Geologists gathered soil samples on Chichagof Island mining claims being worked by Millrock Resources northwest of Pelican on Lisianski Inlet in August 2021. (Photo courtesy of Kyle Negri/Millrock Resources)

A Canadian mining company is exploring claims near Pelican, on Chichagof Island.

Millrock Resources CEO Gregory Beischer in Anchorage says claims around the historic mines were once producing precious metals in the early 20th century. Some exploration resumed in the 1980s.

“But it really has been dormant since the mining activity took place in the ’20s and ’30s,” Beischer told CoastAlaska.

About five years ago, the Vancouver, B.C.-based company applied to the U.S. Forest Service for drilling permits to renew exploration on the claims that once made up the historic Apex and El Nido gold mines.

Subsequent permits for drilling were pulled as recently as 2018.

But that never happened because Beischer says they weren’t able to secure financing. 

Since then, Millrock has formed a partnership with the operator of Kensington Mine north of Juneau. That’s allowed it to take soil samples on claims less than three miles from Pelican, which has fewer than 100 year-round residents.

The subsidiary of Coeur Mining invested about $200,000 for a small team of geologists based in Pelican. They regularly crossed the inlet to take soil samples northwest of town. Taking soil samples doesn’t require permits, state and federal regulators say.

Beischer says soil sample results are pending. But he says geologists hope they will show that the gold-bearing quartz veins continue down the mountain.

And it will hopefully be encouraging enough for our partner to finance drilling,” he said, “to test the quartz veins at lower elevations to see if the gold continues.”

If they do, the company could apply for renewed permission to drill next year. This exploration is only one of his company’s roughly half-dozen projects in Alaska. He says it’s important to keep this in perspective.

Many hundreds — if not thousands — of exploration projects like this start,” Beischer said. “But the cold, hard reality for us exploration geologists is that not many of the projects actually result in the discovery of a deposit — especially a deposit that can be mined to the profit.”

Some of the public land claims were staked by Millrock. But the bulk of the area is on claims held by Apex El Nido Gold Mines, an Alaska company whose primary shareholder is Anchorage attorney Joseph Henri, a former state Commissioner of Administration. 

Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected to reflect that Apex El Nido Gold Mines holds some of the claims but does not own any of the land.