Gold mining in Alaska
Gold mining in Alaska, a state of the United States, has been a major industry and impetus for exploration and settlement since a few years after the United States acquired the territory from Russia. Russian explorers discovered placer gold in the Kenai River in 1848, but no gold was produced. Gold mining started in 1870 from placers southeast of Juneau, Alaska.
Gold is found and has been mined throughout Alaska; except in the vast swamps of the Yukon Flats, and along the North Slope between the Brooks Range and the Beaufort Sea. Areas near Fairbanks, Juneau, and Nome are responsible for most of Alaska's historical and current gold production. Nearly all of the large and many of the small placer gold mines currently operating in the US are in Alaska. Six modern large-scale hard rock mines operate in Alaska in 2008; four of those are gold-producing mines (an additional gold mine suspended production in late 2007). There are also some small-scale hard rock gold-mining operations. Alaska currently produces more gold (in 2007: 673,274 troy oz from lode mines, and 53,848 troy oz from placer deposits) than any state except Nevada. In 2007, gold accounted for 15% of the mining wealth produced in Alaska. Zinc and lead, mainly from the Red Dog mine, accounted for 73%; silver, mainly from the Greens Creek mine, accounted for 8%; coal and aggregates accounted for nearly 2% each. Alaska produced a total of 40.3 million troy ounces of gold from 1880 through the end of 2007.
- 1 Active mines
- 2 Historical lode and placer gold mines
- 2.1 Southeast Alaska
- 2.2 Interior Alaska, north of the Yukon River
- 2.3 Interior Alaska, south of the Yukon River
- 2.3.1 Kaiyuh District
- 2.3.2 Ruby-Poorman District
- 2.3.3 Hot Springs District
- 2.3.4 Rampart district
- 2.3.5 Circle district
- 2.3.6 Eagle district
- 2.3.7 Tolovana-Livengood district
- 2.3.8 Fairbanks district
- 2.3.9 Goodpaster district
- 2.3.10 Fortymile district
- 2.3.11 Chisana-White River district
- 2.3.12 Kantishna district
- 2.4 Southwestern Alaska
- 2.4.1 Kuskokwim Gold Belt
- 2.4.2 Marshall-Anvik District
- 2.4.3 Aniak District
- 2.4.4 Iditarod District
- 2.4.5 Innoko District
- 2.4.6 McGrath-McKinley district
- 2.4.7 Goodnews Bay District
- 2.5 Seward Peninsula
- 2.6 Southcentral Alaska
- 2.7 Northwestern Alaska
- 3 Recreational gold mining in Alaska
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
The following are active gold-producing mines and advanced lode exploration or development projects.
Placer mining continues throughout Alaska. In 2007, an estimated 175 placer mines produced 53,848 ounces of gold, an approximately 15% drop in activity and production compared to 2006. All of these operations are seasonal, none employ more than a few dozen people. Many of them are family operations with roots reaching back several generations. One mine, at Nolan Creek, mines frozen gravels by underground methods. A significant portion of current exploration for lode gold in Alaska occurs in placer gold camps.
Lode (hard rock) mines
Large-scale hard rock mines producing gold
- The Greens Creek mine, owned and operated by Hecla Mining, located on private patented claims and on federal land in the Admiralty mining district, is primarily a silver-lead-zinc mine, produced 73,000 troy ounces (2.3 tonnes) of gold in 2006 and a similar amount in 2007.
- The Fort Knox Mine includes the Fort Knox open pit mine, mill, tailings storage facility, water storage reservoir and the Walter Creek heap leach facility. These facilities are located within the Fairbanks North Star Borough, approximately 25 highway miles northeast of Fairbanks, Alaska. The mine site is located primarily on lands owned by the State of Alaska and the Mental Health Trust. The operator, Fairbanks Gold Mining, Inc. (FGMI), is a wholly owned subsidiary of Kinross Gold Corporation. The mine was originally permitted in 1994, and in 2011 produced about 290,000 ounces of gold. As of the end of 2011, FGMI employed 522 people at the mill and mine, and operates 24-hours a day, 365 days a year.
- Pogo mine, owned and operated by Sumitomo Metal Mining and Sumitomo Corporation, on State of Alaska-owned land in the Goodpaster district, produced 260,000 troy ounces (8.1 tonnes) of gold in 2007, more than double production in 2006.
- The Kensington Gold Mine is located approximately 45 air miles north of Juneau and 35 air miles south of Haines, Alaska. The mine site is within the City and Borough of Juneau and the Tongass National Forest. On June 24, 2010, the mine started production and expects to average approximately 125,000 ounces of gold annually over an initial mine life of 10+ years. The underground mining operation includes placing tailings as paste backfill to fill mined areas and provide support for ongoing mining. The project employed approximately 300-400 people during the construction of the facilities, and expects to employ 200 full-time employees to operate the mine and processing facilities.
Large-scale hard rock gold mines under development (construction)
- Rock Creek mine, owned and operated by NovaGold Resources, on privately owned land in the Nome mining district. Constructed in 2007 and 2008, the mine began producing gold in September 2008, but ceased production almost immediately due to difficulties processing the ore and water-management issues. It is now on care and maintenance pending significant modifications to the mill, which has design flaws.
Advanced gold-bearing hard rock exploration projects of note
- Donlin Creek, in the Kuskokwim Gold Belt, contains an estimated 29.3 million ounces of Proven and Probable gold reserves (calculated at a gold price of $750) and an additional 10 million ounces of gold resource. Donlin is one of the largest known undeveloped gold deposits in the world. If developed according to plans published in spring 2009 it will be one of the largest gold mines in the world. Applications for permits will begin in 2009 and construction could begin as early as 2012 A large and robust series of felsic sills and dikes hosts the gold in association with small-scale quartz (and lesser quartz and/or carbonate) veinlets. The sills intrude a thick sequence (5000+ feet) of non-metamorphosed, folded, graywacke, sandstone, and shale. The deposit occurs on private land owned by native corporations Calista Corporation and The Kuskokwim Corp. Donlin Creek LLC, equally owned by Barrick Gold and NovaGold Resources, holds a lease on the land and operates the project.
