Exploration spending sees big drop

It wasn't the best year for mining in the Yukon, but this isn't necessarily a reason to worry. Of the estimated $154 million that mining companies spent this year, $146 million was on exploration.

It wasn’t the best year for mining in the Yukon, but this isn’t necessarily a reason to worry.

Of the estimated $154 million that mining companies spent this year, $146 million was on exploration.

That’s half of what was spent on exploration last year, when 94,278 claims were staked. The 8,299 claims staked this year comes closer to totals from 2005.

But last year’s numbers shouldn’t be taken as normal. It was a “super-exceptional year,” said Lee Pigage, head of mineral services with the Yukon Geological Survey. Dollars spent on exploration were at the highest level since 1994. The amount spent on exploration this year is closer to the just over $150 million spent in 2010.

But last year’s successes didn’t come all at once.

“It had been building for a couple of years,” said Pigage. As companies learned of discoveries in the Yukon, they became more interested in getting involved.

And it’s been harder for companies to raise investment dollars this year, he said. That’s one of the main reasons for the lower numbers.

“We’re tied into a big world, and things that happen in that world have an impact on the Yukon,” said Pigage.

But some challenges companies faced were specific to the territory, he said. June floods wiped out the Nahanni Range Road, which runs to the Cantung mine. Workers had to evacuate from one camp, said Pigage.

The snow also melted later than normal this year. There were still flakes on the ground in early June, and this delayed some work, he said.

But there are still a lot of opportunities.

The 257,937 claims in good standing is a record. That number has been on the rise for the last four years. The 299,300 metres drilled this year are close to the amount drilled in 2010. There are more than 80 mining projects happening. More than $1 million has been spent on 32 of them, said Pigage.

More mines could be coming. Golden Predator, North American Tungsten, Victoria Gold, Veris Gold and Eagle Industrial Minerals have all submitted projects to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board.

And mining jobs boost employment opportunities in other sectors, said Pigage.

“If you do get operating mines, then there’s service and supply spinoffs. They’re going to have to have camps, they’re going to require food, they’re going to require various supplies, they’re going to require equipment,” he said.

Almost 70 per cent of hard rock mining is for gold, he said.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at

mgillmore@yukon-news.com.