Denis Jacob has been staking claims for gold-company clients since 1975. But he's never seen a frenzy quite like the one playing out in the Yukon—Canada's western-most territory and the site, more than 100 years ago, of one of history's greatest gold rushes.There's an art to staking, although the general rule is to stake properties that are beside ones that have already generated interest or have similar mineralization. The way the winter is foiled is to begin the stake hunt poring over geological maps and poking around the records office, asking what the article called "very specific questions." Then, the team goes out into the snow...carefully.
Mr. Jacob is part of a small, secretive band of "stakers," who hike miles at a time across the territory's mountains and forests, hammering wooden stakes into the ground. For years, they've quietly marked off and registered land for mining companies, who then have the right to explore for riches underneath....
"As soon as gold went up, bang, everything changed," says Mr. Jacob, 60 years old. "Staking has become wild, quite wild."
Contract stakers make a nice living, but on-spec stakers often have a hard time. Typically, if the latter are fortunate enough to get a property that a junior explorer takes on, they get a five-figure cash payment and a hunk of shares in the explorer. Sometimes, they don't even get the shares.