Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Dr. Paul Graff, 1988, Snow Gulch, Alaska.

I was sadden to hear we lost another member of the Donlin Creek discovery crew! My best friend, Dr. Paul Graff passed away on March 2nd, 2023. He had a spirit that would infect anyone with laughter and happiness, so it is difficult for me to lose such a close friend. The world lost one of the greatest exploration geologists of the 20th and 21st centuries. 

Paul was my best friend! I met him in 1977 at the University of Wyoming while completing his PhD dissertation. Since then, we developed a close friendship lasting 45 years. I always looked forward to seeing Paul when he stopped by my office at the Wyoming Geological Survey at the University of Wyoming, as well as the days we broke rocks on the outcrop together. Then there were the times we exchanged prospector stories and lies in my office.

One of the greatest experiences of my life was when Paul hired me to search for gold in Kuskokwim Mountains of Alaska in 1988 and 1989 for WestGold (a subsidiary of DeBeers and Selection Trust). What a great time! Bears, bush pilots, rocks, gold, eskimos, caribou, and bears! I know I said bears twice - but that's because they were so much bigger in Alaska than in Montana and Wyoming. Paul and I were tent mates and I shared the art of pranking with Paul, something I was pretty good at. 

Paul was a wonderful victim: he was always so focused on gold and rocks that he always missed how sticks and stones ended up under his sleeping bag, or how the outhouse got locked, why his Mills Brothers tape was floating in the Donlin Creek pond, or where did my camera go when he was about to be carried of by thousands of mosquitos. 

Paul was squatting down looking at an ATV smashed by a D9 Cat, and his back immediately became infested by more mosquitos than found in the entire lower 48. I told Paul to hold still because I was tying to snap a picture of the hoard of mosquitoes on his back for my next talk to the Wyoming Geological Association in Casper. He tried to hold still for a minute, but then the bites got the best of him, so he squirmed. "Come on Paul, you were an airborne Ranger, surely you can hold still for another 30 seconds so I can get a photo". On the third try, Paul replied, "Damned it Hausel, if you don't have the photo by now, then heck with it". I was shocked, that was the first time I ever heard Paul swear. And as he turned around to face me to again announce he had enough of posing - he noticed I didn't have a camera.  

Thank you so very much Paul for the wonderful memories. God bless you! I look forward to the time I will see you in God's gold fields in another dimension. For those of you who did not know Paul, you missed out on one of the greatest experiences in life. Rest in peace my friend!

Some years prior to his illness, Paul and I went to the Iron Mountain kimberlite district in the Laramie Mountains so I could show him some of the kimberlite complex. Along the way, we came across specimens of a mineral known as picroilmenite - a distinctly rounded, black, metallic mineral found in kimberlite. We came across a specimen in the field that I showed Paul. So, at the next spot, Paul thought he had found one. So he picked it up, licked it to clean off the surface of the mineral, and started spitting profusely. 

I looked at him curiously - after he stopped spitting. He looked at me and said, "Elk droppings look like picroilmenite. So after considerable laughter, I decided to acknowledge Paul in one of my books - "Minerals and Rocks of Wyoming" WGS Bulletin 72, on page 88. I wrote a personal communication from Paul about mineral identification of ilmenite, and mailed a copy of my book to him. But to make him feel better about his error, I told him, yes, they look similar; however, one is moist, soft, and has a low specific gravity, and a distinct salty taste, and rotten egg gas odor.

Thank you for the many, many wonderful memories Paul. Paul, along with a mutual friend of ours, Dr. Gordon Marlatt, were the two best geologists I ever knew! 

Rest in Peace my friend! 
After finding one of the largest gold deposits in 
the world at Donlin Creek, Alaska, the WestGold
team was presented the prestigious, Canadian 2009
Thayer Lindsley Award. May Bruce, Paul and Toni
RIP. God Bless you - and thanks for the 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Prospecting for Gold

Gold from Alaska
Its been some years since we discovered one of the largest gold deposits in history! Back in the late 1980s, two giant mining companies - DeBeers and Selection Trust, both South African mining dynasties, decided to create a new company: Western Gold Exploration and Mining (WestGold), to search for the mother lode of Alaska. And we found it!

