Ahtna’s natural resources are plentiful. Our region has been consistently surveyed for decades and is well-documented as having both potential and current resources available.
Unlike many other regions in Alaska, ours is completely accessible via the road system, connecting us to busy depots like Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Valdez. Ahtna is highly proactive in working with government agencies and private sector companies to help us enhance our resource capabilities and offerings, while staying true to our mission to preserve and protect Ahtna lands. If you are interested in our lands and resources, please contact our Land department directly at 907- 822-3476.
Ahtna lands have great mineral resource potential – the incredibly rich Kennecott copper deposits attest to the ability of the region to host world-class mines. Exploration and mine development on Ahtna lands has the following advantages:
- Strong mineral resource potential.
- Secure land tenure.
- Enormous land tracts covering entire mineral belts.
- Low degree of prior exploration.
- Best infrastructure development and accessibility of any Native land holdings in the State.
Mineral Occurrences & Exploration Opportunities
Ahtna believes its lands should be highly rated on the global scale of exploration opportunities. Companies interested in exploring and developing mines on Ahtna land are encouraged to learn more. Ahtna will make all private non-proprietary and public data pertaining to Ahtna lands available to interested parties and can assist with state inspection and evaluation.
The Bureau of Land Management has documented mineral occurrences situated on Ahtna lands that lie within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Reserve. A total of 55 occurrences situated on or near Ahtna selections were included in the assessment. Of the 55 occurrences, 9 are historically producing dormant mines, 27 are development projects, and the remainder are exploration prospects of varying importance. 8 of the occurrences are placer gold deposits.
Numerous mineral occurrences lying outside the Wrangell-St. Elias Park boundaries are also present, and many occur on Ahtna land. Information on these prospects can be obtained from Ahtna, the USGS or the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.
While significant deposits have been discovered, the region has seen very little exploration. A reconnaissance program carried out by WGM, Inc., an Anchorage-based consulting firm, in the late 1970’s is the most comprehensive program to date. The program barely began the mineral assessment process; however, it was successful in the identification of six main mineral belts.
Ahtna lands cover properties with excellent mineral potential. There are indications of deposits of the following affinity:
- High-grade epigenetic gold deposits.
- Placer gold.
- Zinc-lead-silver deposits.
- Copper deposits.
- Nickel-platinum-palladium deposits.
Ahtna currently has one active mineral exploration agreement. Ahtna would consider an arrangement whereby a mining company or a consortium would be provided the exclusive right to explore in a reconnaissance fashion all Ahtna selected and conveyed lands, with the option to select specific tracts of land for lease and detailed exploration and development.
Ahtna expects to see the following components to any Exploration and Option to Lease Agreement:
- Signing bonus.
- Scholarship fund contributions.
- Escalating work commitment.
- Production royalty.
- Advance minimum royalty payments.
- Shareholder hire and contract preference.
- Option to participate at feasibility stage.
- Vocational training.
- Electronic and printed copies of all data generated.
Property owned by Ahtna has received only cursory mineral exploration efforts. Much more reconnaissance work is required to delineate established mineral occurrences, and to identify as-yet unrecognized occurrences. Nevertheless, strong targets that can quickly be moved to an intermediate or advanced exploration stage exist. Modern exploration methods, economic and deposit-model concepts have been applied in the region on a limited basis.
Most of Ahtna’s mineral lands are situated close to major transportation corridors and infrastructure. Target economics are therefore excellent by Alaska standards.
For all these reasons – technical, economic, and political – Ahtna lands are attractive exploration targets.
The Ahtna region has documented and abundant renewable, alternative and fossil fuel energy resources that can be used to increase economic development, energy security and decrease energy prices.
The Ahtna region is endowed with a wide range of energy opportunities, including extensive and diverse biomass; hydro potential that ranges from run-of-river and low impact high-lead traditional massive dams; village scale micro, wind-hybrid turbines; in-stream hydro potential; and geothermal potential.
The Alaska Department of Natural Resources indicates that wood availability in the Ahtna region is high and is comprised of Open Spruce and Closed Mixed Forest including white and black spruce, paper birch, balsam poplar and quaking aspen. Estimates of available biomass within the region are approximately 3 million tons, which can replace all the residences and businesses using fossil fuels in the region for 150 years on a sustainable basis.
A wind map of the Ahtna region generally indicates low probability of wind production on a commercial scale however; there are several areas with a high wind to power ratio which should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
There are currently several solar applications within the Ahtna region. An Alaska Energy Authority report describes the abundance of solar energy in the region due to the abundance of sunlight and concludes that photovoltaic systems and hot water systems are the most applicable to the region.
There are known geothermal resources in the Wrangell-St. Elias Mountains and in the Glennallen area. A Preliminary Report on the Investigation of Geothermal Energy Resource Potential of the Eastern Copper River Basin, Alaska concluded there were three areas of interest to be further reviewed: The Tolsona mud volcanoes; the Klawasi mud volcanoes- hot spring; and a third area near the confluence of the Tazlina and Copper Rivers. The third area is located on the highway system and the report recommended that it be the first area further explored.
After much anticipation, Pan American drilled the first oil well in 1963 approximately 11 miles west of Glennallen. The well encountered several hundred gross feet lower Cretaceous-aged Nelchina sandstone, which yielded natural gas shows and high water flows indicating that the rock formation had the necessary porosity to hold fluid; the permeability to produce the fluids; and that the surrounding rock had high organic content that had undergone the necessary heat and pressure to generate hydrocarbons.
