The Alaska-Juneau lode system for many years was one of the worlds leading gold-producing areas. Total production from the years 1893 to 1946 has amounted to about 94 million dollars, with principal values in contained gold but with some silver and lead values. The principal mine is the Alaska-Juneau mine, from which the lode system takes its name.
The lode system is a part of a larger gold-bearing belt, generally referred to as the Juneau gold belt, along the western border of the Coast Range batholith.
The rocks of the Alaska-Juneau lode system consist of a monoclinal sequence of steeply northeasterly dipping volcanic, state, and schist rocks, all of which have been metamorphosed by dynamic and thermal processes attendant with the intrusion of the Coast Range batholith. The rocks form a series of belts that trend northwest parallel to the Coast Range. In addition to the Coast Range batholith lying a mile to the east of the lode system, there are numerous smaller intrusives, all of which are sill-like in form and are thus conformable to the regional structure.
The bedded rocks are Mesozoic in age; the Coast Range batholith is Upper Jurassic and Lower Cretaceous in age. Some of the smaller intrusives pre-date the batholith, others post-date it. All of the rocks are cut by steeply dipping faults.
The Alaska-Juneau lode system is confined exclusively to the footwall portion of the Perseverance slate band. The slate band is composed of black slate and black phyllite with lesser amounts of thin-bedded quartzite. Intrusive into the slate band are many sill-like bodies of rocks generally referred to as meta-gabbro.
The gold deposits of the lode system are found both within the slate rocks and the meta-gabbro rocks, and particularly in those places where meta-gabbro bodies interfinger with slate. Thus the ore bodies are found in and near the terminations of meta-gabbro bodies.
The ore bodies are quartz stringer-lodes composed of a great number of quartz veins from 6 inches to 3 feet wide and extending along their strike and dip for several tens to hundreds of feet. In addition to quartz, the only other vein gangue mineral is ankerite. It occurs in small amounts along the borders of the quartz veins. Metallic vein minerals, in addition to native gold, are, in order of decreasing abundance, pyrrhotite, galena, sphalerite, and arsenopyrite. In the aggregate the metallic minerals comprise only 1 to 2 percent of the total amount of vein material.
The wall rock, particularly the meta-gabbro, was profoundly altered by the vein-forming processes. The principal effects on the meta-gabbro were the addition of large amounts of soda, potash, titanium, carbon dioxide, and phosphorous, and the removal of considerable quantities of iron, magnesia, lime, and combined water. Silica also may have been decreased. The mineralogical changes involved in the alteration were the development of biotite and ankerite at the expense of original hornblende and feldspar, resulting in a brown-colored biotite- and ankerite-rich rock. The slates are relatively unaffected by the vein-forming processes.
Because of their small size, relatively low grade, and discontinuity, no attempt has been made to mine any individual vein. The prevailing practice has been to mine large blocks of ground by a system of modified block-caving, followed by hand sorting to remove the barren country rock from the gold-bearing quartz prior to milling.