Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

PROSPECTOR OF THE YEAR – For well over three decades, Eugene Curley has been spending his summers in the bush looking for the next big mineral deposit.

Prospector recognized for what he loves to do

In the spring and summer months,

By Sidney Cohen on November 17, 2016

In the spring and summer months, Eugene Curley gets dropped off by a helicopter, or driven by ATV, into the Yukon bush for one, two or three weeks at a time.

There he’ll work, alone, prospecting for gold, and other valuable minerals.

With him, Curley carries a geologist’s hammer, sometimes a gold pan and a small shovel, and bags for his samples.

He eats canned foods out of small tins, dried goods, rice and tea – stuff that will last a while, he said in an interview Wednesday in Whitehorse.

He always carries a rifle for protection.

“I’ve had occasion to use a rifle a couple times,” he said, but hedged when asked why.

Curley, who lives in Faro, arrived in the Yukon in 1978 and has been prospecting since the early ’80s. He’s had some luck (he probably wouldn’t call it that), but remains modest.

“(I’ve made) some new discoveries, so far nothing has turned into a mine,” he said with a chuckle.

On Monday, Curley will be named Prospector of the Year at a ceremony at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre.

He was bestowed the honour after a vote by his peers at the Yukon Prospectors Association.

“It’s kind of shocking and feels good,” said Curley about the distinction.

A little like finding gold.

As a kid in Prince Edward Island, Curley heard stories about the Klondike and the riches that lay beneath its vast and rugged surface.

He started as a placer miner in 1981, retracing the steps of the original gold diggers.

“Looking for clues from where old-time gold miners have worked is generally an indication that there could be mineralization in that area,” said Curley.

But there’s much more too it than that.

Geologists survey large swaths of Yukon land.

Water and silt are tested for minerals, soil is sampled, rocks too, and the results are compiled by the government and made public. This information acts as a kind of treasure map, and Curley studies it for clues.

But the magic (though Curley likely doesn’t see it that way) happens in the bush.

One season in 1988, for example, Curley was prospecting on the top of a mountain when he came across a bear – or a bear came across him.

The bear gave chase and Curley made a run for it.

Escaping the animal, Curley found himself atop a second mountain, overlooking a valley.

What he saw gave him pause.

Amid the dark grey rock, a reddish-brown outcropping ran like a scar next to a creek.

“I went down and checked it out and it was a huge vein, 10 feet wide at the surface,” he said.

“It was a quartz intrusion.”

A closer look showed apple-green arsenopyrite – “arsenic bloom,” as it’s called by insiders, for its high arsenic content – in the rock.

Arsenic bloom is “a great indicator of gold values,” said Curley.

“I was excited at that,” he said. “I knew that I’d found something.”

Results from an assay, the laboratory test that determines a sample’s ingredients or grade, proved Curley right.

“When I assayed it, it assayed pretty good. I got a half ounce over five feet in width and about 0.2 over 10 feet. The average was maybe 0.25 ounces per tonne,” he said.

Carl Schulze, the association’s secretary treasurer, affirmed the discovery.

“Those are nice numbers, quite high grade,” he said, sitting next to Curley during the interview with the Star.

The Yukon’s not the only place Curley’s gone prospecting. He’s also done work in South America and Australia.

Still, he prefers working in the northern territory he calls home.

“Yukon is an excellent place to work and prospect,” he said. “It’s more free and it’s more (politically) stable.”

Not one of Curley’s four daughters is interested in prospecting, he said.

“Not at all.”

Neither are young people in general, he noted.

Curly, who is 77 years old, plans to go back into the bush this summer, though by his own sardonic admission, “I’m much more limited, now that I’m starting to get mature.”

Comments (15)

Up 0 Down 0

Kent Curley on Nov 26, 2016 at 3:28 pm

My son & I have been to Whitehorse and the Yukon numerous times, glad to know another Curley enjoyed it as much as we did.

Up 1 Down 0

Mike Zacharuk on Nov 25, 2016 at 12:36 am

Congratulations Gene.

Up 5 Down 1

MARGOT HILL on Nov 21, 2016 at 2:40 pm

Congratulations Eugene and I'm hoping you hit the big one this spring. Still at LAC in Toronto. Wishing you the very best as you deserve it.

Up 8 Down 3

Marie. Shawn Sammons wife on Nov 19, 2016 at 7:04 pm

Wow. What a nice story, really interesting. Congratulation, you should be proud of you

Up 7 Down 2

Jackie on Nov 19, 2016 at 5:16 pm

Congratulations! Eugene... looks good on you, look forward to seeing you next summer in Faro

Up 9 Down 2

Normand Larocque on Nov 19, 2016 at 2:45 pm

Congratulations Eugene ! Enjoy your well deserved honour !

Up 14 Down 4

Faye Silvester on Nov 18, 2016 at 3:53 pm

Big congrats Curley. . .a huge honor you rightly deserve. . .looks good on ya. . .

Up 10 Down 2

James Woods on Nov 17, 2016 at 11:13 pm

Congratulations Eugene, would have been to the conference if I would have known about the award for you. See you in the spring when you get back home.

Up 12 Down 11

jc on Nov 17, 2016 at 10:02 pm

I spent some time in the bush over the years too. So, enjoy yourself Curley, while you still can. It won't be long before a future government turns the Yukon into protected areas and this sort of thing will be outlawed. That almost happened when the NDP last held government.

Up 10 Down 2

Theresa Ruttgaizer on Nov 17, 2016 at 8:01 pm

Congratulations Gene! That is quite an honour! Well done!!!!!

Up 10 Down 2

Joe Gallant. on Nov 17, 2016 at 7:27 pm

Good for you.

Up 9 Down 2

Cecilia Chaisson on Nov 17, 2016 at 6:01 pm

Congratulations Gene you must be very happy - Fred and I are happy for you

Up 12 Down 2

Erin Curley on Nov 17, 2016 at 5:37 pm

Congrats Uncle Gene! Well deserved!

Up 12 Down 2

ProScience Greenie on Nov 17, 2016 at 5:23 pm

Eugene Curley is a top notch fellow. Well done sir.

Up 44 Down 2

Janet Matsumoto on Nov 17, 2016 at 4:45 pm

Congratulations Gene for the honour of being named prospector of the year.

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