The Yukon government’s historic sites unit will be assessing damage to the Venus mine tramway after a man cut out and removed several artifacts from the site last weekend, apparently for his personal collection.
Rebecca Jansen, the Department of Tourism and Culture’s acting manager of historic sites, said in an interview Oct. 1 that a member of the public contacted the government’s archeology branch on Sept. 26 to report that a man at the Conrad campground had a “number of artifacts” in his vehicles.
They included a number of heavy metal wheels, a bull wheel, brakes and other hardware from the tram system of the old Venus mine, located on the side of the highway south of Carcross.
The government alerted Yukon RCMP at 6:30 p.m., and members of the Carcross detachment were on-scene at the campground by 7:15 p.m., police spokesperson Kalah Klassen said in an email.
Officers spoke to the man, who was from British Columbia and unaware of the Yukon Historic Resources Act that prohibits the removal of artifacts from the territory, Klassen wrote. He was cooperative in turning over the artifacts to police and was not charged.
A number of people on Facebook, including an eyewitness, have identified the man as a private collector who runs his own mining museum as well as a popular YouTube channel showing him exploring old mines across North America.
The News is not naming the man as he hasn’t been charged in relation to the incident, nor has he responded to the News’ requests for comment.
The artifacts have since been turned over to the Yukon government.
Jansen said staff haven’t had the chance to fully examine the artifacts yet, but there appears to be damage to some of the items, including “fresh breaks” to some of the solid metal wheels that could have been the result of removing them from the original structure.
Staff also haven’t been out to the tramway yet and have been comparing photos taken during a site survey last year and photos taken of the site on Sept. 27 by members of the public.
“I’d like to hope that they did their best not to damage the site beyond what was required to remove them, but … have to go out to make the determination of exactly how much damage there was,” Jansen said.
|Top photo: Before photo of Venus mine with equipment still intact. Bottom photo: Photo of mine after equipment had been removed. (Photos courtesy Yukon government and submitted)
Officials are also in the process of figuring out who exactly owns the artifacts, and any recourse the government might have under the Yukon Historic Resources Act.
While returning the artifacts to their original places within the tramway would be the “best-case scenario,” Jansen said it was too early to say when that might happen, noting that the damage to some of the wheels might prevent them from being restored.
“I think this situation is a really unfortunate one and it kind of underscores how vulnerable our collective heritage and history is, especially to potential treasure hunters or people who are looking to fill their own collections,” she said.
“…We’re grateful to the public for being vigilant and taking note and recognizing that this an activity that wasn’t wanted in our territory and to report it, but I think it’s also really important for us just to reiterate to the public the importance of protecting these resources — they are our collective heritage and whether or not sites appear to be actively managed or not, it doesn’t mean that these places aren’t being cared for or interpreted or understood or used.
“I think it’s really important that people take the time to learn about our local legislation and to share that information with others … We encourage people to explore and learn more about our history and heritage but we encourage people to look and not take.”
Sean McDougall, the acting heritage manager for Carcross/Tagish First Nation, also had a similar message. The Venus mine is on the First Nation’s traditional territory, and McDougall was also notified Sept. 26 about the removal of the artifacts.
“(We just want) to remind tourists and campers and people who do love visiting these historical sites and enjoying our nature to not take anything that they find, especially if they think it is of historical value,” he said. “If they think it is a new find, that it hasn’t been found before, like it’s a lost artifact, to make sure they contact the local First Nation government as well as the Yukon government archeological, and then we can discuss amongst us what to do next.”
He added that C/TFN wanted to thank the RCMP, Yukon government and Conrad historical site committee for responding to the situation, and the man for giving the items back willingly.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org