Out of the Mine and into the Smelter: Alaska's metal mines export commodities to import good jobs and a strong economy.

Author:Joyal, Brad
 
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Mining has long been a key fixture of Alaska's economy. On a small scale, people flock to the 49th state to tour different operations. Kennecott Mine was once a booming copper mining site and is now a National Historic Landmark, attracting tourists eager to visit the ghost town and get a feel of the Gold Rush era it once dominated. Gold Dredge No. 8 provides tourists with an opportunity to pan for gold while learning more about the Interior's mining history. Although some tourists might visit Alaska to learn about the state's mining past, the industry remains at the center of the state's economy today.

The Alaska mining industry includes exploration, mine development, and production, and it continues to provide Alaskans with thousands of jobs while generating millions of dollars of personal income. Alaska's six large operating mines--Fort Knox, Greens Creek, Kensington, Red Dog, Usibelli, and Pogo--provided 2,400 full-time jobs of the state's nearly 4,500 mining industry jobs in 2018. In all, there were 9,200 direct and indirect mining industry jobs in 2018, and those jobs dished out $715 million in payroll.

Development spending in 2018 was $170 million and the export value from Alaska production was $1.8 billion.

Mineral exports accounted for 36 percent of Alaska's export total in 2017, and all signs point to mined commodities staying one of the state's leading exports for years to come.

Metal Mines

Five of the six large mines operating in Alaska extract metal. Fort Knox Mine, located about 20 miles outside Fairbanks, is the state's largest surface gold mine having produced 381,100 ounces of gold in 2017. Pogo is an underground mine about 130 miles from Fairbanks that produced 271,300 ounces of gold in 2017 About 80 mites from Kotzebue is Red Dog Mine, which has one of the largest open-pit zinc deposits in the world. Red Dog produced 7.7 million ounces of silver, 122,700 tons of lead, and 597,300 tons of zinc in 2017. Like Red Dog. Greens Creek Mine produces silver, lead, and zinc, in addition to gold. Greens Creek, which is located on Admiralty Island about 18 miles from Juneau, produced 8.4 million ounces of silver, 50.900 ounces of gold, 18,000 tons of lead, and 52,500 tons of zinc in 2017. Kensington Mine is an underground long hole stopping and drift-and-fill gold mine 45 miles north of Juneau that produced 115,100 ounces of gold in 2017.

Alaska ranked in the top ten globally for known gold, lead, silver, and zinc deposits in 2017...

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