The reported value of the Alaska mining industry in 2017 was $3.15 billion. That figure represents an almost 12% increase from the year before. Although many of the numbers were in a state of decline for several years, the rebounds experienced in 2017 brought the industry back to a state of financial security that it hadn’t seen in more than a decade.
Zinc was the top metal produced in the state of Alaska in 2017, accounting for more than half of the total production. The overall development expenditures in the state climbed back to $299 million, with metal mines accounting for 89% of the investments. The significant mines in the region spent 29% of the state’s exploration budget, signaling an increase in activities for their undeveloped prospects.
At the end of the year in 2017, there were over 6,200 active Federal claims represented in the Alaska mining industry. There were also more than 34,000 state mining claims. These totals represent an increase of 230%, covering almost 3 million acres in total.
Mining has always been one of the primary reasons that Alaska was an economic opportunity for the United States, even if the initial transactions were deemed a folly. The current state of the mining industry proves that it continues to be a wise investment.
Important Alaska Mining Industry Statistics
#1. Mineral exploration expenditures in the state of Alaska total roughly $60 million per year. In 2017, that figure topped about $110 million. Since 1981, over $3.5 billion has been spent in the state on these programs. (McDowell Group)
#2. Over 30 significant exploration projects were operating in Alaska in 2016. Just five operating mines accounted for 49% of the exploration spending that happened during the year. (McDowell Group)
#3. Mining companies have invested over $6 billion in development for mining projects in the state. Over $217 million was spent in 2016 alone, with a significant majority of that going to existing operations. Fort Knox, Pogo, Red Dog, Kensington, and Green’s Creek mines typically see a majority of the annual investments. (McDowell Group)
#4. There were over 230 placer gold mines operating in Alaska during 2016, providing over 51,000 ounces of gold. Over 50% of the active minds are located in the eastern interior region of the state. (McDowell Group)
#5. Another 120 sand and gravel operations are part of the Alaska mining industry today, providing about $17 million in production value on state lands. (McDowell Group)
#6. 43% of the mineral production value in Alaska goes to zinc production, with gold ranking second at 39%, followed by silver and lead with 8% respectively. (McDowell Group)
#7. Exploration expenditures for the Alaska mining industry rose by 105% in 2017. Development expenditures rose 38%, while the estimated revenue to industry increased by 7%. (Alaska Department of Revenue)
#8. The number of exploration jobs available in the Alaska mining industry rose by 59% in 2017, offering a total of 254 jobs. Combined development and production employment saw a 2% gain with an additional 66 positions reported. (Alaska Department of Revenue)
#9. The estimated revenues to the municipalities and the state from mineral industry fees, royalties, taxes, and sales totaled over $120 million in 2017. That was a 73% increase from the year before. (Alaska Department of Revenue)
#10. Roughly 3,400 people have full-time employment in the Alaska mining industry today, which is a 5% increase over 2016 numbers. (Alaska Department of Revenue)
#11. The Permanent Fund earned $5.2 million from the Alaska mining industry in 2017. (Alaska Department of Revenue)
#12. Full-time workers employed by the Alaska mining industry burned an average annual wage of more than $108,000 in 2016. That figure is more than double what the median salary was in the state that year, at $53,160. (McDowell Group)
#13. Over $404 million in total annual wages were paid by the Alaska mining industry, including revenues earned by self-employed individuals who worked their own placer mines for gold. (McDowell Group)
#14. About 1,200 seasonal jobs become available because of the placer mining efforts that occur in Alaska. Approximately $40 million in earnings came from this segment of the industry in 2013. (McDowell Group)
#15. Roughly 79% of the employees that hold full-time positions at the six producing mines in the Alaska mining industry our state residents. The different employment rotations offered by the industry make it possible for employees to live anywhere in the state, creating job opportunities for people in rural areas where there would be few other ways to work. (McDowell Group)
#16. Mining employees currently represent 55 different communities in the state of Alaska, not including gravel, gold, sand, and rock production. (McDowell Group)
#17. The Bureau of Land Management was managing 55 active mining plans of operations, along with 28 notice-level operations that were all primarily located along the Dalton Highway Utility Corridor, the Fortymile River region, and the Steese-Central area. (Alaska Department of Revenue)
#18. The state received 436 new applications or renewals for permission to mine in Alaska in 2017. This was a 2.5% increase from the year before. 326 of them were for placer mining, 59 wanted to use suction dredging, and the remainder went to hard rock exploration. (Alaska Department of Revenue)
#19. The average person in Alaska will require over 10,000 pounds of stone that they will use for roads, bridges, buildings, and other construction purposes. Another 7,500 pounds of gravel and sand help to make asphalt, concrete, and miscellaneous materials. (Minerals Education Coalition)
#20. 43% of exploration spending in Alaska involves polymetallic needs, while 42% of it involves precious metals. Base metals account for 13%, with miscellaneous needs representing the remainder of the funds. (McDowell Group)
#21. The Arctic Deposit in Alaska represents 27 million metric tons of Indicated and Inferred resources. These materials include lead, gold, silver, and zinc. The average copper grade in the area is 3.2% and a copper-equivalent grade of 5.9%, making it an excellent opportunity to expand resources in the region. (McDowell Group)
#22. Trilogy and South32 were able to double the size of their Bornite footprint in 2017, which now measures 5,000 feet by 8,000 feet. (Alaska Department of Revenue)
#23. Over $42 million in exploration expenditures in 2017 went toward massive sulfide deposits. Another $29 million went to exploring gold veins, while $26 million went to intrusion gold. (Alaska Department of Revenue)
#24. About $2.8 million was spent in the state of Alaska on magnetite sands, graphite, coal, REEs, PGE—Ni-Cu, and metasedimentary-hosted gold. (Alaska Department of Revenue)
#25. Metal mining in the state of Alaska is the fifth largest driver of the state economy. 90% of the minds in the segment are outside-owned. (Ground Truth Trekking)
#26. There were 30 projects in Alaska that were already spending $1 million each on exploration in 2011. (Resource Development Council)
#27. The mining industry in the state pays roughly $20 million each year to the Alaska Railroad Corporation for shipments of gravel and coal. They also contribute another $20 million annually to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to use state-owned facilities. $4.8 million was sent in 2013 to the Alaska Mental Health Trust as well. (Resource Development Council)
#28. The waters around the state of Alaska are believed to contain approximately 30% of the known recoverable offshore resources in the United States. (AOGA)
#29. Although the recoverable coal reserves in Alaska total 2.3 billion tons, there is only one active mine supporting the industry right now. None of the coal that the state produced in 2017 was exported, with most of it used at local power plants or institutional users. (U.S. Energy Information Administration)
Alaska Mining Industry Trends and Analysis
The mining potential in the state of Alaska is evident because of its abundant natural resources. The state ranks in the top 10 in global distribution for coal and primary metals. Over 12% of the world’s coal resources exist in the region, making it the second largest in the world today. Alaska also ranked sixth in the lead production, ninth in gold, tent in silver, and 11th in copper.
One of the reasons why the mining industry in Alaska continues to be economically relevant is because the state encourages land settlements and developments to make the resources available for maximum use to the public interest. With its location on the Pacific Rim, there are significant advantages to working in the state for domestic and international providers.
There are new opportunities to consider for the mining industry as well with the U.S. government opening national reserves to the possibility of future exploration. Although there will always be a certain measure of uncertainty to find in the Alaska mining industry, its strength continues to be the consistency of product that the various mines produce to create tremendous value for the state and national economy.
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