This bronze sculpture was commissioned by the city and borough of Juneau during its centennial anniversary year, and is dedicated to the mine whose work provided the lifeblood of Juneau during it first six decades.
In the late 1800's, compressed - air machine drills replaced hand drills as the principle tools of hard rock miners. This development enabled miners to handle great quantities of ore at an acceptable low cost. As a result, lodes containing low-grade ore deposit, such as those in the Juneau Goldbelt, became profitable to mine. In this sculpture the pneumatic drill is a generalized version of many different types used over the years. The drills were fed air by hose from the surface steam engines and used pistons to work the "steels" back and forth in the drill holes. Traditionally a pattern of seven holes and charges would be employed when cutting a tunnel. A team of miners drilled the face of the tunnel though a single eight or ten hour shift and blasted it just before quitting. The sequence of cleanup, more drilling and blasting would begin anew in the next shift. The Alaska-Juneau Mine, which opened in 1897, ceased operating in 1944, beginning and end to an era. The total output of the Juneau Goldbelt was over seven million ounces of gold.
Sculpture by Juneau artist Ed Way