Mining has long been a cornerstone of the Alaskan economy. Alaska is one of the US’ largest gold-producing states, second only to Nevada, and it is a leading US producer of multiple metals, gemstones and mineral resources.
Most of Alaska’s vast mineral wealth remains untapped; the state is home to one of the world’s largest known untapped copper and gold deposits. As you might expect, there is considerable opportunity here for investors keen to learn more about mining in Alaska.
Alaska’s mining industry: US$542 million in wages in 2020
Currently, although Alaska’s mining sector is comparatively small, it still represents a major source of revenue and job creation for the state.
In 2019, for instance, the global mining industry spent an estimated US$162 million on exploration and US$225 million on development in Alaska. In the same year, the mining industry contributed US$37 million in local government revenue as well as US$112 million in state government revenue.
In 2020, Alaska’s mining industry provided 9,600 direct and indirect jobs. The mining industry also includes some of Alaska’s highest-paying jobs and provides year-round employment to residents of more than 90 communities. In the same year, the mining industry paid roughly US$542 million. With that said, there is considerable international interest in the region.
What resources are mined in Alaska?
Per the United States Geological Survey’s National Minerals Information Center, Alaska is the leading producer of zinc in the United States, and one of the top producers of gold. Alaskan mines also produce gemstones, construction sand, crushed stone, gravel, lead and silver. Metals comprise over 90 percent of the value of Alaska’s mining exports.
Should the sector secure approval, Alaska could also become a major global exporter of rare earth metals.
What producing mines are in Alaska?
Currently, there are six producing mines in Alaska, four of which are producing gold and precious metals, one of which is lead and zinc and the last of which is a coal mine:
- Kensington: Owned and operated by Coeur Mining (NYSE:CDE), the Kensington mine is situated approximately 45 miles northwest of the city of Juneau. It has been in production since 2010, and in that time has produced approximately 1 million ounces of gold.
- Greens Creek: Located on Admiralty Island in Southwestern Alaska, Hecla Mining’s (NYSE:HL) underground site produces gold, zinc, silver and lead. It is Juneau’s largest taxpaying entity.
- Fort Knox: The Fort Knox mine, owned by Kinross Gold (TSX:K,NYSE:KGC), is currently Alaska’s largest gold-producing mine. It has been in operation since 1996.
- Pogo: The underground Pogo mine is approximately 90 miles southeast of Fairbanks. In 2018, the mine was acquired by Northern Star Resources (ASX:NST,OTC Pink:NESRF), but it has been in operation since 2008.
- Red Dog: A joint venture between NANA Regional Corporation and Teck Resources (TSX:TECK.A,TSX:TECK.B,NYSE:TECK), the Red Dog mine is the largest producer of lead and zinc concentrate in the US.
- Usibelli: Located near the town of Healy, the Usibelli mine is Alaska’s only operational coal mine. In 2020, coal from the Usibelli mine provided for approximately 32 percent of interior Alaska’s electricity demands.
Alaska: A Favorable mining jurisdiction
According to the Fraser Institute’s Annual Survey of Mining Companies, Alaska is currently one of the most attractive regions in the world for mining investment.
The reason for this is twofold.
First is Alaska’s considerable mineral wealth. Alaska is home to an immense volume of untapped resources, from rare earths to precious metals. Its many sites and deposits have the potential to generate considerable revenue for governments, mining companies and local communities.
Secondly, government policy in the region is also a positive for investors. With a well-defined permitting framework, Alaska offers the investor an attractive jurisdiction to invest in.
Gold in Alaska: How to invest
Aside from the gold-producing mines in Alaska, the most significant investment opportunities in the state are represented through exploration companies. Some of these top projects generating investment opportunities and worldwide interest are:
- Golden Summit: Identified as a promising mineral site by Vancouver-based exploration and development company Freegold Ventures (TSX:FVL,OTCQX:FGOVF), the Golden Summit project is situated just 30 miles outside of Fairbanks. It currently hosts a pit-constrained gold resource of 1,363,000 ounces in the indicated category and 1,584,000 ounces in the inferred category at a grade of 0.69 grams per tonne (g/t) gold using a 0.3 g/t cut off. A major drill program was completed during 2021 and a substantial number of assay results are pending. In addition, an updated mineral resource estimate is expected late in 2022.
Freegold Ventures has also optioned its Shorty Creek project to South32 (ASX:S32,OTC Pink:SHTLF); Shorty Creek is an underexplored copper, gold and tungsten porphyry project near Livengood. During 2021, with a 3,400 meter drill program completed and assays still pending.
- Livengood: 70 miles north of Fairbanks is International Tower Hill Mines’ (TSX:ITH,NYSEAMERICAN:THM) Livengood gold project, which contains an indicated resource 13 million ounces of gold.
- Manh Choh: Another project in development by Kinross, the Manh Choh project is a joint venture between Kinross and Contango ORE (NYSEAMERICAN:CTGO), with a planned commencement date of 2024.
- The Upper Kobuk mineral projects: Currently under exploration by Amber Metals, a 50/50 joint partnership between Trilogy Metals (TSX:TMQ,NYSEAMERICAN:TMQ) and South32, this region contains known deposits of gold, silver, zinc, lead and high-grade copper.
For investors interested in the mining industry, few states can compare to the untapped potential Alaska has to offer. Whether you’re looking to invest in exploration, development or production, there’s no shortage of options available when it comes to investing in Alaska’s rapidly growing mining industry, especially when it comes to gold.
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