High Stakes: Gold Fever in the Yukon

High Stakes: Gold Fever in the Yukon

A twenty-first century Yukon “gold rush” is threatening the pristine Peel watershed, but Canada’s First Nations are negotiating a land-use plan that protects its wildlife, water, and habitat. Use this activity to explore an unspoiled watershed and the potential impact of mining on the system.


5 - 8


Earth Science, Geology, Geography, Human Geography, Physical Geography, Social Studies

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Idea for Use in the Classroom

Introduce students to the Peel River watershed in Canada’s Yukon Territory by reading an article about the area. Then project the infographic. Orient students by using additional maps to show the proximity of the Peel River watershed to the Canada–U.S. border and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Read the text of the infographic to learn about the contention surrounding this land. Then turn to the chart depicting mining claims staked over time. Have students calculate the increase in claims from 1997 to 2011 (labeled peaks) and use the infographic to explain why claims increased. Compare the three maps of the Peel watershed (main map vs. “ecological assets” vs. “2011 zoning proposal”) to determine where active mining claims are located. Ask; Are most claims close to the river or its tributaries? Are they in ecologically important areas? Then evaluate the 2011 proposal to estimate what proportion of mining claims would be opened to mining activity.

Finally, have students act as an independent review board assessing the 2011 proposed management plan. Divide the class into teams to represent each stakeholder and research the topics below. Reconvene so each team can make a five-minute presentation of their findings, then conduct a round-robin discussion.

  • Neutral facilitator: Research the actual 2011 plan and the meaning of “special management area,” “integrated management area,” and “wilderness area.”
  • Mining industry: Research the uses of and demand for gold and copper.
  • Department of the Environment: Research the impact of gold mining on watersheds and the surrounding environment (use of water, water pollution, indirect impacts).
  • First Nations: Research the extent of caribou migration within the Peel River watershed and caribou habitat needs.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Specialist, Content Production
Clint Parks
André Gabrielli, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

April 29, 2024

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