Aleut's Ring of Fire mineral potential
Aleutian Islands offer metal-rich lodes on the Pacific Rim Alaska Native Claims – October 12, 2021
Last updated 10/11/2021 at 12:42pm
Aleut Corp. is committed to promoting economic opportunities for its more than 4,000 shareholders while preserving the traditional culture and values developed from living in a ruggedly beautiful stretch of Alaska.
From the community of Sand Point on the Alaska Peninsula to Attu near the western end of 167 named Aleutian Islands extending more than 1,000 miles off Southwest Alaska, the Aleut Corp. region forms a boundary between the Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. This geologically young island arc is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a tectonically active and mineral-rich belt that runs from the southern tip of South America to New Zealand.
Despite the more than 40 known volcanoes and frequent earthquakes spurred by the Pacific Ocean plate diving under the North American plate, coupled with being the birthplace of some of the wildest storms known to man, this harsh and beautiful stretch of Alaska has been home to Aleut people for thousands of years.
This region is also home to an oft-overlooked chapter of Alaska's mining history – Apollo, among the first hardrock gold mines in the state.
In addition to high-grade epithermal gold deposits such as those historically mined at Apollo, the dynamic geology that formed the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands is highly prospective for other types of mineral occurrences, such as the large porphyry systems that are an important source of the world's copper supply.
Rose Ragsdale, a contributing journalist for North of 60 Mining News, witnessed the rugged beauty of Unga Island and what remains of the legendary Apollo Mine during a visit to the nearby community of Sand Point in 2002.
"Unga Island offers breathtaking natural scenery, but abandoned buildings scattered across the lower elevations of a 170-square-mile expanse of sandy beaches, grasslands and rolling hills flanked by rugged cliffs give mute testament to the island's rich gold and coal mining history," Ragsdale reflected. "It is not surprising that this chillingly beautiful, but remote part of the world offers a potential treasure of sizable mineral deposits."
Aleut ingenuity and skills
It was not the gold, but the bounty from the sea, that drew the forebearers of Aleut Corp. shareholders to this chillingly beautiful chain of islands that stretch nearly to Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula.
To survive for more than nine millennia in this rugged environment required the Aleut people to have the best clothing, dwellings, transportation, and food. The ability to make highly effective clothing, boats, and other essentials out of the seemingly limited materials the Aleutian region has to offer, speaks to the ingenuity, resourcefulness, and skills of the Aleut people.
While made of different materials, modern kayaks and top-end rain gear borrow from the designs Aleut people have been using for millennia.
Kamleikas, "rain gear" Aleut women made from the intestines of sea mammals, allowed hunters to stay warm and dry while harvesting the sea lion, whale, salmon, halibut, cod, crab, and shrimp that is the foundation of Aleut diet.
To travel for days out in the rough seas this part of Alaska is renowned for, these Aleut hunters used baidarka, highly maneuverable boats that are considered the inspiration to modern kayaks.
"Historically, it is recorded that if the Aleut paddler was appropriately outfitted with a kamleika in a properly constructed baidarka, they could roll completely over in the sea and become upright again without being tossed from the baidarka," Aleut Corp. penned on its website.
Aleut women were also expert and artful grass weavers that could weave baskets so tight that they could hold water. In addition to Aleut baskets, these craftswomen wove mitts, shoes, sleep mats and wall dividers.
While the conveniences of modern homes, clothing, and technologies make living on the Aleutian Islands easier today, Aleut Corp. shareholders continue to pass down the traditional skills, ingenuity, culture, and values that served their ancestors living on the Aleutian Islands well for at least 9,000 years.
Alaska's first real gold mine
While information on the discovery of gold in the Aleut region is scarce, by 1886 the Apollo Mine was in operation there. Not only does this make Apollo one of the first commercial hardrock gold mines in Alaska, this Unga Island operation was in production before the Fortymile discovery that sparked the rush to mine placer gold in the state.
