Over the last few years, Alaska has become well known for its multi-million ounce gold deposits, along with its world-class accumulations of zinc, silver, and lead among other minerals.
But Alaska is also home to some of the world’s richest known copper-dominant polymetallic deposits as well.
The majority of these deposits are situated in three main target areas, with the largest being Brooks Range in northern Alaska
Along the southern length of Brooks Range is the polymetallic rich Ambler Mining District.
Here is where deposits known as volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) structures are particularly abundant.
VMS deposits are one of the most common families of mineral ores found on earth.
They are formed at or near the seafloor as seawater heats up from underwater volcanic activity and is mixed with metals from the active volcanic rocks.
A metal-rich hydrothermal fluid is created which eventually solidifies and forms the basis for a new deposit.
VMS deposits span the globe, but the Brooks Range in particular is generating a great deal of attention from the mining community.
You see, since the late 1950’s the Ambler District of Brooks Range has been explored and documented to be a prolific mining region.
Unfortunately, challenging terrain due to perma-frost and inefficient transportation infrastructure limited its development potential the past five decades.
Fast forward to 2011, and the region is now about to embark on a major construction plan.
The Ambler Mining District Access Project, which was conceived in the summer of 2010, has now reached the Transportation Analysis stage where the overall design concept of the proposed corridor is being determined as of this writing.
Alaska Governor Sean Parnell plans to chip in $4 million to see the Ambler Mining District Road built from Ambler to Delong Mountain Terminal or Port of Nome.
Once all the regulatory and environmental hurdles are cleared, it’s game on.
Companies operating in southern Brooks Range like copper miner Andover Ventures, gold explorer Goldrich Mining, and major Teck Cominco, have amassed substantial land claims in this region over the past few years.
Another company that’s also preparing to reap the benefits of improved transportation access is NovaGold (with plans to spin out a new copper-focused company called NovaCopper soon).
And then there’s the joint venture of Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. and Anglo American PLC of the United Kingdom. These companies are seeking to develop the hotly contested Pebble Mine, which – if developed – could potentially produce 53 billion pounds of copper, 50 million ounces of gold and 2.8 billion pounds of molybdenum over nearly 80 years.
All of these miners are well-positioned to expand their projects further once the transportation infrastructure is in place.
In fact, I believe Alaskan copper production could be the next big thing as mining companies look to bring several of these giant projects online over the next few years.
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