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Yukon's Venus Mine & Mill

Whenever we think about the Yukon we think about Dawson City and the klondike gold rush. It seems that Dawson gets all the glory and attention but one has to realize that the Yukon is a big place with very few people. The Yukon covers about 190,000 square miles and today it has a population of less than 40,000 people. This would tell that there is still a lot of territory to be explored, and more mines to be possibly found.

The Yukon has seen many large mines over the years besides what went on in the Klondike region. Large mines like Elsa, Faro & Keno were put on the map because of sheer size and richness of the deposits. There has also been numerous mines that were not quite as large but were just as important. One of those mines was the Venus Mine which is located in the southern part of the Yukon on the west side of Windy Arm which is a part of the Tagish Lake system. This was a silver, gold and lead mine and it was built by the financing of one man.

John Conrad was an American business man who had big dreams and lots of money. He arrived in the Yukon in 1903 right around the same time as the big stike in Nome Alaska started. He had heard about the gold in Nome and was headed that way when he arrived in the Yukon. However instead of heading off to Alaska he picked up some mining claims just south of what is now Carcross Yukon. He developed two mines on a steep slope beside the lake shore. These were the Venus number 1 and Venus number 2 mines. Each mine was drifted into the side of the mountain and ore was pulled out to the steep surface. He then built a huge tramline so he could get the ore from the mines down to the lake. The tramline was almost 5 miles in length androse about 3/4 of a mile high up Montana Mountain. At the time it was the largest tramline in the world.

Once this was built John set out to build a mill beside the lake. He would take lake water and use this water and gravity to wash out and process the silver ore. After that the ore would be processed it was then bagged and then loaded onto a barge where it went to the end of Tagish Lake and was loaded onto a train that ran down into Alaska to the port at Skagway.

John then set out to build a town where the workers could live. By 1909 the town of Conrad was built and there were 3000 people living there. The town had several hotels, shops and even had steam boat travel where you could go to Carcross. Everything worked well and the mine ended up working three different veins of ore.

By 1912 however the ore was not as high a grade and the silver prices had dropped. The rates that the White Pass railroad charged was about 5 times higher than anywhere else and the mine could no longer turn a profit and John was forced into bankruptcy. The mines shut down and lay dormant until a company called Yukon District Gold, optioned the mine. Some equipment was upgraded and the mill produced about 10 tons of silver concentrate a day between 1918 and 1920. After that the mines were down again until the 1970's when another company went in and started mining at a lower level. This endevour produced another 500,000 ounce of silver and over 12,000 ounces of gold. Since then the mines have never been worked. You can still see the old tram and mill as it is right beside the highway between Carcross and Skagway.