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HISTORY OF MINING IN ALASKA

ALASKA'S "GOLD RUSH" YEARS 1832 – 1913

 

Purhcase of Alaska from Russia in 1867

Purhcase of Alaska from Russia in 1867

Prospectors on Chilkoot Pass

Treadwell Mine 
Photo Credit: Alaska State Library, Case & Draper Photographs PCA 39-869

1897 Gold Filed Map of Alaska

Mining on the banks of Nome Beach 

Gold Miner, Felix Pedro

Kennicott (aka Kennecott) Copper Mine 

1832 | Russian mining engineer discovers gold near Kuskokwim River. 
 

1849 |  Lieutenant Peter Doroshin, a geologist with the Russian Corps of Mining engineers, found traces of gold in the mouths of streams emptying into Kenai Bay, though he never found the source of the gold.

 

1857 | Coal mining begins at Coal Harbor on the Kenai Peninsula.
 

1861 | Buck Choquette discovers gold on the Stikine River at Telegraph Creek in British Columbia near Wrangell. 
 

1867 | Alaska purchased from Russia.  American prospectors came north to explore the new territory. 
 

1870 | Gold found at Sumdum Bay, SE Alaska. 
 

1871 | Gold discovered at Indian River near Sitka. 
 

1872 | Prospectors make a second Stikine gold strike.
 

1873 | Jack McQuesten, Arthur Harper and Alfred Mayo begin prospecting along the Yukon River. 
 

1874 | George Holt became the first to cross Chilkoot Pass in search for gold.
 

1876 | Gold was discovered in Juneau, sparking the Juneau gold rush.
 

1880 | Tlingit Natives agree to allow prospectors to cross Chilkoot Pass.  Joe Juneau and Richard Harris (founders of the city of Juneau) discovered gold deposits in Southeast Alaska 

 

1881 | John Treadwell purchased the Paris claim across the channel from Juneau on Douglas Island.

1882 | The Treadwell Mine (named after John Treadwell) began its gold production near Juneau and would run until 1922 yielding nearly $70 million in gold. The mine was, in its time, the largest hard rock gold mine in the world employing over 2,000 people.

1884 | Congress passes the Organic Act of 1884, providing a civil government for Alaska. 
 

1886 | Howard Franklin and Henry Madison strike gold on Fortymile River in interior Alaska near the Canadian border.  This find started the first rush to interior Alaska, setting the stage for further strikes throughout the region. The Fortymile district produced over 568,000 ounces of gold.
 

1888 | Alexander King discovers gold on Kenai Peninsula.  More than 60,000 arrived in Alaska in search of gold.
 

1892 | A discovery on Birch Creek opens the Circle Mining District and produces over 1 million ounces of gold.
 

1893 | Gold discoveries near Hope, Rampart, and Circle focused new attention on the Yukon River drainage as a place to prospect.  The Panic of 1893 plunges the U.S. into economic depression. 
 

1896 | George Washington Carmack, Tagish Charlie, and Skookum Jim stake a claim on Bonanza Creek, setting off the great Klondike gold rush
 

1897 | S.S. Excelsior and S.S. Portland arrive at San Francisco and Seattle loaded with gold from the Klondike. The stampede to the Klondike begins. U.S. Army establishes Fort St. Michaels, first of six gold rush posts.
 

1898 | 30,000 stampeders reach the Klondike. Gold discoveries at Nome by the "Three Lucky Swedes" caused another massive rush north. The Cape Nome District produced over 5 million ounces of gold.
 

1899 | More gold was discovered on the beaches of Nome. Gold discoveries in the Koyukuk drainage brought prospectors to the foothills of the Brooks Range, the northern-most extent of Alaska's gold rushes. Small strikes led to short-lived mining camps at Beaver City, Dillman Creek, Coldfoot, and elsewhere. 
 

1900 | Congress authorizes construction of telegraph lines and submarine cables to connect Alaska's military posts with each other and with the rest of the United States. Alexander McKenzie and Judge Arthur H. Noyes arrive ln Nome and start a fraudulent scheme to seize rich mining claims. 
 

1902 | Italian immigrant, Felix Pedro discovers gold on Pedro Creek leads to the founding of Fairbanks. 
 

1903 | Discoveries at Valdez Creek set off a small stampede to a district that contained the largest gold placer mine in North America. 
 

1906 | Gold discovered in Chandalar District. 
 

1908 | John Beaton and William Dikeman strike gold on the Iditarod River and helped to produce 1.5 million ounces of gold. 
 

1909 | Gold discoveries at Iditarod and Flat set off another rush, sometimes called "The Last Great Rush."
 

1910 | Stampede to Ruby.
 

1911 | Kennicott copper mines begin production and ran until 1938 producing 590,000 tons of copper and 9 million ounces of silver. Alaska Road Commission blazes the Iditarod Trail, from Seward to Nome. 
   

1912 | Congress passes Organic Act of 1912, giving Alaska Territorial Status and a Legislature. 
 

1913 | Gold found at Marshall. Billy James and Nels Nelson discover gold at Chisana in the Wrangell Mountains.

