Popcorn bowls, Tupperware containers, cereal bowls — you name it, the miners on Yukon Gold use it to store the riches they pull out of the ground.
Janine Johnson is particular to an empty Kraft peanut-butter jar, the plastic kind with the green twist-off lid. On the second episode of the series, she and her husband Cam use it to tote their latest findings into Dawson City to have it weighed. The gold — which takes up about a quarter of the jar — comes in at just a hair under 70 oz (almost 2 kg), netting them a cool $90,000.
“We use everything to hold our gold, as long as we feel safe. We have it in old tobacco cans, in snuff cans, whatever works,” Cam Johnson says. “You’ll go see the banker in the Dawson and he’ll say, ‘Only you gold miners would walk down the street with $150,000 worth of gold but not even think about it.’”
The Johnsons are new additions to the cast of Yukon Gold, the highest-rated docu-series on History. The show tracks the efforts of four mines trying to pull money from the ground, Johnson’s among them. The most recent dip in the oilpatch caused Johnson to re-evaluate how he was making a living. He was running an oilfield business, in addition to working the family farm in Drayton Valley, Alta., about 130 kilometres southwest of Edmonton.
“I had a chance to re-evaluate everything. I talked to my grandfather, and he told me if he had to do it all over, he would be up in the Yukon,” Johnson says. “It’s always been a dream of mine … so I just jumped. I tucked tail and went into gold mining.”
That first summer in 2009, Johnson only saw his wife twice. And it wasn’t because he was too busy taking his gold to the bank. Instead, he was getting his hands dirty, finding out how the business worked. “I leased my equipment to another fella. I didn’t make any money, but I learned lots.”
Now he’s running two operations on his claim on 10 Mile Creek, a remote site north of Dawson City. He takes a boat 67 kilometres up the Yukon River. Then, it’s another 25 clicks inland to the site. The operation is a family affair, with Janine working alongside Cam and their three children. Brother-in-law Dennis shares in the operation of the wet plant while partner Kevin works with Johnson on a dry plant. It’s all in pursuit of that most precious of metals that’s caused more than one case of gold fever.
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