At the time, I was doing pragmatic geological research on diamonds, gold, colored gemstones and greenstone belts at the Wyoming Geological Survey (WGS) at the University of Wyoming. I had the perfect job! Basically, I did whatever I wanted to do and published results and went around to various mining conferences to present these results. When I accumulated enough leave, I would take a few months off to consult on various projects that did not conflict with my research.

While at the WGS in Laramie, I had two super friends who were also outstanding geologists - Dr. Paul Graff and Dr. Gordon Marlatt. I spent considerable time sharing stories, lies, and geology with Paul and Gordon, and many mugs of beer. These two were two of the best geologists I'd met. Anyway, Paul had been hired by WestGold to put together a team to search for the mother lode. In 1988, he and WestGold hired both Gordon and me to work on projects in Alaska. I had the choice of either searching for the mother lode or running the Bima Gold Dredge at Nome. It was a tough choice as I wanted to do both! In the end, I decided to head to the Kuskokwim Mountains to search for the mother lode, since prospecting was my specialty. I knew little to nothing about running a dredge. So, the company sent me to the wilderness, and Gordon to the dredge.

From what I understand, the company initially hired Paul in 1987 to identify targets to search for gold. After working with Bruce Hickok, Robert Rutherford, and Toni Hinderman from a private Alaskan consulting group, Paul along with Mark Bronston and Richard Garnett (who were running the company back in Anchorage) decided to search for the mother lode in the Kuskokwim Mountains near where a number of placer gold deposits were known without any known lode deposits. The concept was to find the source of the placer gold. So, in 1988, Gordon went to Nome to mine gold off-shore, and I went to the Donlin Creek - Snow Gulch area to search for the mother of all gold deposits in Alaska. I could be wrong with a couple of facts since I was not working for the company until 1988 and also the summer of 1989.

The lode-gold at Donlin Creek, kind of near the booming metropolis of Crooked Creek, Alaska. And after all of these years, a mine is almost ready to start producing gold at one of the largest gold deposits discovered in history.  The discovery included a group of seven geologists, following a search for sources of placer gold in the Kuskokwim Mountains of Alaska. The exploration concept was to look for some good placer gold deposits, and then explore favorable areas for lode gold. This project began in 1987 along with the mining of placer gold along the coast of Nome using the Bima dredge.  The dredge was a giant.
Inscribed in stone, the 2009 Canadian
PDAC award for gold discovery.

For me, it was the love of geology, rocks, and old mines that attracted me to Alaska. I had already mapped considerable regions and many many discoveries in Wyoming.

I also published, lectured, led public and mining association field trips, mapped mines, mapped all of the gold and base metal mining districts, lamproite fields and kimberlite districts, mapped greenstone belts in the Wyoming craton, and identified gemstones all over the state. So, I took leave from Wyoming to prospect for gold in Alaska - but unfortunately, the project was dropped after we made the discovery due to problems in Anchorage, and the property fell back into the hands of the Calista Corporation. Even so, we seven geologists were part of the discovery team of this giant gold deposit. Three of us (Paul, Mark and myself) were from Wyoming.

A member of nearly 2 dozen Halls-of-Fame in
martial arts, as well as two for geology.
I  think I may have a nose for gold. Over the years, I found hundreds of gold anomalies I also searched for diamond deposits all over the US as a consultant, and put together an excellent diamond property in the Colorado-Montana-Wyoming region for an Australian diamond company (DiamonEx Ltd), and found excellent base metal projects for another Australian company. Although, I made money for some companies, I never received a piece of the action in these discoveries. All I received were wages at the Survey, consulting fees, and a divorce - but at least I got a chance to explore many old mines, map rocks, sing at night around a campfire with local coyote choirs. 

W. Dan Hausel was back in Wyoming looking for an extension to the 
Copper King
Gold-Copper deposit in the Silver Crown district, Wyoming.
This 2-million ounce gold equivalent deposit was researched by Hausel some 
years ago while working at the Wyoming Geological Survey. This time he's
looking to
 find more gold on the property. And his results are very encouraging!
But it will take some drilling as part of the mineralized porphyry was
down-dropped to the east under alluvium. And, yes, he was elected to the
International Order of Ragged Ass Miners - one heck of an accomplishment!

Alumni Receive International Mineral Discovery Award

December 17, 2012, University of Wyoming Alumni News
Alumnus Mark A. Bronston (BS , 1979), alumnus Paul J. Graff (PhD, 1978), and Senior Minerals Geologist for the Wyoming Geological Survey at UW W. Dan Hausel, recount how they were all members of the mineral (gold) exploration team that was awarded the Thayer Lindsley Award for an International Mineral Discovery by the Prospector’s and Developer’s Association of Canada in 2009. They discovered the Donlin Creek gold deposit in central Alaska in the late 1980’s working for WestGold, a subsidiary of Anglo-American and DeBeers.
The Donlin Creek deposit is currently the largest unexploited gold deposit in the world (39 million ounces proved and probable reserves)($71 billion in gold). The mine is currently in the final stages of permitting.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Monster Gold Deposit!

On break for the July 4th celebration in Flat Alaska. Dr. Paul Graff stands on running board of the
Flat Alaska hotel limo adjacent to the Flat recreation seen in the photo to the left.

The Northern Miner (Feb 11-17, 2013) described Donlin Creek as a MONSTER GOLD DEPOSIT with more than 43 million ounces of gold drilled! It is currently ranked as one of the 10 largest gold deposits found in history! The deposit is approximately 8 km in length, with much of the drilling focus in a 3 km area. This means that during mining and exploration of the remaining 5 km of the deposit will likely result in considerable expansion of the gold reserves.

To get some concept on how big this deposit is, try comparing it to one of the more extraordinary world-class gold deposits in history - the Homestake mine in South Dakota. The Homestake operated for 123 years, making it one of the longest lived gold mines in history. Production at the Homestake began in 1878 and ceased in 2001 after the mine produced 39.8 million ounces of gold. The Homestake was also one of the longest listed stocks on the NYSE in history! The Northern Miner also reported the Donlin Creek to be the largest undeveloped gold deposit in the world! 

For 7 geologists, this is a lifetime achievement and discovery - how many people in history can claim discovery of such a monster gold deposit? And I was one of those seven who made that discovery and was honored at the 2009 PDAC Convention in Toronto Canada.

I thank God WestGold hired me for my mapping skills. I feel blessed I had the opportunity to work with some incredible people for those two summers of 1988 and 1989, and I got to drive them nuts with my pranks!

Anyway, WestGold (Western Gold Exploration and Mining) also operated the Bima Dredge off Nome, Alaska and thus the company was a major company that could have built itself into a major mining company. But somewhere at the top, things were not to be.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Donlin Creek is one of the largest Potential Gold Developments in the World

The Northern Miner (2012, vol 98, no. 23) and NovaGold reported, "

Donlin is one of the largest potential gold developments in the world and NovaGold is moving ahead with the project alongside mega-miner Barrick Gold ...". 

NovaGold further stated, "The Donlin Gold project is an uniquely attractive asset which in terms of size, grade, exploration potential and jurisdictional safety, is quite possibly the most important project in the world today". 

Due to the extensive project, the mine is delayed until at least 2015. This giant gold deposit was discovered by seven geologists in 1988 and sampled and mapped in 1989. In alphabetical order: Mark Bronston, Richard Garnett, Paul Graff, W. Dan Hausel, Bruce Hickok, Toni Hinderman and Robert Retherford found this giant deposit. Three (Bronston, Graff, and Hausel) were either alumni or affiliated with the University of Wyoming. At the time, I was on leave from the Wyoming Geological Survey and working as a consultant for WestGold.

