Klondike Mine

Although Current climate trends appear to have a neutral to beneficial affect on mining in the Klondike, recent modelling conducted by the Pacific Climate Consortium indicates a warming trend, greater variability in the weather and more extreme events, thus creating an impetus for adaptation planning to both opportunities and risks of climate impacts. Placer mining in the tributary creeks of the lower Klondike River started with the Gold Rush of 1898. Today the region’s gold mining industry consists of a number of relatively small operations, and the level of activity varies in concert with the global price of gold. Over the past few years there have been fluctuations in the onset of spring and fall, with the latter tending to occur later, providing a longer operating season. Warmer summers are perceived to be beneficial for the industry. Permafrost in the Klondike is relatively warm (-0.5 to 1.0c) and thaws relatively quickly when over-burden is stripped away to access gold bearing gravel, and increased summer temperatures would augment this process. While a number of potential climate stresses have been identified in the Klondike region, including changing hydrology, there is little evidence of consideration of future trends by the industry or proactive adaptation planning. This might be a reflection of the structure of the Klondike mining industry. It consists of a number of independent small scale (compared with hard-rock mining) companies split between locally based operations which have a long history in the Klondike, and to who mining might be characterised as both a culture and an economic mainstay, and companies from outside the Yukon.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

Current climate trends appear to have a neutral to beneficial affect on mining in the Klondike. There is some anecdotal evidence that the region’s permafrost may be becoming degraded and that spring hydrological patterns are changing. Recent modelling conducted by the Pacific Climate Consortium indicates a warming trend, greater variability in the weather and more extreme events. However base data are so limited, the terrain so complex and the meteorological record so sparse it is difficult to make confident predictions. Over the past few years there have been fluctuations in the onset of spring and fall, with the latter tending to occur later, providing a longer operating season. Warmer summers are perceived to be beneficial for the industry. Permafrost in the Klondike is relatively warm (-0.5 to 1.0c) and thaws relatively quickly when over-burden is stripped away to access gold bearing gravel, and increased summer temperatures would augment this process.

Implementation

While a number of potential climate stresses have been identified in the Klondike region, including changing hydrology, there is little evidence of consideration of future trends by the industry or proactive adaptation planning. This might be a reflection of the structure of the Klondike mining industry. It consists of a number of independent small scale (compared with hard-rock mining) companies split between locally based operations which have a long history in the Klondike, and to who mining might be characterised as both a culture and an economic mainstay, and companies from outside the Yukon. Numerous small scale operators and seasonality of operations would perhaps suggest that the Klondike mining industry is flexible and well positioned to respond to extreme events by varying the level of activity. However, conversations with the Placer Miners Association suggested that the the possibility of this occurring might be overstated because many operations are capitalised through loans, and cash flow has to be maintained to meet financial obligations even as mineral prices fall.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

While mines in the development stage have the opportunity to incorporate the possible impacts of a changing climate into design, existing mines that pre-date current concerns about climate change may have to address stresses or events that were not anticipated when they were planned.

Next Steps

Operating mines in Klondike, Yukon will need to conduct additional research and assessments to understanding the potential impacts of climate change on it’s operations, as well as how to optimize on potential opportunities that come from a changing climate.


Understanding and Assessing Impacts

Current climate trends appear to have a neutral to beneficial affect on mining in the Klondike. There is some anecdotal evidence that the region’s permafrost may be becoming degraded and that spring hydrological patterns are changing. Recent modelling conducted by the Pacific Climate Consortium indicates a warming trend, greater variability in the weather and more extreme events. However base data are so limited, the terrain so complex and the meteorological record so sparse it is difficult to make confident predictions. Over the past few years there have been fluctuations in the onset of spring and fall, with the latter tending to occur later, providing a longer operating season. Warmer summers are perceived to be beneficial for the industry. Permafrost in the Klondike is relatively warm (-0.5 to 1.0c) and thaws relatively quickly when over-burden is stripped away to access gold bearing gravel, and increased summer temperatures would augment this process.

Implementation

While a number of potential climate stresses have been identified in the Klondike region, including changing hydrology, there is little evidence of consideration of future trends by the industry or proactive adaptation planning. This might be a reflection of the structure of the Klondike mining industry. It consists of a number of independent small scale (compared with hard-rock mining) companies split between locally based operations which have a long history in the Klondike, and to who mining might be characterised as both a culture and an economic mainstay, and companies from outside the Yukon. Numerous small scale operators and seasonality of operations would perhaps suggest that the Klondike mining industry is flexible and well positioned to respond to extreme events by varying the level of activity. However, conversations with the Placer Miners Association suggested that the the possibility of this occurring might be overstated because many operations are capitalised through loans, and cash flow has to be maintained to meet financial obligations even as mineral prices fall.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

While mines in the development stage have the opportunity to incorporate the possible impacts of a changing climate into design, existing mines that pre-date current concerns about climate change may have to address stresses or events that were not anticipated when they were planned.

Next Steps

Operating mines in Klondike, Yukon will need to conduct additional research and assessments to understanding the potential impacts of climate change on it’s operations, as well as how to optimize on potential opportunities that come from a changing climate.

Resources