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From left, Yukon Premier Sandy Silver, Victoria Gold president John McConnell and Na-Cho Nyak Dun Chief Simon Mervyn at a ceremony in August, to mark the start of construction of the Eagle Gold Mine north of Mayo. The construction work accounted for a big spike in mine development spending in Yukon in 2017. (AMP Alistair Maitland Photography) Dave Croft People in Yukon’s mining industry are optimistic about the future after increased spending and other developments over the past year.

Companies spent about $90 million on mineral exploration in the territory in 2017, according to Scott Casselman, the territorial government’s head of mineral services. That’s up 57 per cent from 2016, he said.

Spending on mines in the development stage was $68 million — mostly at Victoria Gold’s Eagle Gold mine north of Mayo — up from $8 million in 2016. Scott Casselman, head of mineral services for the Yukon government, says the slide in mineral exploration expenditures reversed this year with a 57 per cent rise in spending. (Dave Croft/CBC) Casselman said as of early November, placer miners had reported production of 67,000 ounces of gold, worth $87 million. Majors bring cash and stability

"You know, I think in general it’s nice to see we’ve stopped that downward slide over the last few years. We’ve started the uptick, and hopefully we can continue on with that," said Casselman.

"It’s attributable primarily to the interest of the major mining companies that have come into the territory, over this year and last."

The trend began in 2016 with Goldcorp buying Kaminak’s Coffee property south of Dawson City. Other major producers followed, including Agnico Eagle Mines in late 2016, and Newmont Mining and Barrick Gold in 2017.

Kinross is also showing renewed interest in the territory. It’s among the biggest gold producers in the world, and its interest in the territory attracts other mining companies as well as cash and stability, said Casselman. Roads, roads, roads

The mining industry enthusiastically welcomed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement in September promising millions of dollars in funding for new and upgraded mining roads in the territory.

The federal and territorial governments have pledged up to $360 million for the project. Dawson City, Yukon-based Ground Truth Exploration workers last spring preparing for the 2017 season. Most of their work was in the White Gold district south of Dawson City. (Dave Croft) Much of that is targeted for an area south of Dawson City known as the White Gold district. White Gold Corp owns almost 20,000 claims in the area , many, if not all, originally staked by prospector Shawn Ryan.

Ryan is also the company’s technical director.

"And that’s what’s been really nice about the government sponsoring this new road program — it’ll actually go through the heart of all that area," said Ryan.

He said roads will allow companies to develop gold deposits not rich enough to support a stand-alone mine, but viable when several of them feed a single mill.

Trudeau’s announcement was panned by others, however, who questioned environmental risks associated with mining roads and spending public money to benefit mining companies. Peel decision and indecision

The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision on the Peel River watershed land use plan, issued in December, could have a far-reaching impact on the mining industry.

The court upheld Yukon land claim agreements and as a consequence, the territorial government has a duty to work in good faith with First Nations on drafting land use plans for the territory. A crowd of people gathered at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre in Whitehorse on Dec. 1, to watch an Ottawa news conference, after the Supreme Court of Canada […]

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