A forth member of the group, Richard Garnett, was part of the discovery group of a giant nickel deposit later in Canada. So, Richard was part of two incredible discoveries! Bruce Hickok (RIP), a descendant of Wild Bill Hickok, later was killed in an avalanche in Alaska. Wild Bruce was a great guy and the world misses him.

Dr. Graff stands with Mrs. Lyman at site of plane crash on
Snow Gulch,
 Donlin Creek, Alaska, 1989. All survived, and this
is common in Alaska.
Gold has been one of the primary reasons Alaska has done so well economically, and with the development of the Donlin Creek  and possibly the Pebble porphyry copper deposit, Alaska stands to gain two world-class mines located on two world-class deposits. Each of these two deposits eclipse the total amount of gold mined from the famous Klondike which produced about 18.3 million troy ounces over its entire history. Now that's a lot of gold (Donlin has essentially 41 million ounces of identified gold in place, and will likely increase as mining progresses.

I was recently asked, what does it feel like to have been on the discovery of what is now considered to be 'possibly' the most important mining project in the world today? "I feel proud, but at the same time, I wish I could have a little of the gold we found." "Just a little - a few bars or so would do".
"It is an honor to have been recognized for the discovery of this giant deposit, and I'm sure the other 6 team members from WestGold who were on the discovery of this giant deposit feel the same". 

"I look forward to NovaGold and Barrick Gold developing this mine. I just wish WestGold would have survived the 1980s and that we could all be there working and developing this property we discovered in 1988. We found this giant deposit, but unfortunately, WestGold fell apart before it could develop Donlin into a gold mine".

Back in 1988 and 1989 while working as a consultant for WestGold (while on leave from the Wyoming Geological Survey), I was part of the discovery team of this giant gold deposit. Dr. Graff with Richard Garnett and Mark Bronston hired me because of my ability to produce detailed geological maps as well as having a reputation for finding gold deposits. 

I made many friends and had a great time in Alaska, especially working with my good friend Paul Graff (even if he can't tell the difference between elk droppings and picroilmenite - a personal joke). I have the greatest respect for Paul as well as Richard and Mark.  And thanks to Richard, we were presented the 2009 Thayer Lindsley Award for an International Mineral Discovery by the largest mining association in the world - the PDAC in Toronto, Canada.

Dr. Paul was unhappy - someone threw his awful - err I mean entertaining
Mills Brothers tape into the pond outside the tent. We tried to find the 
culprit, but no one would confess. Personally, I think it was a grizzly bear
What is a Mills Brothers tape? It is a way to make all other music sound 
much better.
So, how did we find this deposit? It was by using science, geological techniques along with detailed geological mapping, trenching, sampling and drilling.  Unfortunately, we did not receive an royalties for this discovery - only our consulting fees.

But I must say, I am one of the luckiest people in the world. I had a great time in Alaska, learned more geology in a state I previously had little experience, and had a wonderful time pulling pranks on my buddy - Paul. I would have liked to have some of the gold, but the experience for me, was worth more than all of the gold at Donlin Creek.

For me, making the discovery with my 6 colleagues was much more important than money. Sure, it would be nice to have some of the gold and go out and buy a Ferrari, but money only lasts until the grim reaper shows up at your door step. After that, what we have done with our lives may live on for a few more generations. So, hopefully, you will all be reading about me in some textbook when I go knocking at the Gates.

Mapping on the ridge overlooking Snow Gulch (part of the Donlin Creek gold discovery) in 1988. I was hired by WestGold because of my expertise in detailed geological mapping and finding mineral deposits.  I thank Paul for bringing me into this project and for all of the constant fun he provided in camp.
Some people think I have a problem with authority. My boss, Dr. Paul,
came into the field to tell me to get back to work. (photo by Paul Graff).

