Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mushroom Pickers Find Gold

A modern pioneering couple who went from supporting themselves by mushroom picking in the Yukon to controlling vast shares of gold claims. They had rough time starting out: :

One season, he and Wood picked morels worth tens of thousands of dollars, but ended the year broke after crashing a used helicopter they purchased with all of the money they made….To minimize their cash outlay, Wood and Ryan moved into an abandoned miner’s shack. Their new home was made of tin, and it had neither running water nor electricity. Ryan spent winter nights by the wood stove reading old mining journals.”


He and Wood own more than 35,000 claims. ‘We just passed Luxembourg, and over the summer we’ll be the size of Samoa,’ he continued, describing just one of his projects. Credible estimates of the amount of gold still buried in his properties run to the billions of dollars…

To Ryan, the notion that gold wasn’t worth looking for was absurd. The market might profess disinterest, but this was cash in the ground. His closest friend, Antoine Deschenes, a rail-thin, 6-foot-4 Quebecois, had an idea. ‘In the winter the Yukon runs clear,’ he said.

The significance of his insight is hard to appreciate without a bit of background. The gold of the Klondike rush was placer gold, found at the bottom of creeks and streams. Deschenes imagined that some of this gold had, during tens of millions of years of erosion, traveled all the way down the Klondike into the Yukon River. At Dawson, the Yukon is opaque from mixing with the water of the silt-laden White River. But in the winter the White is frozen solid. Therefore, the Yukon runs clear, and a daring prospector could dive in and find the riches he sought just lying there, in plain sight.”

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