Mineral Prospecting in the Yukon

In 1971 the Canadian Government paid Ingrid and Frank Wilcox to go mineral prospecting in the Yukon.

| March/April 1980

  • 062 Yukon prospecting - three panels
    LEFT: Frank hiking in the Yukon's Selwyn Mountains. CENTER and RIGHT: Although their mandate was to search for hard veins of metal, Frank and Ingrid occasionally tried panning for gold.
  • 062 Yukon prospecting - scenic view
    Frank takes a break after a morning of hiking and mineral prospecting. This picture was taken along North Canal Road.

  • 062 Yukon prospecting - three panels
  • 062 Yukon prospecting - scenic view

My husband Frank and I spent the entire summer of 1971 deep in the beautiful and rugged Yukon wilderness. We camped at two lakes that were so far from the nearest settlement that they'd never been named . . . back packed over mountain ranges few humans have even seen . . . and observed moose, caribou, and wolves in the wild. Yet this remarkable excursion didn't cost us a single cent for either food or transportation.

It all began when the two of us decided to look into the "Prospecting Assistance Program." Under this plan, the Canadian government actually pays individuals to search the bush country for mineral deposits. The government profits from the offer because it gains scientific and geological information about remote national regions. The funded rockhounds, meanwhile, enjoy working vacations in the wilderness and keep the claim rights to any valuable mineral discoveries they may make.

Furthermore, the Prospecting Assistance Program's "dream jobs" are open to anyone 21 years of age or older . . . and an applicant doesn't even have to be a Canadian citizen or resident to be eligible. But, of course, he or she does have to be a prospector!

Fortunately for Frank and me, my husband had participated in the same program before and performed capably, so we pretty much knew that he could get accepted. I'd had no previous training in "hand mining" though, so I had to pass a test on mineral identification. I prepared for the exam by taking a 10-week government-sponsored course in basic geology and prospecting. By the end of this very worthwhile class (which cost only $15! ), I had no difficulty passing the rock-spotting test.

In addition to proving (or in my case, acquiring) our qualifications, Frank and I were expected to submit a complete prospecting proposal that included our planned budget, a list of the specific minerals we would seek (we decided to look mainly for tungsten), and the area in which we wanted to work. We were free to choose any location in the Yukon Territory, and — after consulting old geology reports and various maps — we chose an area in the Selwyn Mountains some 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle. The region looked as if it would provide both beautiful outdoor scenery and good prospecting possibilities.

When all the planning was done, Frank and I submitted our applications. We soon received an acceptance notice, and shortly after that we were given a cash advance with which to buy food and expendable items.

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