The Nabesna Gold Mine, on the northern slopes of the Wrangell Mountains, was a profitable operation driven by one man, Carl F. Whitham. In 1925, after three years of prospecting on the mountain, Whitham found one of the richest gold veins ever reported in Alaska. Four years later, to raise capital, he organized the Nabesna Mining Corporation and sold stock.
The mill was modern in every respect, processing up to 50 tons of ore per day. Gold was recovered by shaker tables, flotation, and cyanide leaching. The mine itself was 2,000 feet up the mountain and eventually constituted 3 miles of underground workings. Ore was hand trammed to the portals, then lowered by aerial tram to the mill.
By the late 1930s, Nabesna employed sixty to seventy men. Whitham ran Nabesna with an iron hand, but he made it pay. All expenses were met from earnings, and the mine paid a dividend every year. By the fourth year, the dividend of $180,000 equalled the company's total capital investment. The mine was closed by government order during World War II, reopening only briefly afterward. Whitham died in 1947.
Most of the original buildings still stand today, although in a deteriorated condition. Many of the wood-framed buildings are clad in Celotex or tar paper, held with battens. The mill is built against the hillside, using gravity to assist the flow of materials. The top level contains the ore bin, and just below it the ball mill, which crushes the ore. Also at this level are the machine shop, flotation tanks, and cyanide leaching tanks. Below this level are the concentration tables. The buildings provide an excellent illustration of a small-scale hard-rock gold-mining operation.
Although the site is within the boundaries of Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park, the mine is privately owned and not open to the public.