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ANCHORAGE - Members of the Alaska Miners Association are feeling good about the industry during this week's convention in Anchorage.
Mining has been a bright spot in the overall Alaska economy, which has been flat for more than a year, the Anchorage Daily News reported Friday. Gold prices are at historic highs, a large new mine has opened northwest of Juneau, and more than 4 million acres of state land are staked for exploration.
The overall value of the industry, including exploration, construction and produced minerals, totaled $2.9 billion last year.
The value of gold production alone could top $1 billion next year, thanks mostly to the state's three large gold mines: Kensington, the Fort Knox mine near Fairbanks, and the Pogo mine near Delta Junction.
Also, the state's biggest mine, the Red Dog zinc and lead mine near Kotzebue, is poised to begin developing its second pit.
Several megaprojects would dwarf the state's operating mines if they ever pan out. These include the Pebble copper and gold prospect near Iliamna, the Donlin Creek gold project near the Kuskokwim River and the proposed Chuitna coal strip mine on the west side of Cook Inlet. The three projects are still being studied by mining companies, and no permits for their development have been granted.