WORLD WAR I (1914) - EARLY 1980s

 

Rail Station in Seward

Gastineau Gold Crushing Mill

Independence Mine, outside of Palmer

Alaska Miners Association (AMA) is founded

Alaska is now a state!

Oil (aka black gold) is found on Alaska's North Slope

Dalton Highway gravel road

1914 | Jay Livengood finds gold on Livengood Creek, 50 miles north of Fairbanks. On July 28, 1914, World War I or the Great War (as it was called at the time) began and wouldn't end until November 11, 1918.

1915 | President Woodrow Wilson selects the railroad's route that will run between the Port of Seward through the coal fields of the Interior to the gold claims near Fairbanks. What is now Anchorage is picked as its headquarters. Thousands of job seekers and adventurers poured into the area, living in a tent city on the banks of Ship Creek. 

Gastineau Mine/Mill? started to produce gold in 1915 and treated up to 6000 tons of ore daily.

1921 | Gastineau mine closed due to post-war inflation and the depletion of man power.

1926 |Platinum was discovered in Goodnews Bay. The bucket-line dredge that was installed here operated for 40 years. 

1930s | The crash of 1929 coupled with the great depression, which was felt worldwide, impacted Alaskan mining. Metal prices declined for copper, tin, antimony, mercury as well as industrial materials.

1934 | President Roosevelt almost doubles the price of gold to $35 per ounce, that in turn increased gold mining throughout Alaska.

 

1938 | Independence Mine (outside the city of Palmer) was consolidated under one company, the Alaska-Pacific Consolidating Mining  Company. The mining operation at Independence was the second-largest hard-rock gold mining operation in Alaska.

1939 | The Alaska Miners Association (AMA) was founded on

August 4, 1939, to advocate and connect miners across the state. 

1941 | America's involvement in World War II begins on December 7, 1941 the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  Labor in mines is minimal due to the war effort.
 

1942 | Gold is found at Sumdum Bay, SE Alaska.  President Roosevelt signs Executive Order L-208 that closed all U.S. gold mines as gold extraction was not considered essential to the war efforts thus prompting a long dry spell for gold mining in Alaska.

1943 | The family-owned Usibelli Coal Mine starts operation and continues today.

The 1950s | Gold mining continues to fall as gold is staying at a fixed price.  

1955 | The need for uranium for energy applications and nuclear weapons increased and led to the discovery and development of the Bokan Mountain uranium-thorium mine near Ketchikan (the mine operated from 1955-1971). 

1959 | Almost 100 years after the purchase of Alaska, it finally became the 49th State. President Eisenhower signed the official declaration on January 3, 1959.

The 1960s | Most gold mining operations around the state halted their businesses

1968 | Oil was discovered on Alaska's North Slope, and Red Dog deposits were discovered.

The 1970s | As the Trans-Alaska Pipeline started construction, Alaska's sand and gravel production also increased due to the needs of haul roads in Alaska's Arctic.  Also, the use of helicopters aided mineral exploration by providing access to remote areas of Alaska.

1971 | Gold prices were deregulated and interest in the Alaska's mining industry began a slow increase. Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) becomes law.

1979 | Green's Creek Deposists, outside of Juneau, were discovered. 

1980 & Beyond!

 

1984 | The open-pit, placer mine known as the Valdez Creek Mine produced around 460,000 ounces of gold during their one year in operation.  


1985 | State purchases Alaska Railroad from the federal government.  Alaska's mining industry enters a new phase with the development of large lode mines in the 1980s.

1987 | The Pebble Project's world-class deposits of copper, gold, molybdenum, and silver are discovered in Western Alaska. 

1988 | Donlin Gold Deposits were discovered in Western Alaska.

1989 | Red Dog Mine is opened in Northwestern Alaska and produces Zinc, lead, and silver.  Red Dog is one of the world's largest Zinc producers.  The Greens Creek Mine is also opened and producing zinc, lead, silver and gold. Today, Greens Creek is in the top 10 silver producers in the world and Red Dog Mine is the world's largest zinc concentrate producer.

1990 | Mining ranks as Alaska's fastest growing industry.

1996 | The Fort Knox mine outside of Fairbanks started gold production.  Between 1997-2007, Fort Knox was the largest open-pit mine in Alaska and has produced around 1 million ounces of gold. 

1998 | The largest gold nugget ever found in Alaska is named the Alaska Centennial Nugget. It weighs a whopping 294.10 troy ounces (9.14 Kilograms, 20.16 pound), and was found near the town of Ruby, Alaska.

2003 | Livengood was a placer miner in 1914 but lode exploration was started in 2003, and it has been indicated there are around 11.4 million ounces of gold to be produced. 

2006 | Near Delta Junction, the Pogo Mine, discovered in 1995 finally began minging for gold.  This underground mine was produced 1.5 million ounces of gold between 2006-2010.

2010 | Another large mine outside of Juneau began gold production.  The Kensington Mine utilized underground mining methods and employs around 200 workers.

2018 | Usibelli Coal Mine celebrates its 75th Anniversary

2019 | Alaska Miners Association celebrates its 80th Anniversary