Driving to work along the Queen trench at the Donlin Creek gold
discovery, 1988

Saturday, September 24, 2011

DONLIN CREEK - one of the largest discovered in the 20th century

Donlin Creek international airport. This is where we lived
in 1988 and 1989 during the initial discovery of the Donlin
Creek gold deposit by members of WestGold.
The Donlin Creek gold deposit in southwestern Alaska is considered to be one of the largest, undeveloped, gold deposits on earth and contains as much gold as the Homestake mine. Resources are likely to expand with continued exploration of the deposit and mining. The gold resource is more than 41 million ounces. To develop this property, it is estimated that capitalization will be as much as $7 billion in that the property is in the middle of nowhere in the Kuskokwim Mountains in southwestern Alaska.

NovaGold reported proven and probable mineral reserves of 33.6 million ounces, measured and indicated mineral resources of 4.3 million ounces and inferred resources of 4.4 million ounces.

The company reports identified gold reserves include 7 million tonnes of proven ore at 2.46 g/t (grams per tonne) and 460.7 million tonnes of 2.23 g/t. The gold resource (exclusive of the reserves) includes 0.2 million tonnes of measured resources averaging 6.61 g/t, 39.6 million tonnes of indicated resources averaging 3.34 g/t and inferred resources at 58.4 million tonnes of 2.35 g/t containing 4.41 million ounces. The total resources are calculated at 4.29 million ounces and reserves at 33.59 million ounces.

Found this nifty dredge at Flat Alaska, but Dr. Paul wouldn't
let me keep it.

Co-pilot Hausel in hunt of other gold
deposits in the Donlin Creek area

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Donlin Creek Gold Deposit - Alaska, One of the Largest in the World

Dredge at Flat Alaska
In 1988, Dr. Paul Graff from Casper, Wyoming, stopped by my office at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. He was heading up a team to explore for gold in Alaska for WestGold (Western Gold Mining & Exploration) and needed someone with mapping, experience (you can skip the rest of this page since it is all about me kissing myself). I had a local reputation for detailed geological mapping & unravelling complex geological terrains while working at the Wyoming Geological Survey, and made some discoveries including a significant gold deposit within Rattlesnake Hills gold district in central Wyoming, a deposit that is compared to the great Cripple Creek gold deposit in Colorado. One major difference is that the Rattlesnake Hills Tertiary intrusives were emplaced within an Archean age greenstone belt, and greenstone belts are known worldwide as potential sources for gold.

To be honest, this was a super opportunity and I thank Paul for asking me as I had always wanted to see Alaska. What better way to see this grand state than to have WestGold pay my way and allow me to focus on rocks while we searched for gold. Besides, it was always an adventure and riot to spend time in the field with Paul - one of my favorite people!

As mentioned in 'Sarah Palin's Alaska', Alaska is beautiful with vast resources and few people. It is such a wonderful & honest state that I voted for McCain in 2008 only because he picked an Alaskan as a running mate. McCain, I could care less about. But Palin, I knew had to be honest (even for a politician) - she lived in Alaska where people had to work for a living unlike DC bureaucrats. She had my vote! Besides she was much more attractive than Obama and McCain.

Mapping in the middle of nowhere with only my .44 magnum as a companion, was my idea of peace. It was just like Wyoming, except wetter, no roads anywhere, no cows, and a plethora of giant mosquitoes, such that if these large buggers were found in Wyoming, the Game and Fish Department would have a hunting season for them: mosquitoes and noseeums would provide much entertainment in camp. 

Being a martial artist and exercise nut, I found they became a bit tiresome. I tried practicing kata after working all day and used tree logs for curl bars and squats. As soon as I started to sweat or breathe heavily, it was a message for the 2 trillion mosquitoes within 10-square-feet to start a feeding frenzy. But I continued to train while wearing bug spray. However, bears would periodically show interest - so much so that we had to shoot one that was interested in trying to snack on one of our other geologists.

