Mining History Association

Annual Conference June 15-19, 2017

Fairbanks, Alaska

 

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The 2017 Annual Conference of the Mining History Association (MHA) will be held at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, June 15-19, 2017. 

 

Fairbanks, Alaska’s “Golden Heart City,” has a fascinating mining history that started in 1902 with Felix Pedro’s discovery of placer gold in what is now known as Pedro Creek.  A local frontier trading post was renamed Fairbanks in 1903.  Pedro’s discovery started the Fairbanks Gold Rush which drew thousands to the interior of Alaska.  Following the familiar pattern, placer mining led to lode mining in 1911.  Later on, large gold dredges of the U.S. Smelting, Refining, and Mining (USSR&M) Company's Fairbanks Exploration (FE) Company reworked many of the early small placer discoveries.  Mining had its ups and down over the decades, but there is still mining in the Fairbanks area. The Fort Knox Mine, a modern open pit operation north of Fairbanks, is Alaska’s largest gold producer.  Sumitomo Metal and Mining operates the Pogo Underground gold mine about 70 miles southeast of Fairbanks. Coal is produced at the Usibelli Coal Mine at Healy, south of Fairbanks.  Every summer, a number of placer mines, some still family owned, operate along area streams.

 

The University of Alaska in Fairbanks (UAF) campus is our conference venue for registration, accommodations, paper sessions, and the Saturday Presidential Luncheon. Situated on an elevated ridge, the campus offers stunning views of the Alaska Range on a clear day. The UAF Museum of the North is right on campus.  UAF’s Department of Mining Engineering annually graduates engineers that design and operate mines not only in Alaska but around the world.  Free shuttle services are available for transport around the campus, and city buses connect the campus to downtown and the Fairbanks airport.  CLICK HERE for a campus map.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Accommodations will be at the UAF campus dormitories and apartments. The rooms are simple, but do come with a choice of sleeping options that range from a single bed with a bathroom and shower down the hall to a two-bedroom apartment complete with a lounge room, kitchen (with basic utensils), and bathroom. All rooms come furnished with a chair, desk, and single bed(s). This is not a full service hotel where the staff will make your bed, but sheets and towels are provided. There is free Wi-Fi on campus. Laundry facilities are also included (you will have to purchase the detergent and do it yourself). Coffee makers are only available in the apartment units.

Room costs vary by arrangement:

SKARLAND HALL: “Traditional Style.”  Single bed, bathroom down hall: $38 per night.

 

WICKERSHAM HALL: “Suite Style.”  Single: One bed, bathroom shared with another room: $65 per night, or Double: Two beds, bathroom shared with another room: $106 per night.

 

CUTLER APARMENTS: “Apartment Style.” Two bedroom apartment (two beds per room) with coffee maker: $132 per night for the apartment. 

Different room options also mean different locations on campus. Skarland Hall and the Cutler Apartments are located next to the Reichardt Building, where conference paper sessions will take place. Wickersham Hall is located farther east in the main campus quad, about 0.4 miles from the Reichardt Building.

Booking Your UAF Rooms

Rooms will be able to be booked between March 1 and May 1. We will have a block of rooms booked for at least a day on either side of the conference dates for those wanting to spend more time in the Fairbanks area.

All bookings will be made online from the UAF Department of Residence Life web page.  On that web page you will see the “SUMMER GUESTS” tab on the menu at upper right. This tab provides detailed information about the housing options.  You reserve your accommodations by selecting the “MAKE AN ONLINE RESERVATION” on the drop-down list.  You will select from the rooms listed under the “Individual-Academic” heading.  When entering your primary contact information, you will be asked to “Please indicate your reason for staying at UAF?” enter “MHA Conference.” This will allow UAF Conference Services to better track our bookings.

If you would prefer to stay in a full service hotel, downtown Fairbanks has numerous options that include major chains. However, do note that the UAF campus is located on the west side of town, about 3 miles from downtown proper. Check out the Fairbanks Visitor Guide (link below) for more information.  The Metropolitan Area Commuter System (MACS) provides convenient bus transportation routes around town with Monday-Friday and Saturday schedules (no Sunday service).

