A predicted dismal year for mineral exploration in Yukon turned out better than expected after a surge in gold and silver prices.
The price of gold also led to a bonanza year for the placer mining industry.
Scott Casselman, the head of mineral services for the territorial government, said there were estimates that spending on mineral exploration could go as low as $10 million this year because of the pandemic.
That would have been a huge drop from $117 million in 2019, he said.
But gold prices started to soar in the late spring climbing well over $2,000 per ounce Canadian.
And investment money began to flow to junior mining companies for exploration projects, said Casselman.
“That was really a shot in the arm for Yukon explorers, so that is providing a strong finish to the year. In fact, there are still some exploration companies out there trying to wrap up their programs,” said Casselman.
He’s now estimating that spending for this year will be in the $70 to $80 million range which is still about a 35 per cent drop. The spending was spread over 93 exploration projects, said Casselman.
The rising gold prices produced a windfall for Yukon placer miners.
“This is a great year for the placer miners, other than the COVID[-19], they had a very high gold price and a very low fuel diesel price. So they did produce a lot of ounces this year,” said Casselman.
Placer mining produced 82,600 crude ounces of gold worth $165 million, he said.
That compares to 77,800 crude ounces in 2019 worth $120 million in 2019, Casselman said.