The Circle mining district in east-central Alaska is one of the richest placer gold districts in the State, with an estimated total production of 1 million troy ounces since placer mining began in the district. Although many of the rich deposits have been mined, there still exist areas that can be profitably mined.
Placer gold has been mined in the Circle district almost continuously since its discovery in 1893. Sluice box mining was one of the earliest methods used in the district; later hydraulicking, dredging, and draglining were used. During the 1980’s, bulldozers, trommels, and sophisticated jigs were used. The rich mining lore of the district is, in part, associated with events of the nearby world-famous Klondike district.
Gold from the Circle district is moderately high in silver (average 16.1 percent) and all samples contain antimony, which distinguishes it from the gold of many other areas in Alaska that does not contain antimony. Fineness varies from 714 to 984. Most placer gold in the Circle district is recovered at, or near, the gravel-bedrock contact. The lower 1 meter of gravel and the upper 0.5 meter of bedrock likely contains as much as 80 to 90 percent of the gold that is ultimately recovered. Gold nuggets are rare, and most of the gold recovered is in the form of flattened fragments.
The gravel in Mastodon Creek, the richest in the district, has produced between 150,000 to 200,000 troy ounces of gold and has been thoroughly mined. Deadwood Creek may be the most mined-out creek in the district, although some gold-bearing bench gravel remains unmined, as do the vast deposits of low-value fan gravel north of the Hot Springs fault. The gravel in Crooked Creek seems to be richest north of the Hot Springs fault, and little, if any, mining has been done on the south side of the fault in Crooked Creek.
The North Fork of Harrison Creek has produced a great deal of gold. Colluvium adjacent to streambeds in some steep-sided valleys contains sufficient gold to warrant mining; these valleys are Portage, Eagle, Miller, Mastodon, and Mammoth Creeks. The largest gold resource remaining in the Circle district is probably in the lower reaches of Crooked Creek and in the alluvial fill within the Tintina fault zone.
Although most current mining in the Circle district is done with expensive, sophisticated equipment, smaller, low-budget mining operations still have a place. A modest living can be made by two to three people mining in localities that would not support a large operation and, for some people, small-scale mining provides a great hobby. Environmental restrictions imposed by Federal and State agencies have slowed, but not stopped, placer mining in the Circle district. A significant rise in the price of gold has resulted in increased mining.