- Pebble Copper, discovered in the mid-1980s, is one of the largest known copper-gold porphyry deposits in the world. It is located on State of Alaska-owned land. The deposit contains measured+indicated+inferred resources of 72-billion pounds of copper, 94-million ounces of gold, and 4.8-billion pounds of molybdenum, within 9.1 billion tonnes of ore. Tens of million of dollars are spent annually on the project, an initial mining plan is expected in 2009, with permitting scheduled for 2010.
- Nixon Fork mine in the McGrath Mining District. First exploited in 1907, this underground operation exploits high-grade gold skarn ore bodies along contacts between Cretaceous granitoid and metamorphosed Paleozoic sediments. The mine, after decades of inactivity, returned to production for several years in the mid-1990s, and again in 2006 and 2007, when a significant variation between actual and predicted headgrades occurred. An updated resource evaluation is pending further work.
- The Niblack prospect, a zinc-copper-silver-gold VMS deposit on southeastern Prince of Wales Island, in the Ketchikan Mining District. Ore occurs as massive sulfide bodies hosted in a local rhyolite belt within a package of deeply deformed and metamorphosed volcanic and sedimentary rocks. In the last ten years, significant underground and surface exploration occurred at this early-1900s minesite. A recent estimate reports a near surface indicated resource of 4073 kg of gold, 59,424 kg of silver, 14,810 metric tons of copper, and 30,474 metric tons of zinc contained in 1,424,000 metric tons of ore; and deeper inferred resources of 3,919 kg of gold, 55,295 kg of silver, 31,235 metric tons of copper, and 106,192 metric tons of zinc within 1,893,000 metric tons of ore. Further exploration is planned.
- Dozens of other significant exploration efforts for gold, across the state, contributed to the total of over $310 million spent on mineral exploration in Alaska in 2007.
Historical lode and placer gold mines
Over 81,000 ounces of placer gold came from the Porcupine district near Haines. Porcupine Creek, about 20 miles (32 km) north of Haines, is the site of a 1898 gold discovery; the creek has been intermittently placer mined ever since. Outside of the Porcupine basin only a few other creeks - Glacier, Nugget and Cottonwood - produced significant gold. The area around Reid Inlet, in modern Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, hosted several hard rock gold prospects, including the LeRoy mine, which exploited quartz veins for about 10,000 ounces of gold production. The district, which includes Skagway and Haines, is bordered to the north and east by Canada. To the west is the Pacific Ocean and the Chichagof District lies to the south. The Discovery Channel series Gold Rush Alaska takes place in this region.
In 1880 a local inhabitant, Chief Kowee, revealed to prospectors Joe Juneau and Richard Harris the presence of gold in what is now named Gold Creek in Silver Bow Basin. The city of Juneau was founded there that year. The strike sparked the Juneau gold rush which resulted in the development of many placer and lode mines including the largest, in their time, gold mines in the world: the Treadwell complex of lode mines on Douglas Island (across a narrow sea channel from Juneau) and the AJ lode mine, in Juneau itself.
Over 7 million ounces of lode gold and 80,000 ounces of placer gold have been recovered from the Juneau district.
Most of the gold recovered from the Admiralty mining district (which consists of Admiralty Island) is a by product of silver and base metal mining. The Alaska Empire underground lode mine recovered gold from quartz veins in metamorphic rocks. Discovered and staked in the 1920s, production of about 20,000 tonnes of 0.25 ounce-per-ton gold ore occurred in the mid-1930s. The Funter Bay underground lode mine produced about 500 thousand tonnes of copper-nickel-cobalt ore, without gold, from a Mesozoic gabbro-norite pipe. No significant placer mining was done on Admiralty. About 500,000 ounces of gold, almost all from the currently operating Greens Creek lode silver mine, have been recovered from the Admiralty district.
|Chichagof mining district|
|Alaska Mining District|
Approximately 800,000 ounces of gold have come from the Chichagof district. Chichagof, Yakobi, Baranof and smaller islands comprise the district. Numerous lode and placer prospects and mines exist in the district. Major production came from underground lode mines exploiting gold-in-quartz veins.
Apex-El Nido mine
The Apex-El Nido produced perhaps 50,000 ounces of gold from a mile of underground workings exploiting polymetallic quartz veins.
From 1922 to 1933 the Hirst-Chichagof produced 133,000 ounces of gold and 33,000 ounces of silver from polymetallic quartz veins assaying nearly 1 ounce of gold per ton. There are over a mile of underground workings, reaching 2,000 feet (610 m) below the surface. Significant reserves remain, which have attracted exploration efforts in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Chichagof mine opened in 1905 and by 1942 had yielded 660,000 ounces of gold and 195,000 ounces of silver from quartz veins assaying over 1 oz gold per ton. There were several miles of workings on 5 levels. Six shafts reached a maximum of 2,750 feet (840 m) below sea level. Between 1981 and 1988 several thousand feet of new workings were dug, and engineering and environmental studies were done, but the project was abandoned.
15,000 ounces of gold from placers, came from the Petersburg-Sumdum district which consists of; Zarembo, Etolin, and Wrangell Islands, and the mainland between the Juneau and Ketchikan districts. Many small lode deposits were located in the late 1890s and early 1900s. The most significant lode producer was the Sumdum Chief, which was discovered in 1889 and operated until exhausted in 1903. 24,000 ounces of gold were extracted from two quartz veins averaging ore of about 0.39 ounces per ton of both gold and silver. The mine reached a depth of 1,200 feet (370 m) and had a ten-stamp mill. In Windham Bay, a cluster of mineral claim holdings were consolidated in the 1920s; the Jensen mine was the most productive of these, producing about 50 ounces of gold. Several aerial tramways, thousands of feet long, connected various adits and mills.
|Ketchikan mining district|
|Alaska Mining District|
Approximately 58,000 ounces of lode gold and 4000 ounces of placer gold have come from the Ketchikan district, consisting of Dall, Prince of Wales, Revillagigedo, and smaller islands, as well some mainland, in the southernmost-part of Alaska. Numerous historical lode mines and prospects for base metals, uranium, rare earth elements (REE's), iron, and platinum group elements (PGE's), as well as gold exist in the Ketchikan district. Major gold production came from underground lode mines exploiting: gold-bearing quartz veins in metamorphic rocks (such as the Gold Standard, Sea Level, Dawson, Golden Fleece, and Goldstream mines); skarns (at the Jumbo and Kassan Peninsula copper-gold mines); zoned mafic-ultramafic plutons, as at the Salt Chuck silver-gold-copper-PGE mine; and VMS deposits such as Niblack.