FOOD SERVICE ON CAMPUS

On Friday and Saturday, a breakfast buffet will be set up in the Reichardt building outside of the Pearl Berry Boyd lecture hall from 7:00-8:30 am.  This is included in the registration fee.  On Sunday, those wishing to have breakfast on the UAF campus can do so at an additional charge to the tour costs. Be sure to check this option on the registration form as reservations must be made in advance. Sunday breakfast will be at Dine 49 in the Wood Center in the main campus quad, 7:00-8:30 am.

For coffee etc., outside of these times, Arctic Java, also located in the Wood Center, offers grab-to-go items ranging from fruit to pastries and sandwiches.

Information on off-campus restaurants will be provided with the conference packet, but recognize that the nearest restaurants to campus will require walking about a 1/2 mile.  Additional restaurants are located in downtown Fairbanks, a 3-mile drive from campus.

BE PREPARED TO EXPERIENCE ALASKA 

An exciting array of social events and field trips are being planned for the conference (see below).  These will include both heritage sites and modern mining operations.

Fairbanks can arguably be considered the geographic center of Alaska modern mining.  The Greens Creek and Kensington Mines are in the southeast near Juneau.  The Red Dog Mine is to the northwest above Kotzebue.  The huge Pebble copper discovery is southwest of Anchorage.  Prudhoe Bay is to the far north and the Alaska Pipeline Corridor, which bisects the state, is close to Fairbanks.  Historic mining areas are similarly located in all directions.  The Yukon and the Klondike are to the north and east.  Nome is to the west.  Juneau and Kennecott are to the southeast.  It is worth remembering that Alaska is a very big state.  If you overlay an Alaska map on one of the “lower 48,” the Panhandle will be located over Florida, The Aleutians will be over Southern California, and Fairbanks will be located in Iowa.

 

That said, in addition to the organized tours held during the Alaska MHA Conference, countless opportunities are available for independent travel to explore both mining heritage sites and the many incomparable National Parks and Wildlife Refuges in the state.  The Alaska Railroad connects Fairbanks with Denali National Park and Anchorage, with connecting service to Whittier and Seward.  Major international air carriers serve Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Juneau.  Cruise ships make Alaska a popular summer destination.  Scores of tour companies, large and small, are available to help you accomplish your “Alaska Dream Trip.” Check out the ALASKA TRAVEL BEYOND THE CONFERENCE link and the tourist information websites listed below and start planning today! 

Bookmark this web page
and check back as additional conference details are added as they become available.  Registration is now available by using the Registration Form (see the links on this page).  The final program and registration form have also been published in the Spring 2017 issue of the Mining History News.

 

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE


A monument to Italian immigrant, Felix Pedro (Felice Pedroni), commemorates his 1902 gold discovery north of Fairbanks.



Examining a pan of gold nuggets at Chatanika, not far from Fairbanks c1916.


Fairbanks and Nome (pictured here) were centers of extensive gold dredging in the 20th Century.

 

Alaska hard rock miners, c1916.

 

The Independence Mine near Palmer Alaska is preserved as a State Park.

 

The famous Kennecott Mining complex, a National Historic Landmark, is located near McCarthy in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

 The modern Fort Knox Gold Mine operated by Kinross Gold is located north of Fairbanks.

 

(Photos courtesy Library of Congress and Kinross Gold)

 


 The Campus of University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

 

TRANSPORTATION

Getting to Fairbanks by Air

Fairbanks International Airport (FAI) is serviced by three major domestic carriers (Alaska, Delta, and United) and an international carrier (Condor) that offers seasonal service from Frankfurt. The Fairbanks Airport is located south and approximately four miles distant from the UAF campus. A cab ride from the Fairbanks terminal to the UAF campus costs about $20. The cheaper option, which will set you back $1.50, is to take the Metropolitan Area Commuter System (MACS) Yellow Line bus. Yellow Line buses depart the airport at 12 past the hour, with service beginning at 7:12am and the last bus departing at 6:12pm. (There is, however, no service at 1:12 pm. The bus runs a more limited schedule on Saturday, and does not run Sunday). The ride to the UAF campus takes approximately 15 minutes..

