Earlier this summer, Andrew Lee and a business partner purchased 26 State of Alaska offshore mining leases from a South African mining company. This purchase grants them exclusive mining rights to over 16,500 acres of the shallow sea floor of the Bering Sea, and returns these leases to local control.
Combined with another purchase earlier this spring, Lee now has an ownership stake in nearly two thirds of the offshore Nome gold field. “This feels like a huge victory for the little guy,” said Lee. “Eleven years ago I had one hobbled together eight-inch dredge on the Rec Area, now I have rights to most of the ground.”
Among the several State of Alaska Recreational Mining Areas, open to anyone for a small fee, two are offshore of Nome. One created in 1998 is 320 acres for eight-inch and smaller suction dredges. In 2010, a second 250 acres area was added, limited to six-inch dredges. Gold dredging operations are classified by their suction intake diameter, and water pump horsepower.
Andrew Lee got his start hunting gold as a teenager, going with his father to open mining areas near the family homestead in South Central Alaska. “We had a small in-stream sluice, a small inner tube mounted suction dredge and a few hand tools,” Lee recalls. “We never found enough gold to pay for fuel, but everyone has to start somewhere.”
According to the 1999 publication “Handbook of Marine Mineral Deposits” some of this area was mined by the world’s largest bucket line dredge, the Bima, collecting over 118,000 troy ounces on 530 acres from 1987 to 1990. Lee added, “The Bima only mined 3%, the other 97% hasn’t been worked.”
“The amount of previous mining is minuscule,” says Jim Halloran an Alaska geologist familiar with Nome. “There is considerable volume that would take many lifetimes to mine.” Having studied the extensive exploration data, Halloran adds, “The key is to find the best ground. The pay is in the top yard of the seafloor and can be as thick as six yards.”
“We need to go bigger, much bigger than anything that exists in Nome now,” said Lee when asked how he plans to capitalize on the untapped resource. “Think of an operation that can produce twenty times as much gold per year as the Christine Rose,” a reference to Nome’s most famous offshore gold mining operation. “My gold mining company, Tagiuk Gold, LLC is going to make this happen.”
“I have the expertise and the land, now I’m looking into ways to raise the rest of the funds needed.” One idea he explains is to take prepaid orders for gold, in order to fund the startup costs. Similar to how various gadget makers have used sites like Kickstarter. “I would like to sell my gold direct to the American individual, right now I’m exploring the interest and legalities of doing that.”
Andrew Lee’s gold mining company, Tagiuk Gold, LLC can be contacted through their website, tagiukgold.com
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