A high-yielding mine in Ketchikan District is the Golden Fleece Mine, located about 0.2 mile north of the north end of James Lake on Prince of Wales Island, latitude: 55.152179, longitude: -132.056635. The mine was most active from 1901 to 1905.
Interior Alaska, north of the Yukon River
|Chandalar mining district|
|Alaska Mining District|
The Chandalar district is the area around the upper drainage of the Chandalar River, includes some southern foothills of the Brooks Range, and extends to the crest of the Brooks Range. Discovery of placer gold in 1906 was quickly followed by lode discoveries. Most of the placer-producing creeks drain the area of lode mineralization. The district produced about 48,000 ounces of placer gold and 17,000 ounces of lode gold.
Little Squaw Creek
Little Squaw Creek drains an area cut by many auriferous veins. Some of the placers in the basin are exceptionally rich. By 1916 most of the shallow placers were playing out so miners shifted their interest to the placer drift mines (underground operations). The most notable of these is the Little Squaw Bench, including the Mellow Bench. Approximately 29,000 ounces of gold were recovered averaging 1.0 oz/cubic yard of gold in the gravels with spikes of up to 4.6 oz/cubic yard. Some individual nuggets were over 10 ounces. In 2010, gold production resumed with mining of the placer deposits by the Gold Rich Mining Company.
Little Squaw and Mikado lodes
In 1909 to 1915 development and underground gold mining occurred at the Little Squaw, with a few hundred feet of workings built and a few dozen ounces of gold recovered. The nearby Mikado mine enjoyed similar efforts around 1913. In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s additional work was done. These later efforts probably recovered more than 10,000 ounces of gold. Significant efforts resumed in 2006, and are ongoing, to explore the Little Squaw placer and lode deposits.
The district encompasses the upper Koyukuk River basin including the Alatna and Kanuti rivers and the village of Bettles. The district extends from the southern flank of the Brooks Range to the northern Ray Mountains, and is directly west of the Chandalar district. Much of the district is now in Gates of the Arctic National Park. Gold was discovered in placer deposits in the district in 1901. About 350,000 ounces of placer gold have been won from the area, perhaps 85% of it from near Wiseman. Mining continues today in the district. Much of the district is underlain by bedded Paleozoic rocks, a schist belt extends along the southern foothills of the Brooks Range. Cretaceous plutons intrude metamorphic rocks in the southern part of the district. Pleistocene ice sheets from the Brooks Range and cirque glaciers in the Ray Mountains covered much of the higher elevations. Glaciers are now restricted to the highest cirques of the Brooks Range.
Miners produced 235,000 ounces of gold from Nolan Creek between 1904 and 1999. Some of the placer gold is mined by underground methods in frozen gravels. A 42-troy ounce nugget, Alaska's twentieth-largest, came from Marys Bench on Nolan Creek. Placer mining activity continues, with a reserve of 214,760 ounces of gold reported in 2000.
Mining occurred on the Hammond River, a tributary of the Koyukuk River, from about 1900 to at least 2000. Exact production is unknown, but is estimated at about 80,000 ounces.
A rich, deep channel was struck beneath the Hammond River in 1912, and during the following 4 years, over 48,000 oz gold were produced, including a 138.8-oz nugget. (Pringel, 1921; T.K. Bundtzen, written communication, 1999) Much of the gold was coarse: the third (146 troy oz.), fourth (139 troy oz.), 14th (61 troy ounces), and 17th (55 troy ounces) largest gold nuggets in Alaska were found on the Hammond River between Discovery claim and Vermont Creek a distance of 4 miles. Only the richest ground was possible to mine as the Hammond River was one of the most remote placer districts in North America until 1975 when the Dalton Highway for the Alaskan Pipeline project was completed. Historically the Hammond River is one of the largest gold producers in the Koyukuk district. Gold was discovered on the Hammond River, just above the lower canyon mouth, about 2 miles upstream from the Koyukuk River. In the early years, attempts were made to mine the modern stream gravels. At the mouth of Swift Creek a wing dam was built to divert the river for mining, but numerous cobbles and small boulders made the venture unprofitable. Approximately 500 ounces was recovered with pick and shovels in Summer of 1902. Later, shafts sunk 66 feet to bedrock at the discovery site were reported to show the presence of gold in paying quantities. The majority of the gold production on the Hammond came out of the deep channel as early miners were unable to deal with the water and cobbles in the present river channel.
The Hammond River contains deep channel, bench, and modern stream placers. Much of the Hammond River gold is of the coarse nugget variety. Several nuggets weighing from 45 to 59 oz were found in the early days. In 1914 a 138.8 oz nugget (fourth largest in Alaska) was found in a mud-filled crack on bedrock near Gold Bottom Gulch (Engineering and Mining Journal, 1915, p. 1021; T. Bundzten, personal communication, 1999).
In 1914,on No. 4 Above, Hammond River (Goldbottom Gulch), J. C. Kinney and partners picked up nuggets from bedrock valued at about $20,000; one nugget, the second largest ever found in Alaska, was worth $2600. The rest of the dump when sluiced yielded a little less than the value of the "pickings." (Engineering and Mining Journal, 1914, p. 1062 Vol. 98 No. 24. (Gold at $20.00 per ounce.)
Placers on Slisco bench, an ancient buried channel of Hammond River near Vermont Creek on the west side of the present Hammond River contain a measured resource of 31,099 oz gold with grades of up to 0.3 oz/cy. Inferred resources on the same bench range from 50,000 to 150,000 oz. (2002) . Other benches of Hammond River between Discovery Claim and Slisco Bench have similar potential but have not been systematically prospected with modern technology.
U.S. Department of Interior BLM-Alaska Technical Report 50 Mineral Investigations in the Koyukuk Mining District, Northern Alaska
Maddren USGS Bulletin 532 1913
The Hughes district includes the basin of the lower Koyukuk River (below the Kanuti). Much of the area is a swampy, lake-studded lowland, from which rises rounded hills to elevations of several thousand feet.
