By The Associated Press
The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

State releases 4 aerial mineral surveys


Last updated 1/29/2006 at Noon

Aerial surveys released by the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys could help identify areas worth exploring for minerals.

Four surveys released Jan. 23 fall short of offering a bull's eye for exploration companies, but help pinpoint promising sites, according to state geologist Melanie Werdon. Werdon said a "pretty hot mineral target area" borders a previously studied section that includes the Pogo gold mine northeast of Delta Junction.

The Black Mountain area contains rock formations and gold-related features similar to those at the Pogo deposit, which contains an estimated 3.6 million ounces of gold, according to mine operator Teck-Pogo Inc.

"I'm sure people are going to be really interested," Werdon said. There was already active prospecting there, she added.

Areas in northeast Fairbanks and southeast of Delta Junction also were studied. So was a section of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska considered likely to contain a large zinc-lead deposit.

By studying areas that have been surveyed and explored, geologists can determine which geologic features are likely to contain gold or other minerals in the same locale. The technology also is used by mining companies for preliminary exploration.

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Geophysical surveys done in 2000 helped companies exploring the large Pogo gold deposit, Werdon said. After maps were released, mineral exploration companies rushed in.

"They wanted to run right out with a helicopter and stake claims," Werdon said. "Everybody wanted a piece of the ground." The geophysical mapping program began in the early 1990s with the goal of attracting mineral investment.

"Essentially we're competing for worldwide exploration dollars," Werdon said. She added that Alaska's surveying lags behind that of many other countries.

Over 14 years, approximately 9,600 square miles have been surveyed at a cost of more than $5 million. This year's surveys cover 918 square miles.

The Senate Resources Committee is considering a bill introduced by Sen. Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, that would increase funding of the project to $5 million over five years. The Alaska Minerals Commission, an industry-comprised board created to advise the Legislature and governor, supports the legislation.


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