Northwestern Region Alaska Gold Production


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The vast, sparsely populated Northwestern Alaska region lies north of the Yukon drainage basin and the Seward Peninsula. The gold-producing districts, which are in the southern part, lie in the Kobuk and Noatak River basins.

In the late 1890's part of the horde of prospectors attracted to Alaska from the crowded Klondike fields discovered gold placers in the Kobuk River valley, and the rush that ensued culminated with about 800 men populating the valley (Smith and Mertie, 1930, p. 321). Activity declined in a few years, and these placers were never as productive as those in the neighboring Yukon basin.

The Shungnak district in the Kobuk River basin is the largest producer in the region. Small amounts of placer gold were produced from the Squirrel Creek area and the Noatak River valley. Auriferous veins are known in the Shungnak and Noatak areas, but these are little more than prospects (Smith and Mertie, 1930, p. 336-339).

Recorded gold production from the Northwestern Alaska region began in 1905. Total production through 1959 was about 23,000 ounces; presumably all production was from placers.

The Shungnak district is in the Kobuk River valley between lat 66°50' and 67° 10' N. and long 156°50' and 157°25' W. This was the major gold-producing district of Northwestern Alaska, having had a total production valued at approximately $200,000 (about 9,700 ounces) to 1930 (Smith and Mertie, 1930, p. 321). From 1930 through 1959 a few hundred more ounces were mined. The total production through 1959 probably was between 10,000 and 15,000 ounces.

The district was activated by the rush to the Kobuk River valley in 1898, but by 1910 it was almost deserted (Smith and Eakin, 1911, p. 271). Small amounts of gold were produced through the succeeding years to 1955.

Much of the district is underlain by metasedimentary rocks consisting of quartzose schist, crystalline limestone, and sheared conglomerate. Locally these rocks are mineralized and the gold placers are thought to be derived from such deposits (Smith and Eakin, 1911, p. 282-284).

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