Placer mines in the Zane Hills on Bear Creek, a tributary of the Hogatza River, are the biggest source of gold from the district. Placer deposits clustered near the village of Hughes and Indian Mountain are the other significant source of placer gold from the district. The district has produced about 245,000 ounces, with traces of copper, lead, zinc, tin, silver and platinum.
On the northern side of the Yukon River, between the Melotizna and Ray rivers, most of the district is rolling ridges with upmost elevations over 5,000 feet (1,500 m), where now-gone Pleistocene cirque glaciers developed. Placer gold was discovered in 1907, but activity was sporadic and poorly recorded. About 10,000 ounces of gold, with significant by-product tin, was won from placer deposits by the 1960s.
Interior Alaska, south of the Yukon River
|Kaiyuh and Ruby mining districts|
|Alaska Mining District|
Illinois Creek Mine
The mine is located in the remote Kaiyuh Mountains of west-central Alaska about 40 miles (64 km) south of the Yukon River village of Galena. The Illinois Creek lode gold-silver mine exploited a shear-hosted gold deposit which was partly expressed as color anomalies visible from aircraft. Located on State of Alaska land, it was discovered in the 1980s. In February 1996 a feasibility study was completed, with the deposit estimated to contain about 350,000 ounces of gold and 2,500,000 ounces of silver. Construction began the next month, but was halted by winter conditions in November. By then, with the development uncompleted and six-million more than the total mine construction-and-operating budget of 26-million dollars already spent, USMX, the mining company that owned Illinois Creek, was millions of dollars in arrears on invoices and short on cash. New financing allowed construction to resume in 1997; the mine poured its first gold in June 1997. In 1998 the company entered bankruptcy. In 1999 the State of Alaska assumed control of the mine. A mine-to-reclaim arrangement between the state and a newly involved mining contractor resulted in the reclamation and closure of the mine by 2005. A bond is in place to provide environmental monitoring for 30 years.
The Ruby-Poorman District lies south of the Yukon River. The district produced nearly a half million ounces of gold, all from placer mines. The largest gold nugget ever found in Alaska (294.1 troy oz) was recovered from Swift Creek in 1998. The placers are mostly deeply buried, and most were originally worked with shafts and drifts. Dozens of creeks in the district were mined, many more bear gold prospects. Cassiterite, platinum, scheelite, allanite, and native bismuth have been recovered along with gold from placer mines in the district.
Hot Springs District
This district, which produced about 576,000 ounces, includes placer mines at Manley and Eureka.
Nearly 200,000 ounces of gold was recovered from placer mines in the district.
|Circle mining district|
|Alaska Mining District|
Over 1 million ounces of gold have been recovered from placer deposits in the Circle district. Uplands with thousands of feet of generally mild relief are underlain by a complex metamorphic terrane intruded by a broad range of igneous rocks. Many gold occurrences are known, but no gold lodes are identified. Placer mining has been reported for every year since 1894.
This small district includes the village of Eagle on the Yukon River, and borders Canada. About 50,000 ounces of gold, all from placer deposits, has been recovered from the district since gold was discovered in 1895 on American Creek and the Seventy-mile River.
Livengood is about 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Fairbanks on the Dalton Highway. In July, 1914 Jay Livengood and N.R. Hudson discovered gold on Livengood Creek. Hundreds of people arrived in the district the following winter. A post office existed at Livengood from 1915 to 1957. Only a few dozen people live at Livengood today, some only seasonally. A variety of creeks in the district were mined. Many gold lode occurrences are known and exploration continues for open pittable lode deposits. Over 500,000 ounces of gold have been recovered from placers in the district.
Early development and production was from relatively shallow pay in tributaries of Livengood Creek. By 1939, large, deeply buried (80 to 110 feet), thawed, bench placer deposits on the northwest limit of Livengood Creek valley were defined. The pay streak varied from 100 to 1,000 feet (300 m) wide and was at least 6 miles (9.7 km) long. Gold reserves of over 1 million ounces were defined by drilling prior to 1940. A dredge operated near the town of Livengood in 1940, 1946 and probably other years.
Alaska's 12th-largest (73 troy ounces) and 16th-largest (56 troy ounces) nuggets were found in the district, on Dome Creek.
Placer mining began near Fairbanks in July 1902, after Felix Pedro (real name Felice Pedroni), an Italian immigrant and Tom Gilmore discovered gold in the hills north of the Tanana and Chena Rivers in 1901. The district was and is a major producer of gold from both placer and lode deposits: placers have produced over 8 million troy ounces (250 tonnes) of gold, lodes have yielded over 4 million ounces.
Only a few thousand ounces of gold from placer mines, and a few hundred ounces from lode gold mines were produced from the Goodpaster district before the discovery of Pogo. The district is east of the Fairbanks and south of the Circle district.
Pogo mine (operating)
The recently discovered and built Pogo mine is located on a hillside above the Goodpaster River, about 85 miles (137 km) southeast of Fairbanks, Alaska. The deposit was discovered in 1994 by the Sumitomo companies on land owned by the State of Alaska. A private 49-mile (79 km) gravel road and power line now connects the mine to the Richardson Highway corridor near Delta Junction. The mine is an underground operation that exploits two large (several-meters thick) and high-grade (averaging almost 0.5 ounces of gold per ton of ore) gold-bearing quartz veins. Approximately half of the tailings are returned underground, the rest are disposed of on the surface. The mine was developed, and originally operated, by Teck-Cominco, the same company operating the world's largest zinc mine; the Red Dog mine in northwest Alaska. Sumitomo Metal Mining (a non-operating partner and part-owner of the Pogo deposit since discovery) bought Teck-Cominco's share of the mine in 2009 and is now the operator. The first gold ore bar at Pogo was poured on February 12, 2006. 190 people were employed at the mine in 2007.
In early 2007 Pogo contained reserves of 5.6 million ounces of gold in ore grading 0.41 opt gold. Projected mine life is ten years.
|Fortymile mining district|
|Alaska Mining District|
The 1886 discovery of gold on Franklin's Bar on the Fortymile River touched off Interior Alaska's first gold rush. The mining boom ushered in a wave of settlement that forever changed the place, not only for its new residents but for the Athabascan Indians who occupied this region long before them. The miners who prospected nearly every creek in the region eventually extracted more than a half-million ounces of gold from the Fortymile, including a 56.8 troy ounce nugget, Alaska's 15th-largest. Reports of starvation and lawlessness among the miners resulted in the Army sending troops to the Eagle area to provide law enforcement in 1899. Soldiers soon began work on a trail from Valdez to Eagle.
