Back in September of 2017 the Government of the Yukon and the Yukon Mining Alliance held an event in Toronto. The star at the event – other than Premier Sandy Silver – was a doré gold bar protected by a real Mountie in the real, scarlet, dress uniform of the RCMP.
The bar was owned by Golden Predator Mining Corp. and was worth just about exactly a million dollars. Janet Lee-Sheriff, Chief Executive Officer and William M. Sheriff brought the bar accompanied by a Yukon Mountie and the pictures from the event were all over the internet. It was a PR coup but it was also part of a larger plan.
“The bar came from the high-grade gold from our 3 Aces in the traditional territory of the Kaska Nation in the southeast Yukon,” said Janet Lee-Sheriff. “It was a bit of a necessity is the mother of invention story. We did a bulk sample which is a good idea early in the exploration project to test the metallurgy and to determine if grade from processing reconciles with drilling and to establish the recovery of the gold from the rock. Due to the extremely high grade, we were quite concerned if we sent it away we may not get an accurate interpretation. So we built our own test plant in the Yukon and processed the bulk material. We were very pleased with the fact that we processed the material entirely without chemicals. Just water and gravity.”
That process is important for a number of reasons. First, no chemicals mean lower costs on processing for an eventual mining operation, it also dramatically changes permitting and reclamation. Second, on the first bulk sample, Golden Predator achieved an 83% recovery which is excellent for a first pass.
“Based on on-going test results from our test labs we’re hoping to improve recovery in future tests to up to 94% recovery,” said Sheriff. “With the next bulk sample, we’ll make some equipment changes in the process and see how it comes out. But we are using very unsophisticated equipment, really almost 1800’s technology. This allows us to be 100% chemical free.”
Pouring your own doré bar from your own, chemical free, bulk sample is one thing, but what do you do with the bar once you have it?
“Most companies send their bulk sample to somewhere in the US or China and then any gold credits are deposited in the company’s bank account,” said Sheriff. “What we did is different but what we really wanted to do was add value in the Yukon by helping to create jobs and spend our money locally, we wanted to involve our community.”
The idea of refining gold and minting coins from Yukon gold is, Sheriff’s research revealed, the origin story of the Royal Canadian Mint. “During the Klondike Gold Rush at the end of the 1800s, Canadians became aware that most of the gold was leaving Canada,” said Sheriff. “The Canadian Mint was founded to mint and eventually refine that gold instead of seeing miners sell their gold to the United States. 90% of the gold in the first coins at the Canadian Mint was Klondike gold.”
The Sheriff’s gold coins began with the concept, “Let’s just do the same thing in the Yukon.” That led to two things: first the search and trademarking of the name “Yukon Mint” and then the announcement of a coin design contest open to all citizens of the Kaska Nation.
“No one told me it couldn’t be done, so we just did it,” said Sheriff. On the other hand, no one told Sheriff how to do it. All that had to be figured out as she went along.
The million dollar doré bar displayed in Toronto was, in fact, on its way to a refinery in St. Catherine’s Ontario. There the impurities would be removed and .9999 pure gold would be recovered. Refining done, .9999 gold was shipped to Sunshine Minting Inc. in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho where the Yukon Mint’s first coins were struck with the winning design.
That design was ‘True North Moose’ by Kaska artist Miranda Lane.
“We made 180 one ounce coins and 140 half ounce coins,” said Sheriff. “I wanted to keep the runs small so that the coins would be collectable.”
Which brought us to the topic of sales. “The official launch date is National Aboriginal Day, June 21,” said Sheriff. “But purely on the strength of the Unveiling Press Release, we have orders for over half the run.”
The very first coin was sold to Canadian gold mining legend and Golden Predator investor, Rob McEwen. The coins are available for sale to the public at http://www.yukonmint.com/.
As part of exploration practices, Golden Predator will be doing another bulk sample from a different vein set at its 3 Aces project this year. Sheriff is looking forward to the possibility of turning some of that gold into a new coin for the Yukon Mint.
“We’re always looking for ways to give back to the community, to create opportunities and keep money local. We want to find ways to create spin-offs from our exploration activities,” said Sheriff. “As the project evolves, we’d like to do this annually with our First Nations partners and others. We want to keep it going.”