Minerals Management

Kennecott Mine

The main minerals that are mined in the Copper River watershed are copper, gold and coal with minor deposits of molybdenum and chromium. Current gold mining projects include the Chisna; project in the Chistochina mining district of SouthCentral Alaska. (Wrangell-St.Elias National Park and Preserve Historical Photo Collection)

The Kennecott gold mine operated from 1911 to 1938 in what is now the Wrangell-St.Elias National Park and Preserve. The Kennecott mine produced about $200 million dollars worth of copper from 1911 to 1938. Declining profits and the increased costs of railroad repairs led to the closure of the Kennecott mine in 1938.

The USGS published a report on mineral deposits in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Bedrock geology and mineral deposit type are critical to evaluating environmental geochemical effects of historic or active mine areas.

Coal mining has been proposed for the Bering River coalfield. The State of Alaska commissioned a study to develop a production coal mine at the Bering River Coalfield but currently, there is no coal mine or road access to the proposed facility across the Eastern Delta. In the mid-1980s, the Chugach Alaska Corporation (CAC) transferred ownership to the Korea Alaska Development Corporation (KADCO). In 2004, Ecotrust tried to acquire the coal rights from KADCO for $5 million and KADCO refused.

Smaller placer mining operations use streams or ground water for water withdrawals. The water withdrawn is placed into a settling pond and the water is recycled constantly throughout the mine operations.

Larger mines also use settling ponds for their operations. The most water withdrawal and use comes from new mine operations who have to fill the settling ponds. DNR makes sure that the water withdrawals aren’t withdrawing from a water source with fish in it. These larger mining operations also recycle the water therefore not causing much concern for excessive water withdrawal. Larger  mines must submit a water balance budget to the DNR. DNR maintains annual reports from large mines on the DNR website. The larger mines permitted under DNR are not found in the Copper River watershed but with mining exploration taking place in the Copper River watershed currently, that could change someday.


© 2011 Copper River Knowledge System