Gold was first discovered in the Chicken Creek drainage in 1896, 10 years after the gold discovery on the Fortymile River. The F.E. Company, a subsidiary of the U.S. Smelting Refining & Mining Co., acquired most of the claims during the 1940s and dredged 2 miles (3.2 km) of the creek from 1959 to 1967. Since then, several family operations have mined on the creek. It is estimated that over 100,000 ounces of gold has been produced from the Chicken Creek drainage.
The beginning of the end of the Fortymile Gold Rush came in August 1896 when George Carmack reported the first gold strike along the Klondike River in Canada. Within a few years the once-booming towns in the Fortymile region were abandoned and forgotten. Some of the original Fortymile miners returned to the area after the Klondike Gold Rush passed. From 1887 to 1890 the Upper Yukon region was the richest and most productive mining area in the region. During those three years the area produced 1,200,000 ounces of gold, accounting for 5 percent of Alaska's total gold production.
Chisana-White River district
Gold production from this area is balanced between 78,000 ounces of placer and 66,000 ounces of lode gold. Directly south of the Fortymile district, the Chisana district includes headwaters of the Nabesna and White rivers, and tributaries of the Tanana River; it includes parts of the Wrangell Mountains and the Alaska Range. Difficulties of location, lack of water, and small deposit size limited placer activity. The Nabesna underground lode mine produced gold-copper-silver ore between 1930 and WWII.
The Kantishna Gold Rush began soon after The Nome Nugget printed the headline “FOUND HIGH GRADE GOLD” on September 9, 1903. Located on the north flanks of Denali (Mt. McKinley), the District was a hard place to operate a mine. Nevertheless, some of the largest gold nuggets found in Alaska have been found in the area, including the 9th largest (92 troy ounces). 92,000 ounces of placer gold and 8000 ounces of gold from lode mines has come from the district. Today, the district is located within Denali National Park and Preserve.
Kuskokwim Gold Belt
The Kuskokwim Gold Belt (KGB, also known as the Kuskokwim Mineral Belt) is a broad loosely geologically and geographically defined swath of country arcing for approximately 300 miles (480 km) across southwest Alaska. It lies northwest of the Alaska Range and is roughly centered on the Kuskokwim River basin. Geologically it is dominated by flysch of Cretaceous-age Kuskokwim Group sediments and a variety of igneous rocks. It also includes a variety of exotic terranes. In 1913, Alfred H. Brooks described it as, "a more or less broken belt of gold-bearing rocks which stretches northeastward from Goodnews Bay parallel to the lower course of the Kuskokwim, toward the Iditarod District, and a number of streams traversing this belt carry auriferous gravels." The KGB lies mostly within the southwestern part of the Tintina Gold Province or "Golden Arch" which lies roughly between the Denali-Farewell and Kaltag-Tintina fault systems and arcs up from southwest Alaska, through central Alaska, and down across the Yukon Territory to British Columbia.
The KGB includes all or parts of the historic Aniak/Tuluksak, Anvik, Bethel, Goodnews Bay, Iditarod-Flat, Innoko, Marshall, McGrath, Ruby, and Tolstoi mining districts, as well as newly realized gold-rich areas. Over 3.2 million ounces of gold have been recovered from the belt.
The first mineral discovery by the Russians in Alaska (a cinnabar-stibnite deposit) occurred in the Aniak district in 1838. Pay gold was found in 1901 on tributaries of the Kuskokwim River in the Aniak district.
The Marshall and Anvik districts produced about 124,000 ounces of gold and minor amounts of platinum, mainly from Wilson Creek. The district has the Bering Sea to the west, the Yukon River to the south, and the Iditarod and Kaiyuh districts to the east.
|Aniak mining district|
|Alaska Mining District|
About 220,000 ounces of gold produced, mainly from the Tuluksuk River (where the town of Nyac is located) and Crooked Creek basins and with lesser production from Wattamuse and other creeks scattered around the district. Mining continues at present, but reserves are not known. Cinnabar (mercury sulfide) occurs in many of the placer mines in this district, most notably at Cinnabar Creek.
Donlin Creek (feasibility stage)
Placer mining began on benches and tributaries on the east side of Crooked Creek and its tributary Donlin Creek in 1910; a family-scale placer-mining operation continues today. Granitic dike swarms cutting the shales and sandstones of the Kuskokwim Group rocks in the hills east of upper Crooked Creek were recognized by USGS geologists in 1915 as the probable source of the placer gold.
In the 1970s Calista Corporation, an Alaska Native Corporation, as part of its land grant under ANSCA selected the land east of Crooked Creek, based on its mineral potential. In 1986 modern hardrock exploration of the Donlin area began with WestGold's efforts, which were abandoned after two years, due not to the lack of gold, but to the refractory (technically difficult to extract from the rock) nature of the gold. PlacerDome signed a lease with Calista and began exploration at Donlin in 1995. That effort continues today, having evolved to a 50:50 partnership between Barrick Gold and NovaGold Resources, in cooperation with Calista, the landowner. Over 150 million dollars have been expended on exploration, engineering, and environmental studies.
If eventually exploited, the mine will be an open pit several miles wide. Latest estimates (April 2009) report that Donlin contains 29.3 million ounces of proven and probable gold reserves (calculated at a gold price of $750) and an additional 10 million ounces of gold resource. The gold occurs within the crystal lattice of arsenopyrite associated with other metal sulfides in veins, veinlets, and disseminations mainly in the felsic dikes, but also in less common altered mafic dikes and in the sediments.
The Iditarod district lies between the lower Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers: the Aniak district abuts it to the south. A gold rush followed the discovery of gold on Otter Creek in 1909. Over 1.5 million ounces of placer gold and a few thousand ounces of lode gold have been recovered from the Iditarod area, making it one of the more important gold-mining districts in Alaska. Much of the gold-producing ground in the district was consolidated by the Morgan-Guggenheim consortium.