In the evenings, our team headed back to camp to spend time pulling pranks on one another and sleeping in tents while bears wondered around demanding handouts. I spent my 1988 and 1989 summers mapping in this wilderness thanks to Paul and WestGold. What a great couple of summers - something I would not trade for any amount of money.

In 1977, I started work on my goal to map most of the Wyoming's gold districts, greenstone belts, kimberlite and lamproite fields and search for diamonds. By time I left the Survey in 2007 due to Gothic politics, I mapped >1,000 square kilometers of Wyoming's Precambrian complexes along with the lamproite and kimberlite fields that no one else wanted to work due to the complexities of resolving structural elements, units, metamorphism and alteration. Many of these terrains could be liken to someone ramming an automobile into a light post at 100 mph. Things were bent, broken, wrapped around itself and many parts were missing. 

Even though other geologists avoided these terrains, I loved working these kinds of puzzles, and while mapping, I found some new mineral deposits. I also mapped a few dozen underground mines that were left by miners as they search for other treasures. In some, I found old mine cars, lamps, gold anomalies, and in one, I even found where someone scribed the year in mud on the mine rib - 1915. So, I had some experience when I headed off to Alaska for two summers in 1988 and 1989.

Gold nuggets from Julian
Creek placer found in 1988.
Largest nugget is 1 ounce.
I published somewhere around a thousand books, articles, professional papers, maps and abstracts. Some books I wrote on finding gold deposits (Hausel, 1989, 1991, 1997, 2009; Hausel and Hausel, 2011) and some gold articles I published led prospectors to find treasures. I had some experience in volcanic terrains. When I was at the University of Utah and University of New Mexico, Tertiary and Quaternary volcanic rocks were my specialty. And while working at the Wyoming Geological Survey, I explored volcanic rocks associated with the giant porphyry copper-silver deposits in the Absaroka Mountains, gold at the Mineral Hill district and in 1981, I had found a few dozen gold anomalies in the Rattlesnake Hills greenstone belt. It is rare for a geologist to discover a new mineral deposit, and even rarer for one to find a whole new district!

The Rattlesnake Hills were missed by nearly everyone else, but I found gold at several locations in the district and in different types of deposits (Hausel, 1994, 1995, 1996). I predicted the district would yield large-tonnage, low-grade gold deposits due to presence of >40 Tertiary alkalic intrusives that erupted through the greenstone terrain, and because of the brittle breccias I found adjacent to Sandy Mountain and Oshihan Hill and the stockworks I found south of Oshihan Hill (Hausel and Jones, 1982a, b). Years later, I mapped the Leucite Hills volcanic field in southwestern Wyoming (Hausel, 2006). 

So, I took leave from the Geological Survey and signed up for consulting and headed to Alaska in 1988. I had a great time and it worked out so well that I returned in 1989 - I love Alaska and can understand Sarah Palin's love for this state! But little did we know, we were about to discover one of the largest gold deposits on earth. And we were optimistic - something that is required (but lacking in most) for good exploration geologists!

According to the mining history of Alaska, placer gold had been found in the Kuskokwim River basin in the 1800s. Prospectors worked the George, upper Holitna, Tuluksak, Salmon and Kwethluk rivers; the New York, Bear, California, Marvel, Taylor, Forty-seven, Canyon, Crooked, Julian, Donlin and Flat creeks; and Murray, Snow, Ruby, Quartz, Queen and Lewis gulches. The Nixon Fork mine, 30 miles northeast of the McGrath village, had limited production in 1917 and again in the 1950s. The deposit was a high-grade gold-copper skarn with at least 131,500 ounces of gold (Bluemink, 2009). Eighty miles north of the Nixon Fork, placers in the Ruby district yielded sizable nuggets including the largest found in Alaska (294-ounce nugget from Swift Creek discovered in 1998). Nuggets were also found nearby at Long, Poorman and Moose creeks. The presence of large nuggets suggests a possibility of nearby hidden rich lodes.

