Swiss firm sees gold in the sands of Cook Inlet

Posted: Friday, June 29, 2007

SOLDOTNA - An international prospecting company is reviving the chase for gold in Cook Inlet sands a century after the first attempts didn't pan out and two decades after most everyone gave up looking.

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Hemis Corp., a two-year-old company with offices in Switzerland and Nevada, has paid an exploration company for the right to pick up where it left off in 1986 with state prospecting applications that are still pending for an offshore zone north and west of Anchor Point.

There are flakes enough along the Kenai Peninsula's sandy southwest clam beaches to keep recreational panners curious, but Hemis aims to drill into coastal sediments this summer and prove there's also a lucrative concentration there.

"The area looks very promising," Hemis president Norman Meier said from his home in Zurich, Switzerland. Aspen Exploration, the company that applied for prospecting rights in the 1980s, found gold on the beach and did aerial magnetic monitoring that indicated metals underwater, he said.

"They found large proof for magnetite on the ground, and usually gold occurs with magnetite. The (beach) samples are high-grade."

Others have heard that before, though, and say they're not ready to get worked up over a would-be dredging rush in the migratory path of the Peninsula's golden egg, the salmon. Agents for Hemis met with community groups this spring, but many commercial fishermen have been busy readying their boats for the season.

"I don't think the commercial fishing fleet has really understood the implications of what they're proposing," said Gary Fandrei, executive director of the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, who met with Hemis representatives last month. "They haven't really digested what the proposal is."

The nonprofit fishery association's board likely will discuss the project at its September meeting - after this summer's exploration but long before state and federal regulators could approve actual mining operations.

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