The drainage basin of Tolstoi Creek, a north-flowing tributary of the Dishna, roughly defines the district. The district lies between the Iditarod and Innoko districts. Placer gold and platinum were discovered by drifting in frozen gravels 35 feet deep on Boob Creek in the winter of 1915-1916. A gold rush occurred in the district the following winter. Historic production of 11,000 ounces of gold, as well as some byproduct platinum, is recorded for the district.
The Aniak district lies to the south, the Tolstoi district to the west. Almost 3/4 million ounces of placer gold has been won from Innoko River and its tribuaries in the district. Lode gold production of 150 ounces is also recorded. Cripple, Colorado, Yankee, Ganes, Ophir, and Little Creeks had prominent placer mines: a third of the districts production came from Ganes Creek. Gold-bearing porphyritic intrusive rocks adjacent to the Ganes Creek and Colorado Creek placers are similar in composition and age to the dike swarms at 29-million ounce Donlin Creek.
The property is located approximately 40 km west of McGrath, and 440 km northwest of Anchorage. Ganes is famous for producing spectacular gold nuggets including the 5th (122 troy ounces) and 13th-largest (62.5 troy ounce) in Alaska. The presence of cobble-size quartz with sulfide boxwork and coarse gold suggest that the placer gold is primary, originating from bedrock sources. Historic production figures from Ganes Creek are in excess of 250,000 oz. gold; an additional estimated resource of 736,000 oz. of placer gold exists on patented claims.
Almost 200,000 ounces of lode gold and over 130,000 ounces of placer gold have come from the district. The district lies on the northeast side of the Aniak district.
The Nixon Fork mine (operation suspended)
The Nixon Fork mine is an underground lode gold-copper mine located 32 miles (51 km) northeast of McGrath, Alaska. Placer gold was discovered nearby in 1917, by 1918 hardrock mining was underway, and continued intermittently until 1964. Ore consists of shoots of massive sulfides and native gold found with skarns along the contact of sedimentary rocks and the Mystery Creek quartz monzonite stock. The mine was reopened for exploration, permitted, and developed by Nevada Goldfields, Inc. in 1995 and operated until 1999. In 2005 resource and exploration development resumed. Gold production occurred in 2006 and 2007, production is currently suspended. Production has totaled 187,000 ounces of gold, 2,190,000 pounds of copper, and at least 11,000 ounces of silver. Two small ore bodies have proven and probable reserves of approximately 126,400 tonnes, containing 133,730 ounces of gold. An additional 116,000 tonnes of existing mill tailings are reported to contain 30,200 ounces of gold.
Goodnews Bay District
|Goodnews Bay mining district|
|Alaska Mining District|
The district is in extreme southwestern Alaska, and borders the Bering Sea. About 600,000 ounces of platinum (plus some iridium, osmium, ruthenium, palladium, and rhenium) and 27,000 ounces of gold were won from placer deposits in the Salmon River from 1934 to 1976. Present reserves are unknown, but are the subject of ongoing exploration. The source of the platinum-group elements appears to be in the Red Mountain and Susie Mountain ultramafic rocks. Extensive geochemical and geophysical surveys during the past several years have identified areas with as much as 0.1 ounce per ton platinum in the soils, but no reserve has been demonstrated.
Surveyors belonging to the 1865 Count Bendeleben expedition exploring a route across Siberia, the Bering Sea, and Alaska for a communications cable reported gold in the Fish River area of the Seward Peninsula. But it was not until the 1898 $1500-to-the-pan strike on Anvil Creek that gold-seekers came to the region.
Nome (Cape Nome) district
Placer gold deposits on Anvil Creek and on the Snake River, a few miles from the future site of Nome, were discovered in 1898 by Jafet Lindeberg, Erik Lindblom and John Brynteson, the "Three Lucky Swedes". Word of the strike caused a major gold rush to Nome in the spring of 1899. Construction of a new hardrock gold mine at Rock Creek was completed, and start-up procedures initiated in late 2008. Efforts at the new mine are suspended due to mill design inadequacies and difficulties meeting regulatory requirements. NovaGold's Rock Creek project includes the Rock Creek mine and mill complex seven miles (11 km) north of Nome, and eventual additional millfeed from the historic underground Big Hurrah mine site 42 miles (68 km) east. Over 3.6 million ounces of gold have been recovered from the Nome district, almost all of it from placer deposits.
|Council mining district|
|Alaska Mining District|
Over a million ounces of gold are reported recovered from the district.
Fairhaven Inmachuk District
The Fairhaven-Inmachuk district lies north of the Solomon District and extends north to Kotzebue Sound of the Chukchi Sea. The district (including Candle) produced about 600,000 ounces of gold with minor amounts of chromium, copper, lead, platinum, bismuth, tungsten, mercury, molybdenum, silver, and rare-earth elements.
The district is the central part of the Seward Peninsula, draining into the Imruck Basin. Gold was discovered in 1900 and production from placer mines continues to this day. 177,000 ounces of gold have been recovered from the Kougarok district.
84,000 ounces of placer gold came from the district, the southeastern part of the Seward Peninsula. Major producers were; the Ungalik River and its tributary, Bonanza Creek, which produced significant by-product tin, and Dime Creek, which also produced significant platinum. The district encompasses the basins of the Koyuk, Inglutalik, Ungalik, and Shaktoolik Rivers, all draining into northeastern Norton Sound.
Port Clarence district
Mainly a tin district, the westernmost Seward Peninsula, 42,000 ounces of placer gold have been recovered, much of it as a by-product of tin mining.
Resurrection Creek was the site of Alaska's first gold rush in the late 1890s, and placer mining continues today. The Resurrection Creek watershed drains 161 square miles (420 km2) on the north side of the Kenai Peninsula, and the community of Hope, Alaska is located at the mouth of Resurrection Creek. Charles Miller located the first claim on Resurrection Creek; then leased it to others for working. By 1893, about a dozen miners were working claims on Resurrection Creek. In 1894, more claims were established on Resurrection Creek.
