An alert citizen and rapid response by the RCMP are being credited with preventing the loss of artifacts from the historic Venus mine south of Carcross, Yukon, on the South Klondike Highway.
The incident occurred on Saturday, said Rebecca Jansen, manager of historic sites in the territorial Tourism and Culture Department.
She said a member of the public contacted the department to say that a B.C. man was removing machinery and other artifacts from the mine site. The department then called the police.
Carcross RCMP, about a 20 kilometre drive from the site, responded and recovered the artifacts.
The RCMP said in an email to CBC News that the man co-operated with officers in handing over the items.
They said the man told them he did not know taking historic items is against the law in Yukon.
Jansen said there has not been a decision on whether charges should be laid in this case.
She said historic sites, artifacts and structures are important because they tell the human story of the Yukon.
"They kind of lend a sense of place to our landscapes that reflect our culture and history, and when you take those away, so much is loss in terms of understanding having that connection," said Jansen.
The government and the Carcross/Tagish First Nation will discuss what should be done with the artifacts, she said.
Jansen said ideally they should be returned to their original place.
Yukon historian Murray Lundberg agrees, but said that's unlikely. The heavy pieces were brought down a steep mountainside and would be expensive to take back up, he said.
Lundberg has hiked up to the mine site at least 30 times, he said.
"The aura of the place is just so amazing," he said.
"I mean, you can feel what went on there. There's enough material still left laying around. There's old boots and this kind of stuff that, you know, it's like the guys just left there last year," said Lundberg.
The heyday of the Venus silver mine was in 1905-1906, he said, with it closing for good around 1915.
The silver was mined in a tunnel far up the mountain and taken to an aerial tramway for transport down to a mill on the shore of Windy Arm.
Lundberg said the machinery was taken from the terminus of the tramway high up on the mountain.
"The huge problem with this sort of thing," he said, "is once you take it out of context, its historic value is dramatically lost."
He said it never occurred to him somebody would try to take the artifacts because it was so hard to get them from the site to the highway.
Lundberg said there was one attempt two years ago to remove an artifact, but whoever was trying to carry it out gave up after about a half-kilometre and left it on the ground.