A Yukon prospector who is credited with spurring the territory's latest mining boom, thanks to his two-decade-long search for gold, has been honoured as Canada's top prospector.
Shawn Ryan was given a standing ovation by close to 1,000 people on Monday night, as he accepted the Bill Dennis Award for prospecting success at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada's annual convention in Toronto.
The self-taught prospector and his wife, Cathy Wood, have devoted the past 20 years hunting for gold in the Yukon's Klondike region, near Dawson City.
Ryan has estimated that the discoveries he has been involved with could produce 10 million ounces of gold.
In 2004, Ryan's discoveries led Underworld Resources Ltd. to its massive White Gold deposit south of Dawson City. Underworld was acquired by Kinross Gold Corp. in a $139-million takeover last year.
He has also been credited with locating the source of the alluvial gold that started the original Klondike Gold Rush more than a century ago.
"My analogy is sasquatch, and basically the placer gold is sasquatch tracks. There must have been a beast that produced this placer gold and it must still exist," Ryan told CBC News in a recent interview.
The gold discoveries have been profitable for Ryan and Wood, who had started out in a tin shack on the outskirts of Dawson City in their early years of prospecting.
"I think seeing how he's grown and changed, and both of us ... it's pretty exciting," Wood, who is also Ryan's business partner, told CBC News at Monday night's award ceremony.
Some of Ryan's biggest fans were his family and friends, who came to Toronto to watch him accept the prospecting award.
"He's always been somebody in the bush," said Albert Ryan, his father. "He should have been born 300 years ago. He would have been one of the coureurs de bois, really."
"Everything he's ever tried he always succeeds, no matter what it was," said Ryan's mother, Jacqueline. "He would go all the way to the end, and that's what success is all about."
Starting new phase
Ryan said receiving the top prospecting award has not quenched his love of prospecting, but he said he will be starting a new phase in his life.
He is the new president of Ryan Gold Corp., a mineral exploration company that has the backing of top financiers and geologists.
Ryan said in his new role, he hopes he can do less paperwork and more fieldwork.
"I'm hoping it frees me up for more family time and do more [of] what I love to do … jump in the helicopter and go prospecting," he said Monday.
Ryan Gold is focused on gold exploration in Yukon and Alaska. Its exploration projects include the Ida Oro property about 60 kilometres east of Dawson City and a joint venture with Valley High Ventures on the Flume property west of Dawson City.
Ryan said he is excited about Ryan Gold's plans for the next five years.
Yukoner wins aboriginal award
Another Yukoner, Jerry Asp of Whitehorse, was also honoured on Monday night with the Skookum Jim Award for aboriginal achievement in the mining industry.
A founder of the Tahltan Nation Development Corp. in Dease Lake, B.C., Asp was recognized for his efforts to promote the benefits of mining among aboriginal communities in British Columbia.
"I'm very pleased that the aboriginal people are being recognized as contributors to the mining industy — Skookum Jim, for instance, the discoverer of the Yukon Klondike Gold Rush, [and] the Tahltan people I'm from have been mining over 12,000 years," Asp said.
Asp played a key role in putting together a handbook for First Nations on how they should make the most of mining projects in their traditional territories, such as by ensuring local people are hired and minimizing the impacts of development on the environment.