Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook 1990
Year 1990, Volume 2 (1990)
Pittman, Tom L.
Alaska, pp. -70 ff. PDF (3.5 MB)
56 ALASKA—1990injunction that stopped actions provided for by the 1990 law. TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTh - The rate of production of lead, silver ~ and zinc continued to increase in 1990 because the Greens Creek and the Red ~ Dog Mines each operated for the entire year. Published State surveys listed the total production of zinc at 164,300 metric tons, up from 18,007 metric tons in 1989; lead at 40,106 metric tons, up from 8,698 metric tons in 1989; and silver at 315.199 metric tons, up from 162.102 metric tons in 1989. Greens Creek Mine was the top silver producer in the United States for the second consecutive year. The production of zinc, lead, and silver reported to the U.S. Bureau of Mines was withheld to avoid disclosing company proprietary data. Gold production reported by the State decreased to 7206 kilograms in 1990 from 8852 kilograms in 1989. The decrease was due chiefly to low production by the offshore bucketline dredge BIMA, near Nome, and loss of most of the mining season at the Valdez Creek placer mine. It was necessary to reroute Valdez Creek above where the main pay channel lies beneath the present creek bed. A few tons of tin was recovered from some gold placer mines as cassiterite concentrates. No mercury, platinum, or tungsten production was reported in 1990. Construction sand and gravel production dropped from an estimated 17 million short tons to 15.1 million short tons and crushed and broken stone declined from 2.9 million short tons to 2.7 million short tons from 1989 to 1990. Few road, construction, or oil exploration projects were active. Placer mines continued to improve effluent water quality and reduce the amount of process water used to wash a cubic yard of gravel. Improvements in design and construction of machinery and of processing by companies and government agencies has lowered operating costs and benefited the mining environment. Blasting and the mechanical removal of frozen - overburden is supplanting cold water thawing. The increasing effort to make regulations more specific and eliminate many of dubious value is helping to save time, money, and confusion in the mineral industry. There was continued interest in finding and exploring low grade bulk minable precious metal deposits and base metal deposits with enough gold and silver values to carry a significant part of the production costs. The organization of small, militant, antimining groups in southeast Alaska has slowed permitting and increased costs of current mining projects. Several mining companies formerly very active in Alaska have reduced or terminated projects here and are increasing exploration, development, and acquisition activities in various foreign countries. Another interesting trend is the appearance of foreign specialty service companies in Alaska. A Russian geophysical exploration company has been engaged to apply its specialized aerial and ground methods to the large gold prospect property of Tri-Valley Corp. north of Richardson. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines requiring 100 % recycling of placer wash water became effective in 1990 and will have had a depressing effect on the output of gold because many of the small-scale placer operators are still making the necessary alterations in their washing plants to save water and enhance effluent discharge quality. The detailed results of State surveys of the mining industry were published in Alaska's Mineral Industry 1990--Special Report 45. The report was published and distributed by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys (DGGS) and Division of Mining (DOM), and by the Division of Business Development of the Department of Commerce and Economic Development. EMPLOYMENT Nonfuel mineral employment was estimated at 3,470 by the State, a decrease of about 16 % from the 4,157 estimated in 1989. Mechanized placer mining employed 1 151 persons; lode gold and silver, 265; base metals, 425; recreational mining, 3 15; construction sand and gravel, 645; stone, 160; tin, jade and soapstone, 40; exploration, 374; and development, 95. Most of the employees in base metal, lode gold and silver, and coal mining operations work all year. The other operations are mostly seasonal and work from 3 to 6 months of the year. Exploration and development employees are calculated by the State as working 260 days per year. A few of the larger placer operations are now stripping overburden most of the year and adding ~ stability to the work force. Nonfuel ~ employment has dropped from 4274 to 3476 persons since 1988, mostly because of virtual completion of the development and construction programs at the Greens ~ Creek and the Red Dog Mines. REGULATORY ISSUES The legislature passed Senate Bill 544 (Ch. 92, SLA 90) early in 1990. This statute replaced the reclamation section of Senate Bill 129 (Ch. 101, SLA 89), enacted in May 1989. This law was to become effective October 15, 1991. The act requires reclamation for most mining operations on Federal, State and private lands in Alaska, including sand and gravel and other materials. There is an exemption for small operations disturbing less than 5 acres or gravel operations removing less than 50,000 cubic yards at one location. An operator must have an approved reclamation plan before mining starts except on small projects mentioned above. The Department of Natural Resources is given the authority to establish and manage a statewide bonding pool. Bonding is mandatory and a ceiling of $750 per acre is the maximum required. The regulations for the annual rental section of Senate Bill 129 became effective May 18, 1990. They dealt with mining, leasing, annual labor, and claim abandonment. The holder of any mining claim, leasehold location, or mining lease on State land must pay annual rental in advance to retain equity in the property. The rental for the year that began at noon on September 1, 1989, must have been paid on or before June 29, 1990, or not
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