Location map of Donlin Creek
discovery in SW Alaska
Seventy-five to 100 miles southwest of McGrath, gold placers at Snow Gulch and Julian Creek were found in the Georgetown district - these would later become known as the Donlin Creek deposit. Placer gold was also found in nearby Omega, Lewis, Quartz, Ruby and Queen Gulch. This region attracted interest of geologists because of pristine the gold flakes found in the streams by prospectors and the fragile gold nuggets which suggested a nearby source. As a result, WestGold began exploration in this region in 1988 which led to discovery of a large, disseminated, gold deposit with associated with anatomizing granodiorite to rhyolitic dikes intruded into graywacke (Hausel, 1988, 1989a). Drilling over a few years identified proven and probable resources of 29.5 million ounces with an additional indicated resource of 10 million ounces. This was an Elephant (so to speak in the exploration business)! Donlin Creek had a gold resource similar in value to the legendary Homestake mine in South Dakota. Donlin Creek also hosts as much gold as has been mined in all of Alaska from 1869 to 2007!

Three geologists of WestGold's Donlin Creek -
Snow Gulch discovery team pose with drillers
and samplers at Snow Gulch in 1989. Rob
Rutherford (standing left), Paul Graff (standing
right) and W. Dan Hausel (sitting right).
The house was our country club.
The Northern Miner reported Donlin Creek to be one of the largest undeveloped gold deposits in the world and the largest undeveloped gold deposit in North America. Based on 2009 plans, the property could become one of the largest gold mines in the world. Mine permit applications were submitted in 2009 and mine construction proposed by 2012.

The deposit consists of felsic sills and dikes that host gold in association with sulfides, quartz veinlets and breccias. Higher gold values are associated with arsenopyrite, stibnite and quartz in dikes and sills that intrude a thick sequence (>5000 feet) of folded Late Cretaceous graywacke, sandstone and shale. Plans are for a mine to yield 1.5 million oz/yr from ore averaging 0.07 to 0.08 opt Au.

Flying into Flat, Alaska for July 4th
celebration, 1988.
Other interesting anomalies in this region include gold at Julian Creek about 25 miles to the northeast with nearby felsic dikes in a similar setting as Donlin Creek, and mercury-gold anomalies at DeCourcy, about 8 miles west and placer gold at Flat Creek about 25 miles to the north-northeast are also of interest (Hausel, 1989b). While recently watching Gold Rush, Alaska on the discovery channel, I can't help but laugh at the antics of these wannabee miners.

Everything they do is exactly backwards of how gold prospecting and mining is done. It is very unfortunate that the Discovery Channel picked such inept miners to educate the public on gold mining and prospecting. There are lots of good gold prospects in Alaska, but one does not go out and buy a half-million dollars in mining equipment before these deposits are sampled.

At Donlin Creek, we found gold spread over a few miles (visit Donlin Creek, Alaska on Google Earth). Donlin Creek consists of northeast-trending mineralized dikes and sills in a region 1.2 miles wide and more than 5 miles long (T. 23 N., R. 49 W). The lode is Alaska's largest gold deposit which runs along a ridge east of Crooked Creek at the heads of Lewis, Queen, Ruby, and Snow Gulches. The deposit consists of calcareous shale and graywacke of the Upper Cretaceous, Kuskokwim Group which strike west-northwest and dip 10-50 degrees SW and are cut by a swarm of Tertiary age rhyodacite to granite-porphyry sills and dikes that trend northeast (Hausel, 1988, 1989). Late northeast and northwest-striking, high-angle faults offset the mineralized zones (Miller and Bundtzen, 1994; Vaillancourt, 2002; St. George, 2004).

