Placer Mining: a mainstay of Yukon’s economy

Scott Kent PreferredAs submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, August 15th, 2014
by Scott Kent, Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources

As a Yukoner, or someone even remotely familiar with Yukon history, it’s more than likely you already know that mining has played a significant role in the cultural and economic history of our territory. But for some, that’s where the knowledge ends.

The history of mining in the territory has its roots in the Klondike Gold Rush and the decades of placer mining that followed. Placer mining is an industry founded on family-operated gold recovery in the creeks and valleys of the Yukon wilderness – a way of life that continues today for many placer miners. How it can differ so greatly from the large-scale, global enterprises that we tend to associate with mining today is explained in its very name. A quick internet search will tell you that the word placer derives from the Spanish placer, meaning shoal or alluvial/sand deposit. An alluvial deposit (like the loose soil and sediments found in valley floors or deposits found in old river and stream beds) is an ideal place for materials like gold and other precious metals to be manually extracted and gathered from the earth.

Today, nearly all placer operations are small, owned and operated by families, with a few employees. A working placer mine can involve the entire family, spanning generations, with some current Yukon operations dating as far back as the Klondike Gold Rush. While it is an industry steeped in history, Yukon placer miners currently lead the world in safe and efficient gold recovery. Our operators abide by regulations and legislation that ensure environmental stewardship, reclamation and site restoration. The same tenacity that is required to work the goldfields, generation after generation, has led to finding better, more innovative ways of doing things.

Placer mining is a challenging business, yet it continues to thrive in our territory. It has enjoyed growth over the last two years, which in turn positively affects local businesses and services directly and indirectly. With 142 active placer operations in Yukon, total production in 2013 was 59,462 crude ounces which equates to a value of US $63.2 million.

The hard work and perseverance of those involved in this industry are admirable. Success requires dedication, commitment, and a supportive community. The Yukon government is proud to be a strong supporter of this sector. I would like to highlight some of the initiatives we have undertaken over the past four years that demonstrate our commitment to the continued success of this community.

The Yukon Geological Survey has organized annual placer workshops to engage placer miners and better understand their needs, and is actively involved with the Dawson Regional Land Use Plan. The information being shared will assist the Land Use Planning Commission with technical decisions related to future growth of the industry.

The Yukon Mineral Exploration Program (YMEP), administered through the Yukon Geological Survey, will award more than $350,000 to 13 placer-related exploration projects in 2014. This investment will assist the industry in finding new resources so it can continue to be a sustainable economic contributor.

We also support the work of the Klondike Placer Miners’ Association, a non-profit advocacy group that continues to advance the Yukon’s placer mining industry on all fronts.

The association is very active in promoting sustainable placer mining and placer exploration in Yukon, and provides educational information to the public on modern, responsible placer mining and placer exploration.

Gold mining is part of our identity as Yukoners. In addition to the Klondike, other areas of Yukon, such as Mayo-McQuesten, Dawson Range, Livingstone Creek, Kluane and Whitehorse South, have historical and current placer gold mining activity. On behalf of Yukon government, I would like to thank all those working the creeks for their continued contribution to Yukon’s economy and its rich history and culture.