A new gold mine is being developed north of Mayo that will be the largest operation ever built in the Yukon. The Eagle mine, which is owned by Victoria Gold Corporation, is located on Dublin Gulch, which is 50 k.m. north of Mayo, as the crow flies.
Scheduled to begin production in the second half of this year, the Eagle mine is projected to recover 200,000 ounces of gold per year, which is more than three times the current production from all gold mining in the territory.
This mine was not a sudden discovery like the Klondike in 1896, but the result of scientific exploration over several decades. It is an example of the adage that a hard rock mine is not discovered, it is made.
As I have come to learn, the history of mining in this area goes back more than a hundred years to before the discovery that sparked the gold rush of 1898. Prospecting on the Stewart River basin began in 1885, when men began testing the bars of the Stewart River for placer gold.
Over the next decade, men spread throughout the drainage looking for the elusive metal. In 1893, William Rupe and an unnamed partner found gold on the Mayo River.
Three years later in 1896, Thomas Nelson found gold on a tributary of the McQuesten River (which drains into the Stewart River) that he named Nelson Creek. Thomas Haggart built a couple of cabins on Nelson Creek and a third on a small tributary that he named Dublin Gulch.
Word of the stampede to the Klondike lured these men away the following year, but in 1898, Tom and Peter Haggart, Nelson, and a man named Warren Hiatt returned to the area. Peter Haggart and Hiatt arrived first, and staked a discovery claim on Nelson Creek June 23, 1898, which they renamed Haggart, a name that still applies to this tributary today.
More prospectors followed, including the “Kentucky Minstrel,” Jack Suttles, a veteran of the Spanish-American War, who is said to have arrived on Dublin Gulch in 1899. In a period of eight days that summer, Suttles panned out $364 in gold dust.
Haggart Creek and Dublin Gulch were the first creeks in the Mayo area that were mined for gold; many others followed. Most notable of these was Duncan Creek, which was first staked by Duncan Patterson and Colin Hamilton, Sept. 15, 1901. The townsite of Mayo was surveyed in 1903, and a road was established between Mayo and Duncan Creek the following year.
Unfortunately, no such road was built to Dublin Gulch for many decades, and this proved to be detrimental to the development of both Haggart Creek and Dublin Gulch. Despite this drawback, the two tributaries proved to be regular producers in the years that followed. Jack Suttles eventually assembled ten claims on Dublin Gulch.
In the following 15 years, Suttles is reported to have recovered $45,000- 50,000 of gold from his mining activity. Accounting for inflation that would represent roughly four million dollars today.
Suttles eventually got into a legal dispute with the Cantin brothers, who were mining below him on Haggart Creek, and the court found in their favour. The claims were seized, and the Cantin brothers eventually came into possession of the property. It is said that Suttles put a curse on the claims.
Whether the curse had any effect upon the mining of the Cantin brothers is open to debate, but the brothers never made a go of it on Suttles’ claims. More likely, their lack of success was due to deep overburden, large boulders that interfered with easy mining, and a chronic shortage of water.
Meanwhile, on August 30, 1905, James Haddock obtained a hydraulic concession on Dublin Gulch that tied up all the ground on the tiny creek, except for the claims already held by Jack Suttles. The creek was not suitable for mining by any other means, Haddock claimed, but George Black, a lawyer and member of the territorial council, railed at the approval of such concessions by the government. Concessions tied up ground stated Black, and prevented hard-working and enterprising individual miners from prospecting and staking wherever these concessions were granted. Black’s protests fell on deaf ears.
The Haddock concession remained in effect and by December of 1908, had come into the hands of Dr. W.E. Thompson, a Dawson City physician, who hired a hydraulic mining expert to oversee the work of hydraulic mining. The Dublin Hydraulics Company was incorporated under the federal Companies Act, March 10, 1910, with Dr. Thompson serving as President, and A.W.H. Smith, the secretary-treasurer, as the promoter and mover of the project.
Dr. Thompson transferred the concession to the Dublin Hydraulics Company Ltd.. The concession was the sole asset upon which 50,000 shares in the company were issued, 35,000 of which went to Dr. Thompson. Thompson turned 9,000 of the shares over to the company to raise money to conduct the business.
A full page spread promoting the new company was inserted into a special Christmas edition of the Dawson Daily News in December 1910. In it were photos depicting activity on the creek. Preferred shares were on offer for $2.50 each by contacting Smith at the company office, or T.A. Firth, a Dawson mining broker and fiscal agent.
Steel pipe, lumber, provisions, horse feed and other supplies were shipped to Mayo Landing on the last boat the previous year, and were being readied to haul to Dublin Gulch before the spring thaw. A ditch was to be constructed to divert water from Haggart Creek to Dublin Gulch in order to wash the gold from the gravels.
Jack Suttles, who owned 10 claims within the confines of the concession, optioned them to the company for $10,000, to be payable in two years. Mining would commence in 1912. It was estimated that at 75 cents worth of gold per cubic yard, the ground would yield $4,622,750 in gold. The profit would be $880 per day.
Over a season of 150 days, the profit to investors would be $134,000 each year. But they had counted their nuggets before they found them, and little more was heard of the Dublin Hydraulics Company.
In my next column, I will trace the placer mining on Dublin Gulch from the First World War to the present day
Michael Gates is a Yukon historian and sometimes adventurer based in Whitehorse. His book, From the Klondike to Berlin, was shortlisted for a national book award. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org