In a 1914 book titled "Alaska, its meaning to the world, its resources, its opportunities," historian Charles Richard Tuttle wrote, "From available data, it may be stated that the earliest discoveries of gold in Alaska, in anything like paying quantities, were made in widely scattered locations, and were quartz lodes, not placers. The Apollo Mine on Unga Island, off the western shores of Alaska, probably was the first of these discoveries."
According to historical reports, the Apollo and adjacent Sitka mines produced roughly 150,000 ounces of gold from high-grade epithermal veins before they were shuttered in 1922.
In recent years, Heliostar Metals Ltd. has been exploring a nearly 100-square-mile property that blankets two high-grade gold trends – Apollo-Sitka and Shumagin – that each cut roughly six miles across Unga Island, which is just south of the Alaska Peninsula.
Apollo-Sitka hosts the historic Apollo Mine, and Shumagin is a parallel high-grade gold trend about 2,000 meters to the northwest.
SH-1, a deposit outlined along the Shumagin trend, hosts 866,015 metric tons of inferred resource averaging 13.8 grams per metric ton (384,318 ounces) gold and 35.4 g/t (986,321 oz) silver.
Aleut Corp., which received roughly 66,000 acres of surface lands and 1.57 million acres of subsurface estate under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), owns the mineral rights to most of Unga. Two ANCSA village corporations, Shumagin and Unga, own much of the surface estate on this island.
Heliostar has agreements that consolidate the Aleut estates with patented mining claims over the historic Apollo Mine and adjacent state of Alaska mining claims.
Pacific Rim copper Pyramid
Aleut Corp. also owns the mineral rights to Pyramid, a large porphyry copper-gold-molybdenum deposit about 25 miles north of Sand Point.
Recognizing the mineral potential of Pyramid in the 1970s, Aleut Corp. selected this land for subsurface ownership under ANCSA. The Shumagin and Tanadgusix village corporations each own parts of the surface lands covering this large copper deposit.
Full Metal Minerals, which optioned Pyramid from the ANCSA regional and village corporations in 2007, was the first company to carry out systematic exploration across this property.
CopperBank Resources Corp., which acquired the property in 2014, carried forward the exploration started by Full Metal.
By 2018, the exploration carried out by CopperBank and its predecessors had culminated into 153.4 million metric tons of inferred resource averaging 0.37% (1.26 billion pounds) copper, 0.09 g/t (457,000 oz) gold, and 0.02% (70 million lb) molybdenum.
This deposit of the copper increasingly needed for the global transition to electric vehicles and renewable energy is located about 2.5 miles from ice-free deep tidewater on the Pacific Rim, making it ideal for shipping ore to Asian and North American markets.
In addition to the potential to expanding Pyramid, CopperBank investigated San Diego Bay, a promising but much earlier stage copper target on Aleut Corp. land about six miles to the east.
A 15-square-mile red-stained anomaly from the pervasive alteration there indicates the potential of another large porphyry system near or potentially connecting to Pyramid.
Limited exploration completed has turned up some interesting results at San Diego Bay, including rock samples with grades as high as 16% copper and more than one g/t gold. This work included surface work carried out by CopperBank in 2017.
Despite the massive potential of the readily accessible copper deposit and target, CopperBank terminated its option on the Pyramid and San Diego Bay copper projects in 2020.
Modern enterprises, continued tradition
Partnerships on mineral-rich lands such as Unga, Pyramid, and San Diego Bay is a way for Aleut Corp. to achieve its commitment to promote economic, cultural, and social growth for its shareholders.
The ANCSA corporation and its subsidiaries also provide information technology and telecommunication services; bulk fuel sales, operations, and storages; environmental testing and remediation; water compliance monitoring; industrial instrumentation for control and piping systems; real estate management; and government contracting.
These enterprises provide the economic means for Aleut people to enjoy the conveniences of modern dwellings and clothing to protect them from the storms that stir up on this chain of ruggedly beautiful Ring of Fire islands that form the boundary of the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea.
All the while, this close-knit group of extraordinarily resourceful people can hold fast to their culture and values by teaching past and present Aleut customs to their descendants so that they can pass these traditions down to the following generations.