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Placer [plas-er] gold mining in Alaska began in the 1800s when Russian miners first discovered deposits on the Kenai Peninsula. However, no gold production occurred at the time. It wasn’t until 1870, when placer miners in Southeast Alaska, through dogged determination and intense exploration efforts, discovered vast deposits of ore, launching Alaska’s rich mining tradition. While Fairbanks, Juneau, and Nome are responsible for most of Alaska’s historical and current gold production gold mining operations are found across much of Alaska.

Most large and countless small placer gold mines in the US are in Alaska. View the economic impact of placer mining in Alaska here

Placer deposits are concentrations of heavy minerals that form when minerals are washed, by weather or flooding, down slope into streams. The minerals settle in areas where the river current stalls and can no longer contain the minerals. Placer mining is a collection of mining methods that use water to separate valuable ore from the surrounding sediment. Placer mining literally began as a flash in the pan, flecks of gold awash in a slurry of sediment, recovered by miners using a skilled hand with only a pan the size of a dinner plate and river water.

There have been many technological advances in placer mining in Alaska since then. Today miners process much larger quantities of ore-rich material using methods like dredging and sluicing. Placer mining continues to be a robust and key industry, provides hundreds of jobs, and feeds ongoing exploration efforts and population and community growth across the state.

Placer mining in Alaska requires multiple applications, strict review, state government (Division of Mining, Land & Water Office) regulation, and permitting for any exploration, transport of equipment, mining camp construction, or to mine locatable minerals and conduct any reclamation operations. For anyone interested in placer mining operation in Alaska, or for general information from Alaska Department of  Natural Resources, please visit:

New 2014 APMA information is posted online at: and the new APMA applications are posted at: