June 7, 1905 (10th Parliament, 1st Session)


Alfred Thompson

Conservative (1867-1942)


Yes, we had a memorable election there last December, when it proved extremely cold for some people. We have very little snow there. When I left there on the 15th February, we had about eight inches of snow, and that represented all the snow that fell up to that time. We have no thaws at all in winter.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn your attention to some methods of mining. The great industry in that territory is placer mining, and I would like to refer to the methods used in extracting the gold from the gravels of the Yukon. Gold is found as dust or nuggets. Gold dust ranges from the finest gunpowder up to sawdust, and from that on. It is graded in nuggets that weigh from a few pennyweights up to several ounces. But the great majority of the gold is won in dust, what is called dust, but it is like coarse gunpowder. This gold is found in gravel. This auriferous gravel overlays a very large area of territory. It is covered bv a vegetable sediment which miners call muck, a sort of tolack clay. Beneath the gravel is a bed rock. There are hill gravels and creek gravels; but in a general way you find first of all muck, next gravel, next bed rock. The richer portion of the pay is usually found iii the lower part of' the

gravel overlaying the bed rock. The miner cuts a hole in this muck or black clay, with an axe down to the gravel. Then he piles cordwood over the whole, sets the wood on fire, for this muck and gravel is frozen down to the bed rock. He sets the wood on fire, thaws some of the gravel, hoists it out, puts in another fire, and repeats that operation until he gets to bed. rock. When he gets to bed rock he tunnels by some process east or west, north or south, taking up the gravel by that means. He hoists it up and in winter time, usually piles it in a dump, and leaves it until it thaws in the spring. That was the primitive method used in the Yukon, and it is the method largely used now. There is another method, however, and that is by using steam power. The miner sets up a small boiler and conveys the steam through pipes and rubber tubes to a machine which he calls a ' point ' which he drives into this bank of gravel. He turns on the steam, and thaws the gravel for four or five feet, and is thereby enabled to take out more gravel in a given time than by thawing with wood. He hoists this up with a steam hoist, dumps it by a self-dumper into a dump, which is of a conical shape, and one sees these rise all over the country in the winter time. There is another method used in the summer time, and that is a steam shovel, such as is used in a railway cutting. The shovel raises the gravel and throws it into a washer, where at is put through a series of washings to extract the gold. Still another method is by the use of hydraulic power, where the water is thrown under great pressure against a bank with a force of two or three hundred pounds, dislodging a large quantity of gravel. The methods of washing the gold are practically the same, that is, it is done in accordance with the laws of gravity. Gold being of greater specific gravity than any other metal, it sin'-'- at almost the point where it is thrown into the sluice box. These sluice boxes are placed along the claim, and a stream of water is poured through them, now the gravel is thrown into the box. and the water rushing through that box carries away the gravel and leaves the gold. That principle Is the one which you will find throughout the whole of the industry, the gold is separated by its own specific gravity. In this sluice box, which is about a foot wide, there are what they call riffles. These are small poles in the bottom of the box between which the gold naturally falls. The large pieces of gravel are run off by the water, the small pieces of gold sink down in the interstices be-ween these poles. To make these riffles they use railway rails, rocks and small round spruce poles. Now you can understand, Mr. Speaker, how important it is that we should have plenty of water in this industry. For the miner, water is a prime essential in the Yukon. Without
water the miner cannot extract the gold in any paying quantity. Wood is also a very important article, and we are having a railway built in there now. and I expect *to see a larger quantity brought in there than has been for two or three years past, because this railway is opening up large tracts of wooded land from which we could not formerly get wood on account of the expense of hauling. I have thought fit to go somewhat into detail in this matter so that hon. members of this House would appreciate the requests I have to make and the explanations to which I may refer to later on. We are a territory and as such we must come to this federal parliament for absolutel5' everything pertaining to our territory and to our one industry. This parliament and this parliament alone can give us the things that we need to foster and encourage this industry of ours.
I wish to refer briefly to some things which we need and to some things -which parliament can give. The first and foremost need, the foundation, in fact of the industry in the future, is a code of mining laws. Up to the present time we have had no laws in the sense that we make laws in this House ; this industry of ours has been governed and guided by regulations which have passed during all the years for laws. These regulations are passed by Order in Council and have the effect of laws passed by parliament except that they are changeable by the same body that made them, the Governor in Council, and not by parliament. I need not tell you how important it is that any industry, if it is to thrive, must have for its foundation a stable set of laws, and I know it has been found difficult to compile these regulations and formulate them into laws. I also am convinced that they are considering this matter, that successive commissioners have considered the matter, but it is still in abeyance, we still have our regulations and we have no laws. To show you that what ,1 am talking about is not a political question but a question far above the plane of politics so far as the Yukon Territory is concerned, I shall refer briefly to the acceptance of my predecessor, the present Senator J. IT. Ross which he sent to his constituents in the Yukon when he ran for Parliament. It will be remembered that Mr. Ross was our commissioner there previous to the time he ran for parliament. He said :
I was engaged in an endeavour to revise and codify not merely the mining laws, but all the laws applicable to the Yukon when my illness interrupted the work.
Unfortunately it did.
I think this work most essential in order that the laws may be fixed, clear and certain. With respect to the mining laws I propose to have them codified and then submitted to representative miners for criticism, alteration and approval in order that they may, as -far as pos-

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