2014 saw a sharp decline in the number of active dredges mining for gold offshore Nome, Alaska. Despite the high numbers of valid mining permits for this type of gold mining, the number of gold dredges moored in the Port of Nome (including the inner harbor, the Snake river channel, and the outer cells) numbered merely 76 at its peak this summer. Gold mining vessels in dry storage on Port of Nome property that never got in the water during 2014 numbered around 28. A similar number of dredges were being stored throughout town on private property in people’s yards; like Blue Water Mining’s $250k 8″ dredge that was in dry dock all year.
This compares to around 90 dredges operating out of the harbor in peak years of 2011 and 2012, when gold prices were 50% higher, and right after California outlawed gold dredging. The decrease in total dredges is mostly due to fewer 6″ and 8″ dredges in the water; these recreational sized operations mostly last less than one year. The lower gold prices combined with lower unemployment and better opportunities at home have decreased interest. And with good reason, most first-year Nome gold miners would have been money ahead if they had stayed home and worked a minimum wage job.
While the number of 10″ dredges has remained about the same, there has been a slight increase in the number of larger excavator-style operations. These vessels take up more space in the harbor, so the overall feel seems to be about the same, as far as crowding goes. The pullout of the Cashman Mining operations, after blowing $7.5M has opened up some space. I expect that Blue Water Gold aka Blue Water Mining won’t be able to afford to return again with their $600k 10″ dredge, after getting less gold than a decent 6″ inflatable dredge for the third year in a row; that should open us some more room.
The Port of Nome reports a sharp increase in port usage since 2011, but this is a
flat out lie manipulated figure, designed to try to get more state and federal funds. The increase in numbers is due mostly to the fact that the Port started requiring docking permits for vessels parked in the Snake river (which is probably a violation of state law to charge for this) and they started counting and charging for skiffs. For example, 2011 and prior, we were one vessel; 2012 and after we are counted as 3 vessels (one boat and two skiffs).
For 2015, I expect the trend to continue, much fewer 6″ dredges, several fewer 8″ dredges, about the same number of commercial 10″ dredges, and about the same number or a couple more of larger commercial gold dredges. Most likely there will be some newer in each category, and not all of the past ones will return.
If you are interested in coming to Nome, contact me for more information.