Dawson City's mining office is booming, and some thank reality TV

There's been a huge jump in the number of people staking quartz and placer mining claims in Dawson this year. 'It's been fairly hectic,' said Dawson's mining recorder.

'A lot of people don't understand how the mining system works here,' says Dawson mining recorder

Catherine MacDougall, behind the counter at the Dawson City Mining Lands Office, with local prospector, miner and mining consultant D.R. Bud Davis. The office has been busy this year with familiar faces, and plenty of new ones. (Yukon government)

Dawson City's mining recorder is having a busy summer, and some locals believe reality TV is one of the reasons.

"It's been fairly hectic," said Janet Bell-MacDonald at the Dawson Mining Lands Office. "We have up to 30 visitors a day coming through our office."

Bell-MacDonald says 1129 quartz claims were staked last month, up from just 184 in June of last year — a six-fold increase.

The number of placer claims staked is also up, from 57 in June 2015 to 265 last month.

What accounts for the jump?

Bell-MacDonald said it's hard to say exactly, since there are no statistics to track why people are staking, but she said there are likely several factors.

"We speculate that probably some of the situation in Alberta, with the downturn in oil and gas, probably had some people thinking that this might be an alternate place to find work," she said.

Explaining the rules

Then there's the TV factor — with a rich vein of popular reality programs about living and mining in Yukon.

"Definitely the television series, the reality mining shows, are encouraging people to come to the territory. Some just to visit and see what is going on, others to try their hand at mining."

Producer David Paperny holding gold bars on the set of 'Yukon Gold', a popular show about Yukon miners. (Paperny Entertainment )

Bell-MacDonald says some of the hopeful new prospectors are coming from all over Canada, the U.S., Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Her office staff are spending a lot of time explaining the rules, she says.

"A lot of people don't understand how the mining system works here. They come in and they want to pay their $10 to buy a claim. It's a bit of a shock to them when we tell them that our legislation was written in 1905 and it requires on-the-ground staking.

"So if they want to stake a claim, they will have to make their way into the bush and find some open ground and put some posts in the ground."

'It takes a special set of skills'

Paul Robitaille, a manager with the Klondike Visitors Association, has also noticed a lot of reality TV fans around Dawson City this summer, some there to stake claims, others just to sight-see.

'Gold fever is alive and well,' said Paul Robitaille of the Klondike Visitors Association. (Paul Robitaille)

"Gold fever is alive and well," he said, "it's always going to be something that drives people to do something that's unexpected."

Robitaille thinks Yukon's TV exposure is good for tourism, but he does wonder whether it might create unrealistic expectations for people who want to head into the bush and find a fortune.  

"Everybody that came during the [1898] gold rush could tell you it's not that easy.

"And, any gold miner will tell you that it's hard work and it takes a special set of skills. So. I'm thinking that a lot of these people will be disappointed." 

Still, Robitaille welcomes everyone to come to Dawson City and try their hand at mining.