The tiny chips of gold found in Nulkkamukka, along the Ivalojoki river in 1868 started the first gold rush in Finland. The discovery was made by the expedition led by Mr. Johan Konrad Lihr, assisting manager of the Mint, that was sent searching for gold in the northern parts of the country.
Kultalan Kruunun Stationi, an outpost for government officers for keeping order in the gold field was built on the bank of Ivalojoki. The officers granted claim licenses and collected taxes for all the gold discovered. Kruunun Stationi was a general meeting place for gold prospectors in the wilderness with a bakery, saloon and public house.
The first years of the rush were the most profitable, totalling up to 56 kilos per summer. The rush dwindled in a few years and prospecting continued on the tributaries of the Ivalojoki river, e.g. Sotajoki and Palsinoja. Even nowadays you can see gold prospecting camps along these rivers.
The search for the mother lode
Hopes for finding the mother lode of gold were high in the early decades of last century. Several mining companies, such as Prospector Oy, Ivalojoki Oy and Lapin Kulta Oy were founded to search for gold in the bedrock.
The majority of these mining companies worked in the Laanila area. The first of them was Henry Kerkelä’s Pohjola Oy. Results were poor and soon the companies went bankrupt one after another.
In 1930s a new generation of mining companies was driving pits and shafts with the help of excavators and other machinery. But again, the results were not good enough to cover the high costs of men and machines.
The largest nugget ever found in Finland weighed 393 grams. It was found by Evert Kiviniemi in 1935. According to him, the discovery site was near Laanila, at the source of River Luttojoki.
The old-timers of the Lemmenjoki river
The rush to Lemmenjoki started in 1945. Rumours of gold tempted men returning from the war to try their luck in the gold fields. The toughest of them became true old-timers of the wilderness. Modern prospectors often use machines. The first attempts to utilize machine power were not, however, very successful.