JUNEAU, Alaska — Gold miners and environmentalists alike are paying close attention to a melting glacier north of Alaska’s capital city.

Land under the retreating Herbert Glacier was completely covered 20 years ago, but is now being exposed, leaving miners wondering if the rock contains mineralization that could be worth digging up, KTOO-FM reported (http://bit.ly/2xBHPWC ) Thursday.

“The glacier’s receded since the late 1990s on the order of about a quarter-mile or so,” Minerals Program Manager Matthew Reece said.

The U.S. Forest Service oversees the area and last summer renewed permits for a Canadian company’s exploratory drilling. The permit does not allow for the creation of a mine, but lets the company drill holes to see what untapped resources are lurking below.

“It’s simply an exploration project,” Reece said. “Anything that would go further would require a significant amount of planning and environmental assessment.”

Developing a mine would require state and federal permits and would also be subject to local review.

The drilling firm is Canada-based Grande Portage Resources in Vancouver. It touts its Herbert Gold Project as “one of Alaska’s more promising prospects” in what it describes as an “underexplored” area rich in gold-quartz veins.

“We’ve been historically active in the area,” CEO Ian Klassen said.

Guy Archibald, staff scientist for Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, said the problem is mining companies don’t know the impacts drilling will have on the future of the land. While Jim Clark, former chief of staff for Gov. Frank Murkowski, said he views a potential mine as a way for Juneau to re-establish itself as a mining town.


Information from: KTOO-FM, http://www.ktoo.org