Shawn Ryan wins national kudos

Shawn Ryan has been named prospector of the year by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada.

Shawn Ryan has been named prospector of the year by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada.

Ryan received the award Monday night at the Fairmont Royal York hotel in Toronto, during the association’s annual gathering. It’s the world’s largest mining convention.

“It’s almost like bringing the cup back home to Dawson,” said Ryan, recalling the Dawson City Nuggets’ quixotic challenge to win the Stanley Cup in 1905.

Ryan, 47, is a native of Timmins, Ontario, who moved to Dawson City two decades ago in search of morel mushrooms, rather than shiny, yellow metal.

Yet when his attention turned to gold, he helped touch off Yukon’s current exploration boom with the discovery of the White Gold Deposit near Dawson City.

That property, believed to hold approximately two million ounces of gold, was gobbled up by mining giant Kinross last spring. The buyout caught the world’s attention.

Ryan also found the nearby Coffee deposit, which he reckons may well be even bigger. Kaminak Gold Corporation plans to spend $15 million this summer to drill 40,000 metres of core samples at the property.

Ryan built his prospecting plans on an important insight. He reckoned the Klondike’s dirt remained untouched by glaciers during the last Ice Age, and that a massive soil sampling program, properly done, may provide telltale clues of where gold lies buried.

He was right. But success didn’t happen overnight. Ryan has spent 14 years chasing the dream of catching what he calls “the Sasquatch”—the Klondike’s fabled motherlode.

During much of that time, he and his wife, Cathy Wood, lived in a tin shack on the outskirts of Dawson City, when they weren’t out in the field pulling soil samples.

“Others may have become discouraged without early success and walked away,” said Michael Wark, executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines.

“Shawn didn’t walk away. Shawn had the tenacity to stick with it and follow his dreams to the end. And he was rewarded with a couple of nice gold discoveries.”

Ryan credits the support he received from his wife, and from the Yukon Mining Incentive Program, which doles out grants to prospectors.

“The White was basically found with one YMIT program, worth less than $10,000. It’s got $2 billion, easily, in the ground.”

Ryan isn’t just an industrious prospector. He’s also a shrewd businessman. When he strikes an option agreement, it usually includes strings that require his team to be hired on as a contractor during future exploration work.

Most recently, Ansell Capital Corp. entered an option agreement with Ryan last week to buy the Dal property, to the southeast of ATAC Resource’s Rau property. The deal may be worth millions, if a mine is eventually built at the site.

But Ryan’s days as a free agent are now over. On February 16, he signed a five-year deal to become president of Ryan Gold Corporation, a new company that brings together Bay Street financiers and experienced Yukon geologists.

“We have the best backers, the best geological teams, and I’m the other part of it,” said Ryan.

The company has bought Ryan’s remaining 50 properties for $7.5 million. It plans to focus on the Ida Oro and Fifty Mile projects near Dawson City.

Ryan expects this summer will be “the biggest exploration push in the history of the Yukon.” He recalls how, a decade ago, it would be ambitious for a junior exploration company to collect 1,000 soil samples in one summer.

“Last year we did 70,000 soils,” said Ryan. “This year we’re going to do 150,000 soils.”

And this may only be the start.

“We’re still in the bottom part of the bell curve of discoveries in the Yukon. I think we’re around 15 to 20 per cent. So we’re going to see, in the next four to five years, a lot of discoveries here.”

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.