Yukon News

Faster, cheaper, leaner and greener

Ian Stewart Wednesday March 19, 2014

Courtesy Shawn Ryan


Dawson prospector Shawn Ryan has harnessed high-tech innovations to bring mining exploration into the 21st century.

Shawn Ryan has cracked the code.

That’s how he described the system he developed with GroundTruth Exploration, which is poised to revolutionize the way mineral deposits are found.

Ryan still walks the wilds of the Yukon, taking soil samples and researching targets; that hasn’t changed.

But once a promising area has been found, Ryan’s new high-tech system kicks in.

Using drones, geophysical imaging and on-site mineral analysis, work that used to take two years and upwards of half a million dollars can be completed cheaper, quicker and with nearly zero environmental footprint.

“What normally would take two field seasons and 500-700 grand, we’re now doing in two weeks and for under 100,000,” said Ryan.

Secret number one - understand the topography.

Using lightweight drones from Switzerland, Ryan and his team are able to produce a high-resolution topographical picture of the area in question. “This way I can actually give the clients the chance to make an informed decision,” said Ryan. “In the past, half the time they’re just putting a dot on a map and saying, “Drill here,” without understanding the terrain.”

“Now, they can see where the big spruce trees are. They can see where the open country is.” The search can be fine-tuned in this way.

Secret number two - see into the Earth.

Ryan re-purposed geophysical tools normally used to find underground water or sinkholes to find mineral deposits instead. “We brought that into our mix last year, and no one believed it, it was too simple,” said Ryan. “Why didn’t they start doing this 30 years ago?”

It’s actually not a new idea to use DC-resistivity to get an underground picture, but Ryan is getting a 420-metre cross section image that he says pinpoints an ore deposit down to the metre. They’ve never had such an accurate picture underground. Still, at this point in the process, all you’ve got are images - you’ve still got to get dirty.

Courtesy Shawn Ryan


A drone is launched to create high resolution topographical surveys.

“You’re never 100 per cent confident. So you might have three cracks, but which one is the gold-bearing crack?”

Secret number three - no digging.

Ryan’s colleague Tao Henderson developed a lightweight soil-coring tool, called the Geoprobe, that punches a hole down six to nine feet to the bedrock interface, and delivers a tube of dirt and rock chips.

That sample is then scanned, on site, with an X-ray fluorescent device, which tells you what kind of minerals you’re dealing with.

Secret number four - real-time search refinement. Every evening, the field crew sends their findings back to headquarters via satellite Internet. “These guys are in pup tents with a satellite dish outside - they email us the data every night,” said Ryan. “We can give our customers results by midnight or 1 a.m.”

“Everybody’s engaged now. It’s not a waiting game, where two months later you get a report.”

From there, the process moves on to using a rotary air blast drill to get core samples down to 100 metres, but only in primo spots already sussed out.

The beauty of this method, compared to the old trenching method, is the light ecological footprint.

“The cool part of all of this is, this doesn’t even break the class one threshold under our mining land use policies,” said Ryan. “Historically, when you stake a mining claim, you apply for the maximum permitting - 100 drill holes, ten kilometres of trenching - because you didn’t know what you were going to face,” he said. “Now, we go in, evaluate the ground in a couple weeks, figure out where our target is, then apply for a permit without all the parameters.”

Ryan started thinking about the process a year-and-a-half ago. As the exploration market contracted from it’s 2011 peak, Ryan wanted to find an up-to-date method that was also cheap, in the $100,000 to $200,000 range.

During the boom, a junior mining company had millions to put in exploration. “They were hunting with a machine gun,” he said.

Now it’s back to lean and mean. They had to re-learn how to make do with less again, but with the latest in computing technology.

GroundTruth spent last season doing research and development, while working commercially as well.

A series of case studies using the new process were done, in partnership with the Yukon Geological Survey, to prove up the method.

Ryan presented the findings earlier this month at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention in Toronto.

He’s also planning to present the idea at the Yukon First Nations Resource Conference next week in Whitehorse.

“Hopefully this will help bridge this gap with environmentalists and First Nations,” said Ryan. “Because, inevitably, we need metal, we can’t live without it.”

“I look at mineral deposits as gifts from the land, like a herd of sheep, or a moose,” said Ryan. “Everybody’s against development now, but we should understand where the minerals are, just like we understand where the moose are.”

“Whether we do anything with them, that’s another story.”

Contact Ian Stewart at

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Joe McCann wrote:
4:50pm Friday March 28, 2014

I don’t understand how any aspect of the advent of a more efficient, lower-impact exploration methodology can be construed as negative.  It is my opinion that innovation such as this represents the very best aspects of private enterprise left to its own devices.

Yukoner 2 wrote:
4:03pm Thursday March 27, 2014

@north of 60 thanks for answering my question in the Whitehorse star under board urges approval for proposed LNG project.

Yukoner 2 wrote:
10:54am Monday March 24, 2014

@ north of 60 that was meant as a question not a generalization sorry for the confusion.

