Willow Creek Mining District

Hatcher Pass, Alaska is a mountain pass through the southwest part of the Talkeetna Mountains. It is named after Robert Hatcher, the first gold prospector to stake a lode gold claim in 1906. Hatcher Pass is in the Willow Creek mining district. Over 500,000 ounces of gold have been produced from the district. Underground hard-rock mining of gold from quartz veins accounts for most of the mineral wealth extracted from the Hatcher Pass area.The first mill in the area started operating in 1908. It was called Independence Mine. With a block of 83 mining claims, Independence Mine became the largest producer in the Willow Creek Mining District. The claims covered more than 1,350 acres and included 27 structures. Then in 1942 the United States entered into World War II. The War Production Board designated gold mining as nonessential to the war effort. Gold mining in the United States came to a halt, but Independence Mine was given an exemption and allowed to operate because of the presence of sheelite, a source of tungsten, a strategic metal. But because Independence Mine's sheelite production was low, the exemption didn't last and in 1943, Independence Mine was ordered to close.

The wartime ban was lifted in 1946, but gold mining was slow to recover. After the war, gold could be sold only to the U.S. government at a fixed rate of $35 per ounce. With raging inflation, gold mining became an unprofitable venture. Finally, in January of 1951, after mining nearly 6 million dollars' worth of gold, Independence Mine was officially closed. The remains of this historic mine can still be visited as part of the Independence Mine State Historical Park.