Getting to Fairbanks by Other Means

Driving to Fairbanks from the lower 48 states is an ambitious trek (the distance from northern Montana being 2,300 miles), but driving to Fairbanks from Anchorage will allow you to bookend the conference with a scenic trip past the entrance to Denali National Park.  Fairbanks is 360 miles from Anchorage (approximately a 6 hour drive). Note that you may experience delays on the highways due to perpetual summer roadwork.

By Train.  The Alaska Railroad runs daily service between Anchorage and Fairbanks. Northbound and southbound trips on the “Denali Star” depart at 8:00 am and arrive respectively in Fairbanks and Anchorage 12 hours later. You will be traveling in peak tourist season, so tickets are pricier—a one way trip on the economy class will set you back $237. See the Alaska Railroad website (link below) for details.

By Bus.  The Alaska Shuttle runs daily service between Anchorage and Fairbanks. Leaving Anchorage at 7:00 am, and arriving in Fairbanks after 4:00 pm. Fares cost $99. See the Alaska Shuttle website (link below) for details.

By Car.  By Car. Several car rental and RV rental agencies operate in Anchorage but book in advance because rentals go quickly. On the highway between Denali and Fairbanks, the Usibelli Coal Mine can be seen to the east of Healy. This surface mine is a fourth generation family-owned operation, Alaska’s only operating coal mine, and an important energy source for interior Alaska 

For car travel, always keep in mind that the distance between destinations is often considerable and that Alaska also has a low population density. This translates to patchy cell phone coverage and long distances between road services. So, be sure to pack snacks and water, and take opportunities to keep the car fueled up rather than testing the limits of the gas tank. Also consider purchasing a copy of The Milepost. This excellent road companion provides a detailed log of each of the highways in the state, as well as land and ferry routes to Alaska. Highway logs include descriptions of towns and businesses along each route (sometimes with brief historical notes), in addition to noting rest areas, scenic viewing points, and other points of interest.

Additional Considerations

Daylight Hours.  Fairbanks has almost 22 hours of daylight in mid-June. The curtains in hotel and dorm rooms may not block out all of the light, so pack a sleep mask to cover your eyes if you need the dark.

Temperatures.  Fairbanks temperatures in mid June range from the 50s to 70s. The days are typically warm and dry, but pack a sweatshirt or two and a raincoat in case of inclement weather.

Bugs.  Alaskans joke that the state bird is the mosquito (it is actually the ptarmigan). You’ll find the cities and the UAF campus essentially free of this pest, but the situation can change when you are out in the woods. When going on one of the expeditions, wear a hat and long pants, and take along a long-sleeve shirt. You’ll find a range of mosquito repellants available in the stores, both Deet-laden and Deet-free. If selecting the former, purchase ones with 20% to 40% Deet--anything less just makes the mosquitoes angry.

CLICK HERE FOR CONFERENCE PROGRAM

CLICK HERE FOR REGISTRATION MATERIALS

 

CLICK HERE FOR MORE FAIRBANKS AND ALASKA MINING HISTORY

 

CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT CURRENT ALASKA MINING

 

SOCIAL EVENTS

Opening Reception, June 15, 2017.  The opening reception will be held at the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame, located at 825 1st Avenue in downtown Fairbanks. The museum was founded in 2013, for the purpose of honoring Alaska’s mining pioneers. Inductees include famed mineral discoverers, educators, geologists, engineers, as well as those engaged in the legal profession. The building itself is a historic structure, constructed in 1908 to serve as an Odd Fellows Hall. Our reception will be catered, and you can wander about the exhibit space to learn about Alaska’s mining inductees. Its location in downtown Fairbanks also means you can walk from there to other downtown sights. Limited return shuttle service to the UAF campus will be provided.

Awards Banquet, June 16, 2017.  The banquet venue offers a take on the Alaska roadhouse, an institution historically serving a critical function as way stations for those en route to the gold fields. Ivory Jacks is a newer rendition, with miscellaneous sports and Elvis memorabilia, no linen tablecloths, and a great atmosphere. The venue is located 7.5 miles from the UAF campus.  Shuttles will be provided.

