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Faro, Yukon

Faro is a small town in the central Yukon, Canada, formerly the home of the largest open pit lead-zinc mine in the world as well as a significant producer of silver and other natural resource ventures. The mine was built by the Ralph M. Parsons Construction Company of the USA with General Enterprises Ltd. of Whitehorse being the main subcontractor. Currently (June 2007) the population is 400, considerably lower than its peak of over 2,100 in February 1982. Faro was named after the card game.

Though these industries have declined over the past decade, Faro is attempting to attract eco-tourists to the region to view such animals as Dall's Sheep and Stone's Sheep - a species of mountain sheep almost unique to the surrounding area. Several viewing platforms have been constructed in and around the town.

Lorne Greene, famous for his work in Bonanza, once narrated a film about Faro called A New World In the Yukon.

The town is served by the Faro Airport.

The area was prospected in the 1950s and 1960s, with Al Kulan (later murdered by an allegedly aggrieved former partner), who retired to Ross River, being credited with discovering several significant deposits of lead and zinc ore. The Cyprus Anvil Mining Corporation established the first operations to mine the deposits, and established the town of Faro. A new highway was built between Carmacks and Ross River to serve the Faro area - initially numbered Highway 9, it is today part of the Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon Highway 4.

A forest fire in 1969 destroyed the beautiful newly-built homes, and work had to start all over again. The mine remained in more-or-less constant production until 1982. Trucks carried the ore concentrate from the mill by highway to Whitehorse, where the buckets were lifted from the trucks and lowered onto cars of the White Pass and Yukon Route railway. The trains took the buckets another 106 miles to Skagway, Alaska, where the contents were poured out into the holds of ships. During those years, Cyprus Anvil was purchased by Dome Petroleum.

World prices for metals fell in 1982, and the mine owners announced in May a two-month halt to production starting in June, 1982. In July, the mine owners extended the shutdown to four months. In September, the owners announced that the shutdown would be indefinite.

Under new ownership, and with government funding, a waste-rock stripping operation began in 1985, and under new owners, Curragh Resources, production resumed in 1986. This time, ore was trucked in ore pots from Faro directly to Skagway, bypassing the railway. This operation ended in 1993 not long after Curragh Resources suffered a coal mining disaster at the Westray Mine in Plymouth, Pictou County, Nova Scotia. A third operation, by the Anvil Range Mining Corporation, opened in 1995 and ceased production in January 1998, followed by the bankruptcy of Anvil Range. Much of the heavy mining and milling equipment was sold and removed from the Yukon.

Any prospect for further mining of the lead-zinc resource would now require significant investment to bring in mining equipment, and it would need to come entirely by road unless a B.C.-Alaska railway is built or the White Pass route is reopened to freight traffic to Whitehorse. Cost of cleanup is estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars.


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