Gold was discovered near Valdez Creek on August 15, 1903. Valdez Creek, a tributary of the Susitna River, is located in central Alaska northeast of milepost 81 on the Denali Highway. A 52-troy ounce nugget (Alaska's 18th-largest) came from Lucky Gulch, a tributary of Valdez Creek. Cambior's Valdez Creek Mine recovered over 75,000 ounces of gold annually, making it the largest placer operation in North America in 1992. Produced 459,162 ounces of gold from 1984 to 1995. Substantial reserves remain upstream of the active mine. The mine has been shut down and the site reclaimed, but other small-scale placer and lode deposits remain nearby.
Chulitna-Yentna Mineral Belt
The Chulitna-Yentna mineral belt extends northeastward for 100 miles (160 km) or more along the southern flank of the west-central Alaska Range. The belt shares tectonic or compositional features comparable with some well-known mineral belts of the western Cordillera, including the Juneau gold belt.
Golden Zone Mine
Golden Zone Mine. (Copper, gold, silver, arsenic, zinc). Pipe-like body produced 1,581 ounces of gold, 8,617 ounces of silver, and 21 tons of copper. Recent work indicates reserves of the Pipe, Bunkhouse and Copper King deposits as 13.3 million tons grading 0.095 ounces per ton of gold.
Yentna Cache-Creek District
Gold was discovered in the Yentna District (also known as the Cache Creek District) of the upper Susitna Valley in 1898, soon followed by claim staking. Placer mining was reported in the Cache Creek drainage of the Dutch Hills by 1906. Quaternary glaciofluvial deposits, alluvial deposits, and Tertiary conglomeratic white quartz-breccia units have been mined in the Dutch Hills. About 200,000 ounces (6.2 tonnes) of gold has been produced from these placer deposits.
Willow Creek Mining District
Gold was first reported in what would become the Willow Creek Mining District (also known as the Independence Mine/Hatcher Pass District) by Robert Hatcher. Hatcher discovered and staked the first lode gold claim in the Willow Creek Valley in September 1906. Through 2006 the district produced 667-thousand ounces of hard rock gold and 60-thousand ounces of placer gold.
Drainage basins emptying into Kotzebue Sound of the Bering Sea, including the Noatak River and Kobuk River, define the Kiana, Shungnak, Noatak, and Selawick districts. The Noatak district is now within the Noatak National Preserve, only tiny gold placer production was recorded from some tributaries near the Noatak headwaters. The Selawick district has one creek where gold was produced by a 2-man operation for ten years during the 1950s and 1960s.
|Kiana and Shugnak mining district|
|Alaska Mining District|
Kobuk River district
In 1898, placer and lode gold were discovered on several of the Kobuk River's tributaries. This gold strike (which by some accounts was false) attracted nearly 2,000 people to Alaska, though only 800 actually stayed to find gold. Although mining has continued to take place in this area, little gold has been discovered.
Placer gold was discovered on Klery Creek in 1909. Almost all of the gold, over 40,000 ounces, from this area has come from tributaries of the Squirrel River. Mining has been nearly continuous in this area since discovery. Nephrite jade also occurs in this area.
All of the 15,000 ounces of gold recovered came from streams draining the Cosmos Hills, a low range along the Kobuk Valley. Gold was discovered on Dahl Creek in 1898, which was the major producer. Copper, chromium, cadmium, and silver, were also recovered with the gold.
Recreational gold mining in Alaska
||This section's tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone used on Wikipedia. (March 2011)|
There are many commercial ventures that charge fees to recreational miners located on historically rich placer ground, some are road-accessible, many are in remote fly-in locations, most offer lodging and a complete suite of services.
Much of the State and Federal-owned land in Alaska is open to recreational mining but there are regulations governing how such mining can be done.
It is illegal to mine on public land that is closed to such activities; or to mine without permission on either public land that is already staked or leased, or privately owned land.
Popular areas include; areas of Chugach National Forest, areas within Alaska State Parks such as Chugach State Park, Kenai State Parks, and Independence Mine State Historical Park, and along the Dalton Highway.
Most of the public-access areas have few or no facilities, such as outhouses, but that's changing, and adds to the feeling of getting in touch with the gold mining roots of the Pioneers.
Perhaps the easiest to get to, and one with camping areas close by, is the Caribou Creek Recreational Mining area. "Physical fitness, health, and age should be considered due to the steepness of the trail."  Located on the Glenn Highway east of Palmer, the area has fine gold and easy access.
The Hatcher Pass Public Use Area is located approximately fifteen miles north of Palmer on the Little Susitna River. The area is open to a variety of recreational activities, including recreational mining. A fact sheet provides details on recreational mining within the Hatcher Pass Public Use Area.
Near Fairbanks, both the Pedro Creek area (about 15 miles north of Fairbanks and the site of the original Fairbanks gold discovery by Felix Pedro in 1902) and Nome Creek area within the White Mountains National Recreation Area (approximately 60 miles north of Fairbanks) have easy access. Gold mining on Nome Creek began in 1900, and there was a stampede in 1910 when word of the find leaked out.
Somewhat more challenging due to access, but also more rewarding, is the Petersville State Recreational Mining Area.
You can also mine on the beaches of Nome.
- A.H. Koschman and M.H. Bergendahl (1968) Principal Gold-Producing Districts of the United States, U.S. Geological Survey, Professional Paper 610, p.8.
- http://Alaskas Mineral Industry 2006, Zumigal and Hughes, DGGS Special Report 61www.dggs.dnr.state.ak.us/webpubs/dggs/sr/text/sr061.PDF
- D. J. Szumigala, "Alaska", Mining Engineering, May 2007, p.66.
- Alaskas Mineral Industry 2006, Alaska DGGS Special Report 61, 2006
- Bufvers, John: History of mines and prospects, Ketchikan district, prior to 1952: Alaska Division of Mines and Minerals Special Report 1, 1967, 32 p. Online: 
- Maas, K. M., Bittenbender, P. E., and Still, J. C.: Mineral investigations in the Ketchikan mining district, southeastern Alaska: U.S. Bureau of Mines Open-File Report 11-95, 1995, 606 p.
- Maas, K. M., Still, J. C., and Bittenbender, P. E.: Mineral investigations in the Ketchikan mining district, Alaska, 1991 - Prince of Wales Island and vicinity: U.S. Bureau of Mines Open-File Report 81-92, 1992, 69 p.
