The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority is advancing plans to mine Gulf of Alaska beach sands about 75 miles northwest of Yakutat.
The trust’s board allocated $2 million last month to create a new entity to begin developing the project on land it owns at Icy Cape.
Preliminary exploration and analysis found promising concentrations of gold, as well as garnet and other heavy minerals.
Trust Land Office Executive Director John Morrison told trustees about the project’s value at a November meeting.
“This has an exceptional potential for the trust to generate revenue from its land base, and in fact has one of the greatest potentials to generate revenue of any of the trust’s assets,” he said.
The trust land office manages its property to support mental health services for Alaskans. It usually does that by leasing property or selling resources, such as timber, for others to harvest or extract.
In this case, the trust plans to take a more direct role.
At the mid-November meeting, Morrison said the new entity would explore and develop the property through joint ventures.
“What we are proposing here is to take what we are calling phase 3, which would be a further definition of the potential resource base and the marketing efforts involved in attracting the attention to bring this resource base to market,” he said.
Garnets found in the beach sands, which stretch inland, have industrial applications. They’re used as abrasives or for filtering water.
If investors are found, then developers would need numerous government permits before moving forward. The property is within the Yakutat Borough. Manager Jon Erickson said he had not yet been consulted about the project.
A somewhat similar proposal was made by an out-of-state company for mining beach sands near Yakutat about six years ago. That effort ended after initial mineral values could not be confirmed.
Conservation and fisheries groups objected to that development, saying it could hurt salmon and other marine life.