps and machinery left as if they were ready for the next shift that never came. Sluice boxes still sitting where they were, how many years ago when their masters took the mats out for the last time. One more cleanup, just one more, I know we’ll find the pay again. To walk away with pockets turned inside out. The few that have done the jig and came out with a fortune in the fall.

In the Yukon you can still stake land claims. I don’t know all the details nor will I try to sound like I do. But I will say what I know. You can stake land claims for different kinds of development. There is placer mine, which is deposited soil from erosion down to a set depth of the bedrock. Another is hard rock where the bedrock is the gem and ore rich material uneroded and undisturbed. You can also stake timber claims and agriculture claims. The catch is that you have to do the work. Easier said than done. Roads are not provided, they must be pioneered to get to areas that are not staked and developed. Work claimed must be proven and a certain on the dollar amount of work must be done each year to hold the claim title or it can be staked again. You cannot re-stake unworked claims two years in a row in the same name. If you are going for rich land that someone else is interested in, then you better be there at midnight when the claim becomes available because it might not be in the morning.

This is what I want to learn about this winter. I had wanted to stay here this winter but it has not worked out that way. This will be my winter project. I want to learn about and ponder the idea of staking my own claim one day, and maybe the land will embrace me, or erode and wash me away like it has so many others up here. Either way I want to try