More than a century after the Klondike gold rush, Canada’s Yukon territory has again become a magnet for miners seeking the next bonanza.
Drawn by the soaring gold price, exploration companies have staked more than 85,000 claims in the territory since January, compared with 83,000 for the whole of 2010 and 10,000-15,000 in a normal year, according to the Yukon Mining Recorder’s office in Whitehorse.
Gold briefly touched an all-time nominal high of $1,911 an ounce on Monday. It slipped back to $1,876 on Tuesday.
“Another gold rush is in the works,” said Marc Sontrop, a portfolio manager at Toronto-based Interward Asset Management. “The area will benefit from modern exploration techniques.”
The tools of gold exploration have changed since fishing boats and paddle-wheelers were pressed into service in the late 19th century to ferry prospectors from Seattle and other west coast ports to Skagway, Alaska, the main staging point for the Klondike.
Nowadays, geologists and surveyors are more likely to fly into bush camps in the Yukon, which covers an area bigger than California.
Interward began investing three years ago in exploration companies active in the Yukon. These investments now make up 28 per cent of the precious-metals portion of its resources fund. Its biggest holding is Vancouver-based Atac Resources Ltd., which claims to have discovered geological formations in Yukon similar to those in Nevada, North America’s biggest gold producing area.
Since Atac announced a gold discovery last September, its shares, listed on the Toronto Venture exchange, have more than quadrupled. Confidence was also boosted last year when Kinross Gold Corp., a sizeable producer, paid $139-million for Underworld Resources, whose main asset was the White Gold exploration project near Dawson City.
Trans North Helicopters, based in Whitehorse, has doubled its fleet to 18 over the past two years to cope with demand in the Yukon. “The spin-off effects are pretty substantial,” says Arden Meyer, Trans North’s general manager. “Suppliers are busy shipping groceries and fuel up to camps.”
Drilling normally takes place between June and October. Survey results from this summer’s exploration drive will be disclosed in the next few months. The latest gold rush centres on hard-rock deposits rather than riverbed sedimentary gravel, known as placer, that spawned the 19th-century Klondike boom.
About 100 placer mining operations are still active in the Yukon, however, mostly around Dawson City. Scott Kent, director of the Klondike Placer Miners’ Association, describes them as the mining equivalent of the family farm, often run by the same clan for generations.