Mineral exploration spending tops $300 million in 2011

Mining is growing fast in its economic punch in the state, new studies by the industry show.

In 2011 the industry employed 4,500 in producing mines exploration, up from 3,500 in 2010 in terms of equivalent full-time jobs, according to studies by McDowell Group, the Juneau-based consulting firm.

The average annual pay for a worker in mining reached $100,000 in 2011, up from an average of $95,000 the previous year. State revenues from mining totaled $148 million in 2011, 170 percent up from $58.9 million in 2010, which was also 40 percent up from 2009.

Tax payments to local governments, through property taxes or payments-in-lieu of tax, increased from $13 million in 2010 to $17 million in 2011.

The research was commissioned by the Alaska Miners Association and the Council of Alaska Producers, two industry associations.

Other highlights from the McDowell Group reports:

• Exploration spending reached $300 million in 2011, up 13 percent from 2010.

• Sixty exploration projects spent more than $100,000 on their prospects in 2011, up from 50 in 2010. Of those explorers, 30 projects spent more than $1 million on their prospects in 2011, up from 24 in 2011.

• Including 2011, minerals companies have spent a cumulative $2.8 billion on exploration since 1981.

Seven mines were producing in 2011, one more than in 2010. The new producing mine is Nixon Fork, a small underground mine near McGrath, west of Anchorage.

Other producing mines include the Usibelli coal mine at Healy, south of Fairbanks; the Fort Knox gold mine northeast of Fairbanks, a surface mine; the Red Dog Mine in the DeLong Mountains north of Kotzebue, a large surface mine; the Pogo Mine, a medium-sized undergroud mine near Delta, east of Fairbanks; and the Kensington and Greens Creek mines near Juneau.

Kensington is an underground gold mine at Berner’s Bay, north of the capital city, while Greens Creek in an underground multi-metal mine, mainly zinc and silver, on Admiralty Island west of Juneau.

Work was also under way in 2011, as well as in 2010, on a number of medium-to-large size mines still in the advanced exploration phase.

These include the large Pebble gold/copper mine near Iliamna southwest of Anchorage; the large Donlin Creek gold mine on the middle Kuskokwim River west of Anchorage; the large-to-medium size Livenood gold project north of Fairbanks; the Niblack multi-metals prospect and the Bokan Mountain rare earths project near Ketchikan in Southeast Alaska; and two coal projects, the large Chuitna coal project at Beluga, on the west side of Cook Inlet, and Wishbone Hill, a medium-size coal project north of Palmer, in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

In addition to the large producing mines there were about 200 medium and small-sized placer gold mines operating in both 2011 and 2010, the McDowell Group report said.

11/07/2016 - 3:35pm