- Maas, K.M., Still, J. C., Clough, A. H., and Oliver, L. K.: Mineral investigations in the Ketchikan mining district, Alaska, 1990: Southern Prince of Wales Island and vicinity - Preliminary sample location maps and descriptions: U.S. Bureau of Mines Open-File Report 33-91, 1991, 139 p.
- Roppel, Patricia: Striking it rich! Gold mining in southern Southeastern Alaska: Greenwich, Connecticut, Coachlamp Productions, 2005, 286 p.
- http://uaf-db.uaf.edu/Jukebox/haul_road_07/assets/docs/sw_wiseman_study.pdf University of Alaska, Fairbanks: The Wiseman Historican District
- Alaska Resource Data Files, Chandalar quad, USGS Open file report 00-357http://ardf.wr.usgs.gov/ardf_data/Chandalar.pdf
- Little Squaw Gold Mining Company - Chandalar
- Placer Deposits of Alaska, USGS Bulletin 1374
- USMX INC Annual Report (10-K) Liquidity and Capital Resources
- Northern Alaska Environmental Center :: Mining :: Illinois Creek
- Alaska Resource Data Files http://ardf.wr.usgs.gov/ardf_data/RB_refs.txt
- Significant Metalliferous Lode Deposits and Placer Deposits of Alaska, Nokleberg, et al., USGS Bulletin 1786, 1987
- Alaska Dept. of Commerce, Community and Economic Developmenthttp://www.commerce.state.ak.us/dca/commdb/CF_CIS.htm
- http://ardf.wr.usgs.gov/quads/html/Livengood.html Alaska Resource Data Files
- Alaska's Largest Gold Nuggets
- http://www.blm.gov/ak/st/en/prog/sa/fortymile_nwsr/history_and_natural.html BLM: Fortymile National Wild and Scenic River
- http://ntis.library.gatech.edu/handle/123456789/9092 Early Miners of the Fortymile (A BLM Alaska 'Adventures in the Past' Series)
- National Park Service: Pioneers of Kantishna, NPS
- USGS Bulletin 592, pp22
- Economic Geology Monograph 9, Mineral Deposits of Alaska, Precious Metals Associated with Late Cretaceous-Early Tertiary Igneous Rocks of Southwestern Alaska, Bundtzen and Miller, 1997, pp242-286
- GEOLOGIC REPORT SH02EXE-1,SUMMARY REPORT FOR THE SHOTGUN GOLD PROSPECT,KUSKOKWIM MINERAL BELT,ALASKA,Avalon Development Corp for NovaGold Resources, 2002http://www.novagold.net/upload/technical_reports/ShotgunReportApril2002.pdf
- Tintina Gold Province, Alaska and Yukon Territory, 2002, 2007, USGShttp://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2007/3061/fs2007-3061.pdf
- http://www.dced.state.ak.us/dca/AEIS/Bethel/Minerals/Bethel_Minerals_Narrative.htm DCED Bethel Census Area: Minerals
- adn.com | Money : Mining ventures see potential in Southwest
- For more than a decade, changes have occurred each year that have improved the regulatory and business climate for mining in A
- Maddren, A. G., 1915, Gold Placers of the lower Kuskokwim with a note on copper in the Russian Mountains, USGS Bulletin 622,p292-360
- Press Release, Full Metal Minerals
- St. Andrew Goldfields
- Alaska Dept. of Natural Resources: The Nixon Fork Mine
- Alaska Division of Community and Regional Affairs
- http://www.dced.state.ak.us/dca/AEIS/NWAB/Minerals/NWAB_Minerals_Narrative.htm DCED Northwest Arctic Borough: Minerals
- Martin, George Curtis; Johnson, Bertrand Leroy; Grant, Ulysses Sherman (1915). Geology and Mineral Resources of Kenai Peninsula, Alaska Issue 587 of Bulletin (Geological Survey (U.S.)) United States. Geological survey. Bulletin 587 Volume 587 of U.S. Geological Survey bulletin. ISBN 1130765032 | ISBN 9781130765038
- http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-IMPACT/2008/January/Day-28/i347.htm U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Mining in Alaska's Past, Alaska Historical Society, 1980
- http://www.dced.state.ak.us/dca/AEIS/MatSu/Minerals/MatSu_Minerals_Narrative.htm Matanuska-Susitna Census Area: Minerals State of Alaska, DCED
- C.C. Hawley and A.L. Clark, (1973) Geology and Mineral Deposits of the Chulitna-Yentna Mineral Belt, Alaska, US Geological Survey, Professional Paper 758-A.
- Public Recreational Mining in State Parks, Factsheet. http://www.dnr.state.ak.us/mlw/factsht/mine_fs/recgoldm.pdf
- http://www.dnr.state.ak.us/mlw/factsht/mine_fs/caribou1.pdf FACTSHEET: Caribou Creek State Recreational Mining Area
- http://www.dnr.state.ak.us/mlw/factsht/mine_fs/hatcherp.pdf FACTSHEET: Recreational Mining in the Hatcher Pass Public Use Area, Alaska DNR
- http://www.blm.gov/ak/st/en/prog/sa/white_mtns/summer_recreation/nome_creek_valley.html Nome Creek Valley BLM
- http://www.alaskafreegold.com/home432 Petersville State Recreational Mining area and Driveguide to the Petersville Road
- Alaskan gold mining and exploration companies
- Little Squaw Gold Mining Company: Chandalar Property
- Alaska Freegold Co.: The Blue Ribbon Mine, Alaska
- Kinross: Ft. Knox Mine, Alaska
- Coeur Alaska: The Kensington Gold Mine
- Full Metal Minerals
- Teck Cominco: The Pogo Mine
- Tonogold Resources
- Mining organizations
- Government links
- Alaska Division of Mining, Land & Water: Pebble Project
- Alaska Division of Mining, Land & Water: Ft. Knox Mine
- Pioneers of Kantishna: Pioneers of Kantishna, NPS
- Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys
- Alaska Division of Mining, Land & Water: Mining Resources
- Alaska State Library: Nome Gold Rush
- Alaska Division of Economic Development: Alaska Gold Rush Attractions and Historic Sites
- National Park Service: RECREATIONAL GOLD MINING IN ALASKA-Factsheet