Minerals industry spending jumped in 2010, state report says
Spending on minerals exploration and mine developed increased substantially in 2010 compared with 2009, driven mainly by high prices for gold and zinc, the state of Alaska said in its annual minerals report. The report is issued yearly in the fall and details spending in the previous calendar year, using information supplied by minerals companies.
The state departments of Natural Resources and Commerce, Community and Economic Development compiled the data and issued the report.
Exploration spending increased 47 percent in 2010, rising from $180 million in 2009 to $264.4 million, the report said. This growth helped make 2010 the sixth consecutive year with exploration spending that exceeded $100 million. Exploration occurred across Alaska, but more than 48 percent of the spending ($127 million) was in southwestern Alaska alone, and 21 percent, or $55 million, was in the Eastern Interior region of the state, according to the report.
Two advanced exploration projects, the Pebble copper/gold and the Donlin Creek gold projects in the western and southwest regions, accounted for more than 43 percent of the exploration spending in 2010, the state report said. Thirty-four projects reported exploration expenditures of $1 million or more, and 47 additional projects reported spending at least $100,000.
Spending on development, or construction, at mines remained at high levels but was down nearly 11 percent in 2010, declining from $330.8 million in 2009 to approximately $293.3 million, the state report said. This was the seventh consecutive year in which development spending exceeded $200 million.
The value of produced minerals also grew substantially in 2010. The estimated gross wholesale (first market) value of mineral production increased more than 27 percent in 2010, rising from nearly $2.5 billion in 2009 to $3.1 billion. Zinc topped all mineral product values, with 42 percent of the total, and the Red Dog Mine near Kotzebue, operated by Teck, was the largest contributor to total zinc production, the state report said.
Gold remained a strong second, carrying 35.8 percent of the total production value. In descending order, the values of remaining production were lead, 9.1 percent; silver, 9 percent; coal and peat, 2.4 percent; and industrial minerals (rock, sand, gravel, and gemstones), 1.7 percent, according to the state report.
Mineral industry employment rose 18 percent in 2010 to 3,872 full-time-equivalent jobs, an increase of 592 jobs from the 2009 total of 3,280. Full-time-equivalent job numbers are derived from adjusting season job totals to their equals as year-around jobs based on hours worked weekly. The jobs were distributed across Alaska.