Yukon Nuggets

1977 Yukon Nuggets

Al Kulan


Canada's centennial year, 1967, was an exciting time in the Yukon. There were all kinds of celebrations and projects. Unnamed mountains were being climbed. The Yukon River flotilla saw boats of every description heading from Whitehorse to Dawson. Most of the events were huge successes. However, I recall, that one expensive project didn't seem to take hold.

Al Kulan, who had arrived in the Yukon as a broke prospector in the late forties, finally struck it rich in the lead-zinc region of Ross River.

In 1967, he was trying to give someting back to the community. He donated $25,000, a lot of money then, to plant trees on Lewis Boulevard.

Try as they might, the organizers could never get the trees to grow. Today, maybe, but back then, nope!

If he had trouble with trees, the legendary mining man had better luck with hardrock mines.

Al was born in Toronto in 1921 and joined the Canadian Army Tank Corps in 1939. After the war, he vowed he'd never work for anyone again. So he began the sometimes lonely life of a prospector.

In July 1953, Kulan found a heavy concentration of rust close to Vangorda Creek, near Ross River, which led to major lead-zinc discoveries.

In 1964, Kulan helped form Dynasty Explorations to search for marketable ore bodies in the Vangorda area. The word Dynasty was on everyone's lips. A Klondike-like bonanza, everyone agreed.

But a project of this size required money, so Dynasty joined with Cyprus Mines Corp. to form Anvil Mining, which developed the Faro deposit. The Faro mine became Canada's leading lead-zinc producer and started the biggest mining action since the gold rush. It operated for more than 20 years and established Yukon as a major supplier of base metals.

However, Kulan was not content to rest on his success or his wealth. In the seventies, while looking for iron ore deposits, Kulan rediscovered a deposit of the gemstone, lazulite, which turned out to contain the world's best specimens. He also discovered a group of new phosphate minerals found nowhere else in the world.

Well-formed crystals of lazulite occur in only a few places, including the Yukon where the colour and crystalline qualities are among the finest in the world.

In February 1976, the azure-blue rock was proclaimed the Yukon's official gemstone. The discovery of Yukon gemstones led to the formation of the Alan Kulan Memorial lectures sponsored by the University of Toronto, the Yukon Chamber of Mines and the Yukon Geoscience Foundation.

September 12th, 1977. On that fateful day, Al Kulan was holding a business meeting in the Ross River lounge. A local resident, John Rolls, walked over to the table and, without warning, fired a shot from a .357 Magnum revolver. Al Kulan, the Yukon's most famous prospector, was dead. Shock waves reverberated through the mining community and beyond.

The Yukon's Prospectors' Association inducted Kulan into the Yukon Hall of Fame in 1988. His name is engraved in the bronze three-metre-tall prospectors' statue on Main Street and Third Avenue.

In January 2005, Alan Kulan was inducted into the Canadian Mining hall of fame in Toronto.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.

Les McLaughlin

Les McLaughlin

As storyteller, radio man, and music producer, Les proved a passionate preserver of Yukon heritage throughout his life — nowhere more evident than as the author and voice of CKRW’s “Yukon Nuggets,” from its inception until his passing in 2011.