History of Faro
The area where Faro now lies was first documented in the early 1840's. Following are three of the people who played a major role in those early explorations.
In June 1843 Robert Campbell, Hudson's Bay Co. trader, made his first trip down the Pelly River to the Yukon. He travelled with Hoole, the interpreter, Lapie and Kitza the hunters. The trip was successful and was the first of many. His life is chronicled in the book, "Campbell of the Yukon."
George Dawson, of the Canadian Geological Survey, mapped the Pelly River in August 1887. He had led a party from Wrangell, Alaska, up the Stikine River, down the Dease River, up the Liard River to Finlayson Lake and overland from there to the Pelly River. There they built a canvas covered canoe and travelled back to the Pacific at Skagway, by way of the Yukon Shovel River. His report on the area encouraged later prospectors.
Charles Sheldon, the American hunter-naturalist, hunted Stone sheep in the Pelly area in 1905. His collection of skins and skulls was sent to the museum in Washington, D.C. He met Del Van Gorda, Oliver Rose and Jim Grew while he was in this area. Danger Creek is named for his packhorse. His book , "The Wilderness of the Upper Yukon" made the area famous among the world's big game hunters.
Mining in the Faro area
Although Placer mining started along the Pelly River in the 1880's, there were never sufficient amounts to trigger a Gold Rush along the Pelly. Small amounts are taken from the creeks and sandbars along the Pelly to this day, but most are small operations, or just hobby claims. However, the area is very rich in other ores and minerals. Rich mineral deposits may be present because of the Tintina Trench faultline, through which the Pelly River runs. Minerals deposits are present on both sides of the river valley, and a number of these have been discovered and claimed, providing possible future mining operations in the Faro area.
History of the Faro mine
In 1953 Al Kulan and 7 Kaska prospectors staked the claim that would eventually become the Faro mine. This discovery was initially made by Jack Sterriah and his son Jack Jr. while hunting in the VanGorder Creek area several years earlier. Kulan's guide was a First Nations trapper and resident by the name of Joe Ladue. Joe's son Jim is still a familiar face in Faro and the neighbouring community of Ross River. In 1960, Kulan and Aaro Aho formed the company Dynasty Explorations to work on the claims that Kulan had staked. When they started doing in-depth exploration of the ore body around Faro, they realized they had hit upon a world class deposit of Lead/Zinc ore (galena). By 1965, there were over 100 men working in the area, and Dynasty had an airstrip built on the claim site. Later, Dynasty joined forces with Cypress Mining of Los Angeles, California to form the Cyprus Anvil Mining Corporation. The mine opened officially in 1969, and Cyprus Anvil quickly became the largest private sector employer in the Territory. It also represented well over a third of the economy of Yukon, and by the mid 1970's was the largest lead/zinc mine in Canada. At one point, for a brief period, it was even the largest operating open-pit lead/zinc mine in the world!
For a variety of reasons, Cyprus Anvil was forced to cease operations in 1984. The mine changed hands twice following Cyprus Anvil's closure (Dome Petroleum was the owner briefly), but it wasn't until 1986 that Curragh Resources was formed and resumed operations on the site. Curragh continued mining until the mid-1990's but due to world metal prices, and the Westray disaster, Curragh was forced to declare bankruptcy. Following that closure, Anvil Range Mining re-opened the mine in 1995, and ran the mine until 1997. The mine is now closed permanently and reclamation is in progress.
Construction of the town site was started in 1968. Dubbed "Faro" for the gambling card game of the same name, by 1969, there were a number of houses built and ready for occupancy. Then disaster struck. On Friday June 13th, a forest fire swept through the newly built town, destroying all the houses except a handful. Undaunted, Cyprus Anvil cleared the debris and rebuilt the town. For years afterward, Faro was not a very attractive community, nestled in the midst of all the burnout. However, lots of people and groups pitched in to gradually clear the burnout away, and deciduous growth started springing up. Now, the community is full of color in the fall. The population of Faro in 1970 was about 800 people, and slowly grew over the years as the mine expanded. By 1981, the population was just under 2000. In 1979, and again in 1981, Cyprus Anvil was forced to build more housing to ease the shortage, and a second trailer court was established to be able to quickly add more housing if needed. As world ore prices climbed and receded, so did Faro's population. It reached an all-time low in 1985 with only 97 residents.
The mine has closed down for good and the reclamation is in progres. Today, the Town of Faro has approximately 400 inhabitants. Thanks, in a large part to tourism, Faro's future looks bright.