History of Mining in Alaska

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History of Mining in Alaska
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**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.


**Alaska Mining History 2006

The Hot Springs and Tolovana-Livengood districts, mined in the same era and adjacent to the Fairbanks District, have produced 580K and 530K ounces, respectively.From 1908 to 1910 Iditarod joined the gold rush districts and produced over 1.5 million ounces of gold. This centrally located discovery led to others in the area including the Innoko-Tolstoi-Ophir district at 730K ounces and the Aniak-Tuluksak district at 588K ounces of production.

A high-grade gold deposit was discovered between the Matanuska and Susitna basins in 1886 and became the Independence Mine. The mine contributed almost 172K ounces to the Willow Creek Hatcher Pass district’s production of 666K ounces.Before the Klondike gold rush in 1896, two Creoles named Pitka and Sorresca made discoveries along Birch Creek and caused several prospectors to arrive at what is now known as the Circle mining district. The Circle district has produced 1 million ounces of gold.

Gold was discovered at Valdez Creek in 1903 by J.C. Clarkson, John M. Johnson, James S. Smith and Peter Monahan from Valdez, for which the creek was named. The Valdez Creek Mine operated on the tributary during 1984 - 1996 reaching peak annual production rates of 100K ounces. The district has produced a recorded 510K of gold.

The Goodnews Bay platinum placer deposit was discovered in 1938. Mining by a floating dredge produced over 500,000 ounces of platinum since that date.

Other important discoveries include:
• 1968 Red Dog—The richest zinc deposit in the world
• 1974 Quartz Hill—In southeast Alaska, a very large, high grade molybdenum deposit
• 1979 Greens Creek—A rich polymetallic deposit mined for silver, gold, zinc, and lead
• 1984 Ft. Knox—A large low grade intrusion-hosted gold deposit in the Fairbanks district
• 1987 Pebble Copper—One of the largest gold, copper, molybdenum deposits in the world- contains 65 M ounces gold, 50.6B pounds of copper, 3.1B pounds of molybdenum
• 1988 Donlin Creek—Large refractory gold deposit in the Aniak mining district between the Kuskokwim and Yukon Rivers; contains a 28.4 M ounce gold resource
• 1994 Pogo—Large high grade underground operation commissioned in 2006
• 1995 MAN—Potentially large copper-nickel-platinum resource near Paxson
• 2005 LMS, Whistler, Terra—Potentially large gold discoveries in the Interior

**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.


Council of Alaska Producers

PO Box 220193
Anchorage, AK  99522-0193
Phone (907) 301-1022 - Email: kjmatthias@alaskaproducers.org