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Coming back soon — mining.
Miners established Ketchikan. Now mining on Prince of Wales Island for rare earth elements, gold, copper and zinc is at the core of southern Southeast's hopes for the future.
The Alaska Legislature recognizes the importance of mining even in the midst of the intense focus on oil and oil-tax reform under discussion in the closing days of this year's session.
Mining provides jobs, many of them high-paying, and adds to the economic well-being of Alaska. Not only miners, but heavy equipment operators, drillers, engineers, geologist, biologists, accountants, chemists and other skilled occupations work in the mining industry where the average salary is $100,000 a year, nearly twice the state's average.
The mining industry built much of Alaska's infrastructure since its advent here in the 1880s. The most recent example is the Lake Dorothy Hydroelectric Dam, which serves Juneau residents, but was needed for the Greens Creek Mine, says Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Turnagain Arm/North Kenai.
Alaska's large gold rushes — Juneau in 1880, Turnagain Arm in 1885, Fortymile in 1886, Kenai in 1888, Circle in 1892, the Klondike in 1896, Nome in 1898, Fairbanks in 1902 and Iditarod in 1980 — built towns, roads, ports and railroads, she notes.
Now the mining industry provides more than 2,000 jobs in Alaska. It also is responsible for tax revenue collected in cities and by the state.
In acknowledgement of the history and continued importance of mining to Alaskans, Giessel proposed and the Legislature has designated May 10 as Mining Day in Alaska.