The deposit is developed in felsic dikes and sills, with lesser amounts of mineralization in graywacke, particularly where north-northeast trending fault zones intersect mineralized felsic intrusions and graywacke host rocks. The ore minerals are primarily gold-bearing arsenopyrite and arsenian pyrite which are disseminated in the felsic igneous rocks and in veins and networks of veinlets in the igneous and sedimentary rocks (Hausel, 1989b). The veins and veinlets consist of quartz and carbonate gangue, with gold and several ore minerals. The gold occurs mainly in arsenopyrite and stibnite (Hausel, 1989b). In addition minor chalcopyrite, cinnabar, cassiterite, covellite, galena, marcasite, molybdenite, native arsenic, pyrrhotite, sphalerite, scheelite occur in minor amounts.

Dr. Paul Graff admires old hydraulic 'Giant' at Fullerton
Alaska in 1988.
The gangue and alteration minerals include crystalline and chalcedonic quartz, carbonate minerals and dickite. Garnet and high tin in some granite porphyry dikes indicate that at least part of the intrusive suite is peraluminous. Based on crosscutting relationships, altered carbonated mafic dikes initially intruded followed by intermediate and felsic dike intrusion. Other than clay, weak sericitic alteration and disseminated sulfides, there is little evidence of thermal alteration of the host rocks (Bundtzen and Miller, 1997). Miller and Bundtzen (1994) report that the felsic dikes vary from 65 to 71 Ma. Gold is disseminated in sulfides, sulfide veins, and in quartz-carbonate-sulfide veining in sericitically-altered igneous rocks (Hausel, 1989b, Szumigala and others, 2000). There is a positive correlation between high fracture density, alteration, and the amount of gold.

Ore shoots are developed in dilatant zones along normal faults where faults steepen in felsic intrusions and graywacke. Alteration assemblages include sericite, illite, kaolinite. dickite, carbonate and pyrite (Hausel, 1989b, Szumigala and others, 2000). Current drilled resources places this deposit in the top 30 gold deposits known in the world (Novagold Press release, January 28, 2002). Its as large as the Homestake deposit, where more than 41 million ounces of gold were mined over a 100 year period.

Rehealed breccia of Kuskokwim graywacke adjacent to mineralized dikes.

Unusual nugget of gold. A rough gold nugget projects from
rounded granitic stream-worn pebble. Paul Graff considered
this type of gold may have grown in place in an organic rich
environment. According to placer miner Spencer Lyman,
several nuggets like this were found over the years in the
Kuskokwim Mountains.  Other prospectors reported an unusual
regeneration of some gold placers that had all ready been mined.

After finding such a major gold deposit, some people think our group of geologists became rich. Nope! Due to complexities of ownership and our company going defunct, the geologists on this project received 2 million mosquito bites, consulting fees and lots of fond memories.

But, in 2009, a group of seven geologists were awarded one of the greatest honors in economic geology - the Thayer Lindsley Award for a Major International Gold Discovery for our work at Donlin Creek. This honor now hangs in my dojo in Mesa, Arizona.

The Award presented at the PDAC in Toronto to recognize the accomplishments of Mark Bronston, Richard Garnett, Paul Graff, W. Dan Hausel, Bruce Hickok (RIP), Toni Hinderman (RIP) and Robert Retherford. At today's gold prices, this 40 million ounce deposit is worth about $70 billion. And like any world-class property, once it is finally put into operation, more gold resources will be found and identified.

I dedicate this blog to one of our colleagues: Bruce Hickok, who was killed in an avalanche in Alaska. We will all miss Bruce. 

I would also like to remember another geologist and friend - Ray E. Harris who passed away in Laramie apparently due to stress caused by activities at the Wyoming Geological Survey. From 2004 to 2006 the WGS had a staff of 26 people. Yet the agency suffered an 8% death rate in geologists, more than 20% heart related problems related to stress by the staff, 45% staff resignations, retirement, and transfer rate, and a 40% resignation rate of advisory board members. This was never investigated by the State of Wyoming. Cover up?