Mining has been a cornerstone in the development of Alaska’s economy since Russian gold explorers discovered the commodity in the mid-1800s. Today gold and silver mining employ the largest numbers within the industry, followed by gravel and polymetallic mines producing multiple minerals. Over the past five years, the number of jobs has remained relatively constant at around 3,000.

Impacts go beyond direct employment, however and include payment of state and local taxes as well as construction activity. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development has outlined industry employment projections showing an increase of 5.5 percent in mining employment between 2014 and 2024.

Zinc is the single most valuable international commodity produced in Alaska for export outside the U.S., with the Red Dog Mine being one of the world’s largest zinc mines. In recent years, the gross value of the mineral has ranged from roughly $800 million to $1 billion on export markets.