Several more attempts were made specifically for the location of natural gas from 2007-2009. The third attempt in 2009 located natural gas at approximately 4000 feet which tested at 94% methane. Unfortunately, during the third attempt fractured rock was encountered and resulted in water from a shallower zone to flow into the well inhibiting any gas flow from the upper Nelchina sand interval.
More recently Ahtna reprocessed all the seismic data performed in the region using modern technology and identified large gas zones associated with the presence of thick Nelchina sandstone intervals. Drilling of a gas exploration well, known as Tolsona No. 1, was completed in the winter of 2016 under a state exploration license issued to Tolsona Oil & Gas Exploration LLC, an Ahtna, Inc. company. Drilling took place on state land about 11 miles west of Ahtna’s corporate headquarters in Glennallen, AK.
A large coal field in the western Ahtna region contains low rank coal deposits in individual seams up to 30 feet thick at depths of 700 to 2,000 feet.
A smaller field located adjacent to the Parks Highway at milepost 192 was utilized by the Alaska Railroad in the mid-1920s and the preliminary reports indicate the coal in this area is similar in characteristics of the coal deposit near Healy.
Approximately 60% of the electricity produced in the Ahtna region is produced from hydro. Many large-scale hydro projects have been assessed over the course of the previous 50 years. However; many projects were less than 2 megawatts. Hydro opportunities within the region need to be further identified and evaluated.
Tourism is a strong and vibrant industry in the Copper River Basin and Ahtna’s involvement in tourism is intended to benefit Ahtna shareholders in the long term and enhance Ahtna’s land stewardship. The biggest asset that Ahtna has is its ownership of over 600,000 acres in the Wrangell St. Elias National Park as well as its holdings in the Denali National Park and Preserve.
Public access is extremely limited and the opportunities for business development are scarce on currently available public land. This means that Ahtna is in a position to provide access and land within the Park for tourism-based business.
Ahtna operates two RV/tent campgrounds; Sailors Campground located at milepost 129.5 of the Richardson Highway which offers convenient Gulkana River salmon fishing access and Hilltop Campground located at milepost 3 of McCarthy Road with breathtaking views of the Copper and Chitina Rivers.
Opportunities for Growth
Opportunities for expanding tourism are associated with the natural environment, cultural resources and the vacation experiences that access to those resources offer. Existing opportunities for expansion of the summer season into the spring and fall and in the development of new wintertime activities are increasing. A new visitor destination within the Ahtna region is evident if one looks at the obvious merits of the Copper River Basin:
- Access from scheduled air service.
- Proximity to overnight accommodations.
- Nearby recreation opportunities.
- Room for expansion.
- A setting of grandeur.
The Copper River Basin – particularly the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park – holds great allure for visitors in terms of being the largest national park in the country as well as having the splendor of the Wrangell Mountains.
Oil & Gas
Exploration – Developing Our Resources at Home
Ahtna is pursuing natural resource development in the Copper River Basin to help bring more affordable energy to the region. The Copper River basin has seen limited oil and gas exploration compared to other areas of the state, but its geology bears many similarities to that of the prolific Cook Inlet basin; during Mesozoic times the Copper River and Cook Inlet areas formed part of a huge marine region.
Ahtna was issued a State of Alaska Exploration License in 2013 for 44,000 acres of state land. In 2014, Ahtna completed 40-square-miles of 2D seismic exploration which provided very positive data resulting in identification of a distinct oil and gas structure. The area of interest is part of the Middle Earth and New Frontier basins.
Ahtna, Inc. subsidiary Tolsona Oil & Gas Exploration, LLC was the owner-operator of a new gas drilling program on state land about 11 miles west of Ahtna’s Glennallen, Alaska Corporate Headquarters. An exploration well named Tolsona No. 1. was spudded on September 28, 2016 and drilling was successfully completed on December 5, 2016.
The Tolsona project delivered an outstanding safety record, provided employment and development opportunities for Ahtna shareholders and Alaskans, and the targeted zone was reached and evaluated. There was a tremendous amount of data analysis done during the evaluation that provided invaluable knowledge about other gas prospects on Ahtna lands outside of Tolsona.
The Future of Exploration in Region
Despite the lack of any commercial discoveries to date, potential remains for future production of hydrocarbons. Many large structural and stratigraphic traps remain undrilled and under explored. A more robust understanding of the hydrocarbon potential is being developed using modern seismic data, followed by targeted exploration data.
The timber resources of the Ahtna Region are a mixture of White spruce (Picea glauca), Black spruce (Picea mariana), Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) and Paper birch (Betula papyrifera) in the upland areas with Balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) in the lowland areas. Spruce is the dominant species in this boreal forest type. White and Black spruce has commercial value for saw logs, biomass, fiber, and woodchips. The commercial value of the Quaking aspen and Paper birch is for biomass, fiber, and wood chips with some saw log value in birch which contains little or no defect.
Ahtna’s Forest Stewardship Plan provides the basis for the management of forest resources in the Ahtna region. There have been several timber inventories conducted on portions of Ahtna land which have identified approximately 700 million board feet of saw timber or over 3 million tons of accessible biomass.
Currently, Ahtna policies and procedures are to develop forest resources, making them available for maximum use that is consistent with the principle of sustained yield and with the overall Ahtna shareholder interest and uses. The primary purpose of the timber management program is utilization that provides for the production, use, and replenishment of timber resources while allowing other beneficial uses of Ahtna lands and resources.