Mining Dept. Manager at Alaska Mining and Diving Supply , Owner/Operator at Cold Gold Mining Co,, AMA member, AMA Board of Director, Member of the 40 Mile mining district.
Cool little story written about me in the Alaska Miners Associations journal...
Some succeed because they are destined. Some succeed because they are determined. -Unknown
Brian Berkhahn is a man of determination, with a passion for gold.
Brian arrived to Alaska with his mother when he was 17, from a little farming community outside of Green Bay, Wisconsin. In his early twenties Brian wore a long mane of hair with leather on his back and rode the fast life on a self built ride of steel and chrome.
As destiny would have it, he went into Alaska Mining & Diving one day and bought himself a sluice box, just for the heck of it, and took it down to Crow Creek to try it out. This is when he found his true passion.
“It was late in the season, snow flying, and the first bucket I dumped into the sluice box I heard a “plink” there was a nice little nugget, a little bit larger than a birch seed, in fact that is what I thought it was, until I picked it up, and at that moment I was hooked. I cut off all of my hair, sold my Harley and started changing my life. I bought a little 2.5-inch dredge, a pop up camper, and started mining full time”
Brian was struck by the gold fever and immediately made himself right at home in the crevices of Alaska’s foothills. He quickly moved through the ranks, upgrading to a 6-inch dredge. “I was mining 365 days a year, rain or shine, in the dead of winter. I didn’t care if it was 20 below zero or 30 below zero; I was out there. I learned how to do things the hard way.. just by doing it. At one point I only dredged in the winter and prospected in the summer. I loved winter dredging.. no bugs, no bears and no people to bug you. After years of busting the dredge out of the ice and dealing with frozen regulators I had enough, now I won’t do it anymore under 25 degree’s.
With a few years of hands on mining experience under his belt, Brian was offered a job as the Mining Department Manager at Alaska Mining and Diving. The owner, Steve Herschbach, a miner since the early 70’s, took Brian under his wing, striking the vein of a rich friendship between the two.
Brian recalls one particularly memorable metal detecting adventure he had with Steve. “We went to Gaines Creek, and Steve found his first 5 oz. nugget using a metal detector. I thought a bear had chased him, he was pure white and when I asked him what was wrong? He stuck out a shaking hand, and there was his clenched fist was his first huge nugget. We had found 18 oz. between the three of us on that trip.”
During another humorous, and memorable trip to Gaines Creek, Brian stepped outside of his little cabin to have a smoke and noticed Steve Herschbach and Jeff Reed squatting down at the end of the runway, when he turned and looked down the other direction he noticed a huge brown bear trotting down the runway like a lost puppy dog just found his owner. The bear must’ve been following their scent as the wind was blowing that way but he couldn’t see them because there was a slight rise in the runway between him and the guys. He yelled at them.. What are you guys doing?! They said looking at some old concentrates that Doug had dumped out.. Brian then yelled.. WELL THERE’S A BEAR RIGHT THERE!! They both stood up and Jeff started to run but noticed Steve just stood there.. instead of running Steve just took out his camera and took a picture of it. The bear quit charging as soon as he saw it was humans he was smelling and took off into the woods. This was the same morning that Brian found a 1.5 oz. gold nugget that looks exactly like a bear. He calls it his bear nugget.
Brian bought his first Federal Mining Claim from Steve on Canyon Creek. He worked at Alaska Mining and Diving for about five years in that position, working a 6-inch dredge at Crow Creek on weekends, became the Assistant State Director for GPAA then about a year later became the State Director which he held for about 4 years. After Steve kept twisting Brian’s arm he soon became the Chairman of the Small Scale Mining committee in the AMA in 2003.
“I met quite a few good and interesting people, while working at Alaska Mining and Diving.” In 2005 a customer approached Brian and asked if he would help him build a Nome dredge, in exchange he would help him become an electrician by putting Brian through school. Brian moved to Fairbanks and quickly dove into the apprenticeship program but after about 1 ½ years they never even started on the nome dredge so Brian decided to move back to Anchorage to further his mining career.. the lure of gold is strong.
Roughly twenty years in, after hearing that initial “plink” of a golden birch seed Brian is still as determined as he always was, living the timeless Alaska gold mining dream. He is the owner of Cold Gold Mining where he runs an 8” dredge by himself, Chairman of the AMA Small Scale Miners Committee, one of the board of Directors for the AMA, member of the 40 Mile Mining District and still works at Alaska Mining and Diving Supply during the winter and generously passes on his mining knowledge to anyone that asks.