History of Mining in Alaska
|History of Mining in Alaska|
**Alaska Mining History
Alaska has a rich mining history. Placer gold exploration and mining began in the area with the Russian explorers in the early 1800s. After acquisition by the United States, exploration and mining continued and gradually increased for both hard rock and placer minerals.
The discovery and development of the A-J and Treadwell gold deposits eventually led to the location of the State Capitol. This was followed by the discovery of the Fortymile, Central, Nome, Fairbanks, Iditarod, and many other significant placer gold districts.
A young mining engineer by the name of George Pilz, while exploring southeast Alaska, offered a reward to any local native chiefs who could show him a gold deposit. Chief Kowee of the Auk Tlingit arrived with ore samples from the Gastineau Channel and Pilz hired Joseph Juneau and Richard Harris to do additional prospecting. Juneau and Harris found a large gold deposit at the head of what was to be named Gold Creek. This became the A-J Mine. The Treadwell mine was also developed in the area.
The Juneau mining district has produced 8.7 million ounces of gold up to 2005, including that from the rich Greens Creek mine. Turnagain arm was experiencing a gold rush in 1895 and this led to the development of two towns, Hope and Sunrise. The Turnagain arm has experienced over 100 years of varying activity and has produced 134K ounces of gold.
Prospecting in the Interior followed discovery of the Klondike in Yukon and the Fortymile in Alaska. The Fortymile district, discovered in 1896, has produced over 550K ounces of placer gold. By 1899 placer gold was discovered in Nome and led to an 11-year surge of miners that produced 46 million dollars worth of gold. The Cape Nome district has produced 5 million ounces and sparked mining in the Council-Solomon district that has reached 1 million ounces so far. The off-shore placer gold resource at Nome is known to be large; mining of this resource in the late 1980s was undertaken with a large bucket line dredge. Felix Pedro discovered gold on Goldstream Creek near Fairbanks in 1902. By 1905 the Fairbanks district production had reached 6 million dollars a year. The Fairbanks district is the largest gold producer in the state with 11.84 million ounces in total production from hard rock and placer sources. The Ft. Knox open pit was commissioned in 1996 and has produced 3 million ounces of gold.
The Kennicott copper deposit was discovered by Clarence Warner and Jack Smith in the early 1900s. It eventually proved to contain the largest and richest copper ore deposits ever found. This mine was commissioned in 1905 and operated 33 years producing 590K tons of copper and 9 million ounces of silver before closing.
**This is an excerpt from a 2006 report entitled Alaska Mineral Industry, produced by State of Alaska Dept. of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development and is in the public domain.