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Gold nugget
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Minerals in Alaska
A photograph of a large gold nugget being held between the hands of an individual… The nugget probably weighs over 30 ounces.
A large gold nugget from the Klondike gold rush.

There's Gold in these Hills

Alaska's public lands are abundant in mineral resources from Au (gold) to Zn (zinc). It was gold that first focused world attention on Alaska. After the California gold rush in 1848, prospectors began working north along the Rocky Mountains, eventually reaching Alaska. They found gold near Sitka in 1872 and at the present site of Juneau in 1880 – sixteen years before the famous Klondike strike!  

The rush was on. From Juneau, prospectors spread out into Interior Alaska, making discoveries in the Fortymile County (1886), in the White Mountains near Fairbanks (1893), in the Canadian Klondike (1896), in Nome (1898), and in Iditarod (1908). 

Platinum added a special luster. Discovery in 1926 on the Seward Peninsula, the platinum at Goodnews Bay is today the largest domestic source of this metal, used in electronics, dentistry, and in corrosion-resisting alloys.

Gold mining is still important in Alaska. To date, more than 32 million ounces of it have been mined. At today’s prices, that much gold would have been worth $12.5 billion, making it Alaska’s most valuable non-energy commodity, according to statistics compiled by the State of Alaska.

Check out our classic film Frozen Gold and see what gold mining was like in Fairbanks in 1949.

chalcocite mineral
Chalcocite is a common copper ore.

Valuable Commodities

Copper helped support Alaska between World Wars I and II. Prospectors found a high grade deposit near McCarthy in 1900. Production began at the famous Kennecott Mine in 1911 and ended in 1938. Much of it was used for World War I. At today's prices the 625 million tons Kennecott produced would be worth $1.51 billion, making it Alaska's third most valuable non-energy commodity.

The state's second most valuable non-energy commodity is—surprise!—sand and gravel. More than a billion tons have been mined, worth $2.1 billion at today's prices.

If you are an educator make sure to check out our Statewide Education Kits page for information on how to access the Stampeder Kit, Minerals Kit, and many other kits for use in your classroom!

Hundreds of gold flakes in a green pan.
Gold Fever
Find out more information on gold mining or panning in Alaska!
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A young man dressed in blue jeans and a grey fleece jacket crouches at the edge of a rocky stream bed while panning for gold. Did You Know?
Before the Klondike Goldrush of 1897, five tons of gold were taken from Southeast Alaska, discovered in part by Joe Juneau, a Canadian miner and prospector, and Richard Harris of Juneau.