Gold Mines of Valdez

There's Gold in Them Thar Hills! No, Seriously.
A Forgotten Heritage

Roots in Gold

Without going into a museum it might not ever occur to you that Valdez was originally a gold town. There were over a dozen mines in operation in Valdez between the 1890's and first world war. While many of the historic mines have closed down there is still active mining up the Mineral Creek area. The active mines are about business and are not offering tours at the moment and the historic mines are in remote locations. Cliff Mine, the most prosperous mine can be found down Port Valdez on the north side just east of Shoup Bay. You can request passing close to it from any open water tour guides.Other more remote mines can be accessed with the help of Vertical Solutions or Alaska Guide Co.

Gold Mines in Valdez, Alaska
Cliff Mine

Cliff mine became productive in 1910 and proved a very profitable mining venture. At the Cliff mine the vein has been followed to a depth of 400 feet below its outcrop. The Cliff vein had averaged about $50 to the ton, mostly in free gold, with very little change in depth. The concentrates are said to run about 7% and carry about $100 worth of gold to the ton. The vein follows a well-defined fissure, which strikes from N. 30° to N. 45° W., probably averaging about 35°, .and cuts across the foliation of the slate. At the outcrop and in the workings above the main tunnel it dips to the southwest at an angle of 50° to 70°, but exhibits some rolls. Throughout the mine workings, which now reach a depth of about 100 feet below sea level and extend for about 600 feet along the vein, the fissure is plainly recognizable, but in places the vein material is represented by only half an inch of gouge. Where mined the lode probably averages from 14 to 30 inches, but it locally widens to about 4 feet. In some places the lead is made up of a single vein of quartz; in others of a network of quartz stringers separated by masses of country rock.

The ore bodies of the Cliff mine may be taken as typical of the gold quartz lodes of Prince William Sound, although no two ore bodies should be expected to resemble each other in all details. The mine is on the north shore of Port Valdez, just east of Shoup Bay and is entered by an adit known as the 200-foot level, which is only 18 feet above the level of mean low tide in Port Valdez. Several distinct veins in addition to the Discovery or Cliff vein have been mined. The mine openings extend from the level of the Hughes vein, 442 feet above mean low tide, to the 550-foot level, 332 feet be- low it, or a total vertical distance of 774 feet. The Hughes vein was originally mined independently from the surface, through an audit on the Shoup Bay side of the ridge, but later was connected with the Cliff mine by a raise. The underground openings that were made in mining operations thus extended northwest from the outcrop of the Cliff vein, near the portal of the mine, for a horizontal distance of about 1,700 feet.

Ramsey-Rutherford Mine

The types of rock and the structural relations of the lodes at the Ramsey-Rutherford mine on the east side of Valdez Glacier, about 10 miles by trail from Valdez, are much like those at the Cliff mine. The bedrock is dominantly graywacke with included beds of argillite, striking east and dipping steeply north. These beds are cut by mineralized quartz veins that range in strike from about north to northwest and dip east or west. The veins are principally quartz and range in thickness from a few inches to several feet. In places they are made up in part of crushed country rock. The gold is free. Some silver is present. The dominant sulfide mineral is pyrrhotite rather than pyrite or arsenopyrite and is accompanied by pyrite, chalcopyrite, sphalerite, and galena. Quartz is the principal gangue mineral, but calcite, probably siderite, and country rock may accompany it. The sulfide minerals commonly are only a small part of the ore. The gold content of the veins is smaller and less constant than that of the Cliff mine, but has made an important contribution to the production of gold in the district.

Most of the attempts to recover gold from the gravels Avere made on streams flowing into Port Valdez. The more promising localities were on the upper part of Mineral Creek and on Gold Creek where small mining operations were carried on over a period of several years.