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A New Alaska Gold Rush

(AP/Fairbanks Gold Mining Inc.)
With gold prices surging comes a new surge in gold mining in the far north.

The Anchorage Daily News is reporting that gold production in Alaska has reached its highest levels since the rush of a century ago, shortly after gold was discovered in the Yukon.

(Left: The Fort Knox Mine, seen in this September 2005 photo, is currently the largest operating gold mine in Alaska.)

ADN's Elizabeth Bluemink writes that, with gold setting record prices (it hit $1,095 an ounce on Friday), investors are putting more money in to get more money out.

Gold production in Alaska last year hit 800,000 ounces, primarily from large mines rather than stream beds or shafts.

Two large mines — the open-pit Fort Knox mine and the underground Pogo mine — accounted for 84 percent of all gold produced in the state, with major mines' production rising almost 11 percent last year.

Alaska currently accounts for about 10 percent of the U.S. gold production, but that could soon change: A new mine near Juneau, set to open next year, will be the state's third largest, and two smaller mines may reopen.

And they may all be dwarfed by two proposed mines in the state's southwest, which could turn Alaska into one of the world's leading producers of gold.

But one, a copper-gold project called Pebble, is located near salmon streams. Two lawsuits have already been filed against Pebble, even though the project's backers have not yet applied for a permit.

In the face of criticism that the state's apparatus for mineral exploration permits is too lax, Gov. Sean Parnell said the state will "vigorously defend" the permits it grants, Beckwith writes.

To dig deeper on this story of gold mining in Alaska, click here.

Below, watch a CBS Evening News story on California's recent gold rush:

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