Mining Extension in Alaska

In 1917, Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines was established as Alaska’s Land Grant College. At the time, mining was one of the major industries in Alaska, and the goal of the School of Mines was to address the educational needs of those building and developing the mineral industry. In addition to college level classes, the college offered non-credit courses designed to meet the practical needs of those not necessarily pursing a college degree. In 1935, the Alaska College of Agriculture & Mines was established with a mandate for mining education. These classes were so popular that often classrooms were filled to capacity.

As the University grew, so did the classes and programs associated with mineral exploration and development. Mining Extension became an important outreach education program for UA. During these early years, the primary mission of Mining Extension was offering non-credit, tuition free introductory prospecting and mining short courses around Alaska. Over the years, educational opportunities in mineral exploration and development continued to grow for both degree and non-degree seeking students. More courses were added to University curriculum and to the Mining Extension program. However, with retirements of Mining Extension Agents, the short courses and certificate program of Mining Extension were no longer offered.

In 2006, CES partnered with the Delta Mine Training Center to develop a series of workshops designed to improve the skills of rural Alaskans, enabling them to reap an economic benefit from their efforts to identify areas of potential mining exploration and to establish mining claims and operations of their own. These workshops are designed to prepare participants to conduct the basic land research and fieldwork needed to locate, identify, assess and stake mineral claims. Basic outdoor, navigational, and mineral identification skills were integrated with land status, economic and mining methods instruction to provide a basis for more serious prospecting. These workshops continue to be conducted annually in various communities. CES professionals lead some of these workshops and contracts with DMTC to provide trainers for the others.

UAF Mining Extension also developed a series of Community workshops and public radio call-in programs in SW Alaska that explored how community members could effectively participate in the decisions to have mining activities in their regions. A three-day training on mineral exploration and development for Elders and community leaders was implemented in 2010. This training which included a tour of two active mine sites in Alaska, was filmed, and later developed into a short educational video on mining in Alaska and a 3 minute podcast on surface mining.

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