Atom wrote:
9:32am Monday March 24, 2014

Yuker…97….yes Shaun Ryan is a Saint….Ryan for Prime Minister!...he’s out, like everybody else, to make a buck…....I’d doubt if he hadn’t gotten rich through ‘exploration time boom’ that he would be championing the angle of ‘green exploration’.

By the way….has he found a mine yet? I know he made money selling claims but will they (or have they) been ‘mined’.....or is it all still with the smoke and mirror show.

Credit to him is that he has ‘made it rich’ in the mineral industry, where so many others have come to ruin. Though he has some issues where it comes to values….how can a non renewable resource be more valuable than one that with care, will provide forever?

north_of_60 wrote:
1:33pm Sunday March 23, 2014

The mining industry has made it abundantly clear that they consider the whole Yukon theirs to exploit as they see fit.  Ryan’s quote from NatGeo is a perfect example.  Greenwashing that attitude doesn’t make it any more acceptable.

Yukoner87 wrote:
10:24am Saturday March 22, 2014

It is unfortunate how people sit back and offer observations about someone else without “walking some time in their shoes”  Mr Ryan and his family have spend many years living and working on the land and in many respects a pioneer lifestyle while raising their children.  I had the privilege of getting to know a piece of their story while living in Dawson City. How about BEFORE any of you cast you opinion - you spend a season on the land with this family.  Respect for nature and a better way of doing things has clearly been the goal, while providing a sustainable lifestyle for his family and many others in the area.  In all due respect, my thoughts are many of you wouldn’t last a season.  Resource extraction always remain a part of the Yukon - this individual is seeking a better way that so many are demanding…

north_of_60 wrote:
10:15pm Friday March 21, 2014

@ Yukoner 2 wrote:  ” you appose mining but are ok with fracking RIGHT “

such generalizations are generally incorrect.

There are places in the Yukon where mining is appropriate and there are places where it is not.

There are places in the Yukon where hydraulic fracturing is appropriate and there are places where it is not.

Every case has to be evaluated individually.  One can’t make valid generalizations about either.

Stan Winter wrote:
7:54pm Friday March 21, 2014

Shawn should fly that drone in developing countires. People there would be convinced the US was spying and trying to take their resources away.

I hope that drone stays out of the Peel, its off limits, Falcons fly there, not drones for greedy mining companies.

Yukoner 2 wrote:
3:52pm Friday March 21, 2014

@north of 60 you appose mining but are ok with fracking RIGHT

bunjee girl wrote:
12:28pm Friday March 21, 2014

That quote from Shawn Ryan has done more to help protect the Peel than almost any other single comment.

north_of_60 wrote:
7:37pm Thursday March 20, 2014

... something Ryan told me: “I tell people not to get too attached to all this beauty. We just might want to mine it.”

...and we just might want to preserve it for wealthy tourists from all over the world who are increasingly seeing the value in our unspoiled wilderness.  Let the miners have the country from Dawson to Carmacks and stay the hell out of the rest.

bunjee girl wrote:
9:18am Thursday March 20, 2014

Happy Camper - Conservation is not “saying no to everything”. We all appreciate that demands for resources have increased exponentially as populations and standards of living have grown. However, that doesn’t mean that every mineral resource in the ground should be extracted. There are areas (like the amazon rain, our own boreal forests, and closer to home the Peel watershed) that have such intrinsic long-term natural and cultural values that far outweigh any short-lived financial benefits accrued from mining. This has nothing to do NIMBYism, simply a recognition of the importance of environments within our ecosystems.

And of course if we were far more responsible with our need for, and use, of precious resources then much the extraction that takes place wouldn’t even been necessary.

Elijah wrote:
8:31am Thursday March 20, 2014

Shawn Ryan is all hype, no substance.

Happy Camper wrote:
6:12pm Wednesday March 19, 2014

I guess flyingfur is happy typing this message on a computer/tablet made from 3rd world country metals with little to no controls in place and potentially driving a car made from metals and petro-chemical by-products. I guess people don’t want to appreciate the effort being put into reducing the impact of exploration and mining by Ryan’s group. The “Not in my back yard” attitude doesn’t pay taxes for the services and benefits we receive as Yukon residents.  Close to 40% of Yukoners are employed through the government not including the grants and government funded programs that employ a large number of construction workers. Not a very sustainable model if you ask me. As we know Alberta is one of the primary contributors of tax money in Canada (Oil & Gas money!!). Wouldn’t it be nice if we could pay for our own services through sustainable/responsible use of our resources/people (tourism, mining, professional services). Services like Ryan is providing are very sought after in the world.

I hate using the H-word but enough already lets work together instead of always bashing and saying NO to everything.

flyingfur wrote:
2:02pm Wednesday March 19, 2014

“I look at mineral deposits as gifts from the land, like a herd of sheep, or a moose,” said Ryan. “Everybody’s against development now, but we should understand where the minerals are, just like we understand where the moose are.”

I guess the difference to keep in mind is that you can go in and take a moose without leaving a permanent hole in the ground.  Ironic also that the picture of Ryan is nowhere near the Yukon unless we started growing maple trees up here recently.  Telling?

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