PUBLISHED: 5:47 PM on Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Mining industry hits new year over billion

The Department of Natural Resources announced last week that the total value of Alaska's mineral in-dustry is expected to be approximately $1.4 billion for 2004-the ninth straight year topping $1 billion. Preliminary exploration expenditures in Alaska exceeded $64 million, a 240 percent increase from 2002 and 2003 values.

"The value of the mining industry, the jobs and the significant increase in exploration tells me that we are successful in reaching one of my goals for advancing resource development," said Governor Frank Murkowski. "I congratulate the mining industry on another successful year."

The preliminary combined values for exploration and development investments and the gross value of the mineral products total $1.4 billion in 2004, a record value for the industry. Alaska's mineral industry provided more than 2,000 jobs in 2004.

"I'm excited by this report and what this indicates for the future of mining in Alaska," said Tom Irwin, Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources. "This amount of exploration will help confirm what I believe to be the mineral opportunities in the state."

More than half of the exploration funds, approximately $38 million, were spent in southwestern Alaska. Fifteen exploration projects had budgets greater than $1 million. Several large projects accounted for most of the exploration expenditures and drill footage. Advanced exploration proj-ects include Placer Dome Inc.-NovaGold Resources Inc.-Calista Corp.'s 23-million-ounce Donlin Creek gold project and Northern Dynasty's Pebble copper-gold project in southwestern Alaska, with announced resources of 26.5 million ounces of gold and 16.5 billion pounds of copper.

Development investment amounting to $165.6 million for 2004 showed a significant increase over the 2003 level of $39.3 million. The increase is primarily due to construction at the Teck Pogo project, which was fully permitted by mid 2004. Other significant investments were at Ft. Knox Mine, Greens Creek Mine, Kensington Project, Usibelli Coal Mine, and in the sand and gravel industry.

Production values amounting to $1,180.3 million for 2004 also increased significantly over the 2003 value of $1,000.7 million. The increase follows improved metal prices, which are up sig-nificantly over 2003. Production volumes were down compared to 2003 for all materials except placer gold; however, metals price improvements clearly overcame production shortfalls. Hard-rock metals production values were down for all commodities; placer gold production appears to be up by about 1,000 ounces. Ore grades at both Red Dog and Greens Creek mines were down slightly, thereby affecting lead, zinc, and silver production values. Production values will show improvement in the complete report when final volumes from the rock, sand, and gravel industry are compiled.

Information Circular 51, Alaska's Mineral Industry 2004: A Summary is available on the web at It is also available from DGGS, 3354 College Road, Fairbanks, Alaska 99709-3707 (907-451-5020) and from the DNR Public Informa-tion Center, 550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1260, Anchorage, Alaska (907-269-8400). The report will be also be available for inspection beginning April 8, 2005, at the Alaska Resources Library and Information Service (ARLIS), 3211 Providence Drive, Anchorage, and at the Historical Col-lection of the Alaska State Library in the State Office Building in Juneau. The Historical Col-lection is available from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday (907-465-2927).