Presidential Luncheon, June 17, 2017.  The luncheon will be held at Dine 49 in Woods Hall on the UAF Campus.  The luncheon program will include the “Passing of the Presidential Pick” from Erik Nordberg, MHA President 2016-17, to Peter Maciulaitis, MHA President, 2017-18.  The Presidential Lecture will follow.

 

TOURS AND FIELD TRIPS

Pre-Conference Tour: Alaska and Polar Regions Collections & Archives, UAF Campus, Thursday Afternoon, June 15, 2017 (Limited to 20, Pre-registration is Required).  The University of Alaska Fairbanks opened in 1922 as the “Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines.” Like other mining schools, the college library became well stocked with mining textbooks and periodicals. The university archives also became a repository for a range of mining-related collections, including company records, historical photographs of mining operations, and film archives. The archive staff will provide interested researchers with a tour of the facilities and a highlight of some of the mining collections. Tour begins outside the Rasmuson Library on the UAF campus main quad.

Fairbanks Exploration (FE) Company Machine Shop Tour, Saturday, June 17, 2017 (Pre-registration is Required).  Following the Saturday Presidential Luncheon, we are delighted to offer a visit to the FE Company Machine Shop. The US Smelting, Refining & Mining (USSR&M) Company constructed this facility in 1927 to support the company’s extensive operations throughout the Fairbanks District, making both repairs and tools for the various dredges. When operations closed in 1964, the company left the shop items in place. All of the equipment, including industrial lathes and large-scale welding equipment were left in the condition they were when they turned them off. Workers’ clothing still hangs in the lockers, the shelves remain stocked with miscellaneous tools and equipment, and the belt-driven machinery still runs. John Reeves, owner of the machine shop, will be there to explain what is stored and operated there. This is a rare opportunity to see a different facet of mining operations.  The site is not otherwise open to the public. The tour will depart from the Wood Center following the General Meeting.

Tour of the Chatanika Gold Dredge and the US Army Corps of Engineers' Permafrost Tunnel, Sunday, June 18, 2017 (Pre-registration is Required).  From the UAF campus, we will travel by bus to Dredge #3 situated in the northeastern corner of the Fairbanks Mining District, and one of eight bucketline stacker dredges that the USSR&M Company had in operation from 1927-1963. The drive out will include a visit at the Pedro monument, commemorating the discovery of gold in the Fairbanks area by Felix Pedro in 1902, and a stop at Cleary Summit, the principal lode mining area of the Fairbanks District. Patricia Piersol and Jane Haigh, the owners of Dredge #3, will lead a tour of the dredge, which is about 300 meters west of the Steese Highway.  We will then go to the nearby Chatanika Gold Camp, the original facility built by the USSR&M Company to house and feed its employees, where the owner will provide a brief tour. After lunch, we will visit he Permafrost Tunnel, AKA the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), a unique research installation that allows scientists and visitors to walk into the permafrost.  Then we will visit a miner’s private collection of Pleistocene fossils of fauna that roamed Central Alaska during the Ice Age. This is an all-day tour.  Lunch will be provided.

Tour of the US Army Corps of Engineers' Permafrost Tunnel and the Kinross Gold Corp., Fort Knox Mine, and Sunday, June 18, 2017.  (Limited to 35 people, Pre-registration is Required). 
From the UAF campus, we will travel by bus to visit the Permafrost Tunnel, and the private collection of Pleistocene fossils (see description above). We will then head to the Kinross Gold Corporation’s Fort Knox Gold Mine, via the Steese Highway, making a stop at the Pedro monument, commemorating Felix Pedro’s gold discovery in 1902. The Fort Knox Mine is an active, modern open pit operation located in the vicinity of Cleary Summit. The mine works a low-grade ore body (with less than one gram of gold per ton).  In operation since 2011, its production record now makes this mine the single largest gold producer in the state. The tour will visit the open pit as well as the onsite processing facilities that include a mill processing 2,800 tons an hour, and a heap leaching operation. This is an all-day tour.  Lunch will be provided.

