1978 Yukon Nuggets
The Clinton Creek asbestos mine, near the junction of the Yukon and Fortymile Rivers, was operated by the Cassiar Asbestos Corporation from 1967 until 1978. Asbestos was hauled from the mine site down the top of the world highway, across the Yukon River at Dawson City by ferry in summer, ice road in winter, and by a tram system in the spring and fall. At its peak, 500 people called Clinton Creek home.
During the life of the mine, Art Anderson was renowned as the #1 employee on the payroll. For good reason. Art's father, Pete, a Dane, had boated down the Pelly River to the Klondike in July 1898. Too late to stake good gold-bearing ground in the Klondike, he prospected around the Fortymile district. Pete Anderson married Mary Charles, who died giving birth to Art, on March 27, 1912.
Growing up in the remote corner of the Yukon, young Art Anderson intimately knew the Clinton Creek terrain. He made regular dog team trips from Fortymile to Dawson City to sell furs and buy supplies.
Art was twenty-one when he and his father left Fortymile in 1933 to farm the fertile Clinton Creek Valley soil. It provided a bounty of vegetables.
He and his father also found piles of fluffy fibres. Twenty years later, this fibrous matter, known as asbestos, was a coveted product. About 1955, Conwest Exploration, which owned the Cassiar Asbestos Corporation in northern British Columbia, was attracted to the Yukon asbestos find.
It is sometimes called the Caley deposit because Dawson City resident, Fred Caley, had funded Art Anderson in his search to locate the asbestos deposit.
In 1965, Conwest decided to go into production at Clinton Creek. During the mine's lifetime, an annual 100,000 tons of industrial-grade asbestos fibres were produced in the round-the-clock operation.
Transportation was a complicated affair. The skyline at Dawson required a lot of loading and unloading time, along with the maintenance of two-truck fleets on either side of the river. Six weeks were required to build an ice bridge. In the spring, when warm temperatures threatened to decay the bridge, drivers crossed with truck doors open - always ready to jump if the ice collapsed.
The mine's limited lifespan prevented the Yukon government from building a permanent bridge. However, now that the mine no longer exists, there is talk again about building a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson.
Art Anderson, discoverer of the Clinton Creek asbestos find, died at age eighty-four, on October 4, 1996.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.