A Day in the Life of a Yukon Miner

There’s another gold rush happening in the Yukon, as enterprising miners travel to Dawson City and the wilderness beyond searching for a payday. During the Yukon’s short mining season, crews race against the clock to pull a profit, working grueling shifts to capitalize on the region’s 24-hour sunlight. The lure of working double shifts can leave mining teams exhausted and overworked, but with only four months to strike paydirt, crews have no other choice. In the words of prospector Bernie Kreft, “In mining, it’s just who can keep the toys running the longest.”

As a placer miner, Bernie travels with his lean crew of his two young sons and their friend from claim to claim, searching for a pay channel rich with gold. His day begins at 5 a.m as his crew starts by digging small holes and testing the day’s grounds, hoping to tap an elusive channel. Next comes the lengthy sluicing process, as Bernie’s team races to move the uncovered pay dirt through the sluice as fast as possible.

What’s a sluice? Watch this:

The crew works a grueling day that often lasts over 12 hours, sometimes ending as late as 1 a.m. After a day of digging and sluicing, Bernie assesses the amount of gold excavated by his crew. If the day’s haul is successful, Bernie will know he’s closing in on a rare, lucrative paystreak. But more likely than not, the sluice comes up empty, and it’s time for Bernie to start over at another site.

For crewmates and best buddies Ken and Guillaume, their remote location and equipment failure pose additional challenges to their searches for gold. Their isolated camp at Moose Creek, two hours outside Dawson City, results in long treks into town to sell their gold and stretches of inactivity when their faulty equipment breaks down, forcing the team to wait on replacement parts.

While many men travel to the Yukon in selfish pursuit of fortune, Ken and Guillaume both work to provide for their families. Busy 12-hour days leave little time for the miners to contact loved ones, as Guillerme goes weeks without seeing his children and Ken sneaks in calls to his wife in Vancouver in his spare moments. But given just four months to  support their families by striking paydirt, Ken and Guillaume’s sacrifices are necessary.

Tune in to Yukon Gold: Handful of Goldtonight at 7P.