Post Conference Tour: Lode Mines of the Fairbanks District, Monday, June 19, 2017 (Self-Driving Tour, Pre-registration is Required).  The Fairbanks region is dotted with the remnants of historic lode gold mines, and although today some are a little off the beaten path, the preservation is remarkable. This tour includes a visit to some of the key properties in the two centers of lode mining: the Pedro and Ester Domes. Sites in the Pedro Dome vicinity include the Hi Yu Mill, a 10-stamp mill in operation through the 1930s and still largely intact, with the majority of crushing and recovery equipment in place. In the Ester Dome area, we will visit the Grant Mill as well as the Clipper Mine, where we have an opportunity to venture underground. This small-scale mine remains in private ownership (the original family house stands beside the adit entrance). Although no longer in operation, the mine has an interesting history that included adaptive use for research during the Cold War. This is a full day tour, departing from the UAF Campus at 8:30 AM and returning to the campus by 4:30 PM.   Travel will include some unsealed backcountry roads, and hiking up to a half mile to reach sites. We recommend car pooling and taking a high clearance vehicle. A boxed lunch is included.

Post Conference Tour: Sumitomo Mining’s Pogo Mine, Monday, June 19, 2017 (Limited to 30 people, Pre-registration is Required).  In 1994, the Teck-Cominco Corporation discovered a rich hard-rock gold deposit about 70 miles southeast of Fairbanks and 35 miles northwest of Delta Junction.  It was placed into production in 2005 by Sumitomo Metal and Mining and is currently one of Alaska’s largest gold mines.  Gold at Pogo is mined underground with the latest mining technologies and deploys state-of-the-art environmental monitoring.  It is truly a mine worth seeing and a unique opportunity to experience large-scale underground mining in the remote interior of Alaska. A 56-mile-long road was built into the mine site from the Richardson Highway prior to production. The tour will start from the UAF Campus early in the morning (7:00 AM) and get to the mine around 12 Noon.  The 3 hour tour will cover all aspects of the mining.  We will return to Fairbanks around 8:00 PM. It will be a long day. Lunch will be served at the mine. We must have 20 people to run this tour.  Tour fees will be refunded if trip is cancelled. 

CLICK HERE for ALASKA TRAVEL BEYOND THE CONFERENCE

VISITOR INFORMATION (Accessed 6, March 2017)

Alaska Tourism (and Visitors Guide)

 

Fairbanks Tourism (and Visitors Guide)

 

University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF)

 

Museum of the North, UAF Campus

 

Alaska Miners Association

 

Alaska Mining Hall of Fame Foundation

 

Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys

 

Kinross Gold Corporation (KGC), Fort Knox Mine

 

Sumitomo Metal Mining Company, Ltd., Pogo Gold Mine

 

US Army Corps of Engineers, Permafrost Tunnel

 

Alaska Railroad

 

Alaska Shuttle Bus Service

 

READING AND REFERENCES (A Short List)

Terrence Cole, Crooked Past:  The History of a Frontier Mining Camp, Fairbanks, Alaska, University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks, 1991.

Charles Caldwell Hawley, Wesley Earl Dunkle, Alaska’s Flying Miner, University Press of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, 2003.

Lael Morgan, Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush, Epicenter Press, Fairbanks/Seattle, 1998.

Clark C. Spence, Northern Gold Fleet:  Twentieth Century Gold Dredging in Alaska, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1961.

Catherine Holder Spude, Robin Mills, Karl Gurke and Robert Sprague, Eldorado!  The Archaeology of Gold Mining in the Far North, University of Nebraska Press and the Society for Historic Archaeology, 2011. 

William R. Hunt, Golden Places: The History of Alaska-Yukon Mining, National Park Service, 1990 (Available Online, Accessed March 2017).

CLICK HERE FOR MORE READING AND REFERENCES

 

 

ORGANIZING COMMITTEE

Paul White

Tom Bundtzen

Rolfe Buzzell
Ted Hawley
Robin Mills

 

 


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