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Five Fingers Coal Mine, Yukon

Arctic & Northern Mining

Klondike Gold Rush

The Klondike News,
Dawson, N.W.T., April 1st, 1898     Many years ago, when George Carmack roamed the Yukon from Dyea to Behring Sea, he kept a keen eye on the mineralized portions of the country, and among other things be found indications of coal. It was, as a rule, impure lignite. At one point, on a high bluff on the right hand bank of the Yukon, just below Five Finger rapids, he discovered several veins containing from 18 to 20 inches of clear coal.

    It remained for the "Cheechaka," or new-comer, to develop these veins and give them a commercial value. Early in last spring there was incorporated a company which bears the name of "The Five Finger Coal Company". Its officers are: W. T. Edmonds, president; William Fondran, formerly of Rock Springs, Wyoming, treasurer; H. A. Barr, of Eugene, Or., secretary.

    These gentlemen had already secured a tract of 320 acres just above the old discoveries of George Carmack. A tunnel drilled into the vein proved it to be a good quality of coal for fuel and for steamboat use.

    W. T. Edmonds, the president of the company, was born at South Boston, Va. He engaged in coal mining for the Algoma Coal and Coke Company of Algoma, West Virginia, the Turkey Gap Coal and Coke Company of Ennis, West Virginia, and the Crozier Coal and Coke Company of the same State. Leaving the coal mining business, he went to Bluefield, and entered the Bluefield Institute in 1897, remaining there one term. At the close of the school he started for the Klondike gold fields.

    Young Edmonds reached Skaguay August 13, 1897, and went over the White Pass to Lake Bennett, and then went back to Dyea over the Chilcoot trail. Here he found employment packing freight over the Chilcoot, and kept at that arduous work for a month, when he joined a party at Long Lake and with them started for the long trip to Dawson. Some idea of the difficulties of the trip may be had when it is known that two of the party - Loomis and Hensel of Seattle - turned back when they arrived at Windy Arm, taking their packs and going back to Dyea. They were afraid to face the unknown dangers still before them, having had already a somewhat hazardous trip.

    Edmonds was not so easily discouraged or disheartened, so, taking the boat, he guided it alone down the stream to Takish House, and next morning shot the White Horse rapids and went through the canyon without accident. When he and the remainder of the party got about five miles above Five Finger rapids, he stopped and made an examination of the vein which cropped out on the right side of the Yukon, where they subsequently purchased the valuable coal fields which they now own. The journey down the river was then continued, and the party arrived at Dawson after an uneventful trip, on September 24th.

    Mr. Edmonds started up Bonanza Creek with the intention of staking a claim, and after prospecting along that stream for some little time and not finding anything that he deemed would pay him to record and work, packed his traps and went on the Eldorado to try if he could not do better there. Here he met with no better success and after prospecting awhile returned to Dawson, where he remained for several weeks.

    At the end of that time the young miner set out again to prospect, and this time with better success. He crossed the divide to Dominion creek and went down on Green Gulch, where he located No. 6 on that gulch.

    Returning to Dawson he recorded his claim, and then, hearing of the excitement on Henderson Creek which the rich finds there had created, he started with his dog-team up the Yukon, and arrived at the scene of the late discoveries while the rush was still on.

    He staked No. 2 on Sixty Creek, a tributary of the Henderson, and shortly after stampeded to Dion Creek, where he got in early enough to locate No. 5 below Discovery.

    Shortly after this the excitement on Chicken Creek in the Forty Mile district began, and the young stampeder took his dog-team and joined the rush. No. 1 on Stone House Fork was located by him, and he then returned to Dawson.

    Besides these mining properties Mr. Edmonds owns a claim on a gulch coming in at 15 below Upper Discovery, on Dominion No. 2, and a half of No. 5 on Green Gulch which enters Sulphur at No. 38 above Discovery, and No. 3 on a gulch coming into Moose Hide at No. 8 above Discovery. All of these claims give promise that they will yield vast sums for the lucky young man, whose abilities bid fair to some day place him in the ranks of the successful mining operators and claim-owners of the Northwest Territory.

    Some of the money realized from his claims bas been invested in town property, for besides a house and lot on Sixth street, he owns a valuable lot on Fourth avenue. The young man purchased this property when it was cheap, for he believed that Dawson would soon assume big proportions and real estate there would be valuable. His purchase justifies the statement that he has a good idea of business.

    Mr. Edmonds is a bright, ambitious colored lad of about twenty-five years of age. As a rustler he has not his peer anywhere, for his sojourn in the Northwest Territory shows this conclusively. From the day he landed in Skaguay to the present he has been on a lively hustle, and it is due to that trait in his character that he has been so successful in the land of the glaciers.

    The Five Finger Coal Company, of which Mr. Edmonds is president, is fully satisfied that the coal lands they own will prove as good a source of wealth as many of the placer claims. The subject of fuel is one which will play a very important part in the development of the mineral resources of the country, and as the years go on the need of a good steam and fire producer will be strongly felt. In some of the thickly settled mining districts, wood is a scarce as well as an expensive article, and it will not be long before the necessity for some fuel to take its place will be in great demand.

    Some of the steamboat companies are already making arrangements to use coal for fuel, if it can be had, on account of the increasing scarcity of wood.

    The Five Finger Coal Company is making arrangements to supply Dawson with coal for fuel during the winter. For that purpose they expect to put on a line of barges during the summer, so that they can haul the product of their mines to the thriving city.

Photo dated 1907: D. D. Cairns. Geological Survey of Canada. Library and Archives Canada, PA-039943

The Yukon Geological Survey has this to say about the Five Fingers coal property:

    Coal was first noted here in 1887 by G. M. Dawson and first staked as coal lease 214 in Mar/98 by W.T. Edmonds. Restaked as leases 256 and 258 in Nov/99 by J. Cameron and C.E. Miller, who mined several hundred tonnes near surface by 1904. George J. Milton acquired the property in 1905 and formed the Five Fingers Coal CL, which attempted unsuccessfully to diamond drill and then drove two declines (a total of 345 m of development) by 1907. Only a few hundred tonnes were mined and the mine was abandoned in 1908 in favour of the seams at the Tantalus Mine.

    The original leases were acquired by Yukon Coal CL and transferred in 1966 to Anvil Mg Corp. L. The surrounding area was acquired in Sep/70 as Coal Exploration Licence 16 by Teslin EL, which performed mapping, drilled one hole (57.3 m) about 1220 m south of the mine in 1971, and staked a coal lease in Nov/73 (2964). The original leases were transferred in 1975 to Cyprus Anvil Mg Corp, which explored with mapping in 1977.

Capsule Geology: Two seams 1.1 and and 1.4 m wide and separated by 7.6 m of rock strike north and dip 16°. The coal occurs within the Lower Jurassic Laberge Formation. A sample analysed by the Department of Mines in 1908 returned 5.29% water, 36.14% volatiles, 40.12% fixed carbon and 18.45% ash, and reportedly produced an excellent, firm, coherent coke. Gross calorific value was reported as 12 100-13 600 G.BTU.

    A surface sample taken by Teslin EL from the 1.1 m seam in 1970 assayed 8.4% water, 16.7% ash, 32.8% volatiles, 42.1% fixed carbon and 0.2% sulphur. The coal was found to be non-coking and to have a High Volatile C rank with a dry calorific value of 10 740 BTU/lb.