Mining activity, exploration dips along with gold prices
As gold prices dip, mining activity throughout the state is also in flux.
Gold prices are no longer at the record high prices of 2011. In the past year, they’ve gone down more than $400, holding relatively steady through the summer at just about $1,300 per ounce as of Sept. 17.
Despite those drops, miners continue to file applications with the state to operate placers, dredges and explore other sites.
The state’s Department of Natural Resources oversees much of the permitting activity.
According to information from DNR, about 720 operations were permitted by mid-summer, including amendments to operations but not including some multi-year permits that had not yet been updated. Those operations included 438 placer, 208 suction and 74 exploration sites.
Additional operations could have been registered since July, but that information was not available.
From January 2011 to November 2012, which included two seasons of mining rather than just one, the state received 549 placer applications and 272 suction dredge applications, more than the mid-season numbers for 2013.
The state also received new miscellaneous land use permits, or MLUP, and annual placer mining applications, or APMA, for this summer.
Through mid-May, when gold prices were falling, 272 MLUPs were renewed, and another 221 had been issued.
Also through May, for work on federal and private land, 47 new APMAs were filed, and 67 were renewed.
Through May, the Nome applications held pretty steady compared to 2012.
In Nome, 204 mining authorizations were approved by mid-summer. It’s possible that additional authorizations were filed later in the summer, and not every authorization was necessarily used.
Much of the Nome activity was on the east and west public beaches, where a total of 145 operations were permitted. A smaller number, 45, of lease tracts/mining claims were also authorized, and 13 were for combined authorizations and lease tracts/mining claims.
Much of the Nome activity, however, is thought to be driven more by reality television and less by gold prices. The state drafted a letter that it sends to those who inquire about mining, outlining some of the realities of mining, and the need to only do so in allowable locations.
Smaller mining companies exploring in Alaska also continued their work this summer.
Millrock Resources Inc., which has multiple gold-copper exploration efforts in the state, announced in August that it had entered an agreement with a major international mining company on its Stellar Project, north of the Denali Highway.
The company is expected to exercise its right of first refusal by October, after sampling and mapping done in August.
The project includes a copper-gold deposit, and surrounding land could have other types of copper or gold deposits.
Millrock also continued work at its Humble prject this summer, which is one of the largest exploratory hard-rock efforts.
The company drilled holes at the project, looking for another copper-gold deposit northeast of Dillingham in the Klutuk Creek drainage. That continued on work started in 2011 and 2012.
Another company, WestMountain Gold, Inc., worked at its Terra Project this summer, and is now reviewing results. That’s a larger effort, with a million ounces of gold expected over the life of the mine, and reliant on lode mining claims, which generally apply to veins of rock or other well-defined deposits.
The Terra project is west of Anchorage, in the Kuskokwim River drainage.
According to a September announcement from that company, three levels were mined this summer.
Molly Dischner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.