The story is legend. He came from the prodigious gold hub of Timmins, Ontario, to comb the forests of B.C., Yukon and Alaska for gourmet mushrooms. Eight years on, he thought, why not hunt for gold?
Through the Yukon’s long winters, he read everything he could get his hands on—old mining journals, archived files, geology books. And then he set out to find the motherlode— the long-rumoured bedrock source that has slowly eroded, shedding millions of ounces of gold into Klondike riverbeds.
Life wasn’t easy. He, his wife Cathy Wood and their two kids lived in a tin shack and got by on territorial prospecting grants. But his novel exploration methods eventually paid off. Twice. Shawn Ryan’s two gold discoveries—the White Gold and Coffee deposits, projects now owned by major miners Kinross and Goldcorp—spurred what many called a second Klondike gold rush, which brought hundreds of millions of exploration dollars into the territory early this decade.
Then the gold market tanked. Just as quickly as they came, the droves of miners left the Yukon. That was fine with Ryan. He’s gone back to the drawing board to seek out the territory’s next big gold deposit. And though he’s found the first evidence of it, the motherlode still eludes him.
What was it like prospecting in your early days?
When we were poor, I would hitchhike a lot of helicopter rides into the bush. I’d have my pack ready and I’d let the helicopter companies know, if they’re doing an empty load in to go pick a government guy up or something like that, do you mind dropping me off or maybe picking me up in a week or four or five days from now when you come by empty.
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