A British Columbia mining company said this week that it will spend $1 million exploring a copper mining prospect 200 miles southwest of Anchorage.
Quaterra Resources, Inc. announced that it had signed an agreement with Chuchuna Minerals Co., which is owned by village corporation Kijik Corp. and Alaska Earth Sciences. The agreement gives Quaterra the option to buy a 90 percent interest in the 40,000-acre Groundhog copper prospect, located not far from the embattled Pebble mine prospect.
"We're always looking for new copper and exploring around the previously discovered copper resources is always a good place to look," said Quaterra CEO Thomas Patton. "But that's about the extent of it. We're just getting started."
Quaterra will pay that $1 million for the first year of exploration, and at least $500,000 a year for the following four years, the company said in a statement. Chuchuna will operate the project and manage exploration, as approved by Quaterra.
"The Groundhog project offers the potential to discover a major deposit in an established porphyry belt," Patton said in a statement.
Drilling, mapping and sampling at the Groundhog site should start this summer.
The Canadian company's interest in new exploration projects comes as "the prolonged downturn in commodity markets may be easing," resulting in an improvement in the price of copper, Quaterra said in a statement. The company also has copper mining projects in Nevada.
This is just the latest news for Alaska's mining industry. Australian firm White Rock Minerals said in a letter to Gov. Bill Walker in October that it was planning to conduct explorations this summer at a mineral deposit just south of Fairbanks.
A graphite mining prospect near Nome might also prove highly valuable if developed, Alaska Dispatch News reported in February.