Answer: Not for the next decade…at least
Kinross Gold/Contango ORE is planning to transport, every day, almost 10 million pounds of unprocessed mine rock from the new Manh Choh gold mines near Tok, Alaska (a one-way distance of 248 miles) right through the City of North Pole and the center of Fairbanks on the way to the Ft. Knox processing mill and do it for decades. They have frequently represented this ore haul as critical to the continued existence of the Ft. Knox mine. Indeed audiences, of which I have been in more than one, have been left with the notion that, without this ore haul the Ft. Knox mine has a real chance of closing and losing hundreds of stable and well-paying jobs.
Certainly, it doesn’t take much talk like that to get folks’ attention as it certainly should; it got mine. But is it true? Isn’t there an alternative method to process the Manh Choh rock and eliminate the need for an unprecedented and unsafe ore hauling scheme, beginning in 2024, that will turn interior Alaska’s scenic highways and byways into dangerous and disruptive mining haul roads and do it for decades to come?
The $100 million Gilmore expansion project at Ft. Knox was brought online in early 2021. While it requires a 12-mile private haul road it also allows life-of-mine projections to be publicly stated by Kinross that the Ft. Knox mine would continue to produce up to at least 2030. In other words, the Ft. Knox mine would continue to exist as a viable gold mine, for at least another decade, without the need for additional infusion of feedstock from other satellite mines, like Manh Choh, other than Gilmore (Gil).
Let’s see what the press had to say regarding Ft. Knox mine life:
Below is a list of 15 articles from 14 different publications. The articles range in date from June 18, 2018, to February 22, 2022. Please note in none of the articles is there any mention of mine ore being trucked from a Tetlin Manh Choh development. Ft. Knox has been well protected without the need for such a haul because of the wise forward planning of Kinross in the development of the Gil project. Looking at it another way, processing of the Manh Choh ore could be done somewhere else, let’s say closer to the mine site, and the Ft. Knox mining complex would continue to operate just as it does today. All the jobs would remain, property taxes would continue to be paid, local commerce would continue to flow, and things would be pretty much the same.
HEADLINE: Ft. Knox expansion to extend mine life to 2030
“Additional exploratory drilling at the site is expected in 2019. The decision to proceed with the Gilmore project extends actual mining at Ft. Knox by six years to 2027 and leaching, the process by which gold is extracted from ore, until 2030” – R. Boyce. Daily News Miner https://www.newsminer.com/news/local_news/fort-knox-expansion-to-extend-mine-life-to-2030/article_a2df9ed8-6ea3-11e8-869f-abb758ee475e.html, June 12, 2018.
HEADLINE: Ft. Knox expansion will boost Fairbanks economy
“Kinross Gold Corp. reports that the proposed expansion will produce 1.5 [million] gold equivalent ounces and extend the life of the Ft. Knox mine to 2030.” – Kinross press release. https://www.kinross.com/news-and-investors/news-releases/press-release-details/2018 , June 13, 2018.
HEADLINE: Kinross to proceed with initial Ft Knox Gilmore expansion
“The Gilmore project is expected to extend mining at Ft. Knox by six years to 2027 and leaching to 2030.”
Mr. J. Paul Rollinson, Pres., and CEO, stated, “We are pleased to proceed with the initial Ft. Knox Gilmore project, a low-risk, low-cost brownfield expansion that is expected to extend mine life to 2030……”. – Staff article. GlobeNewsWire by notified, June 12, 2018.
HEADLINE: Kinross to proceed with initial Ft. Knox Gilmore expansion
“On June 12th, 2018, Kinross announced that [it] will be proceeding with the initial Gilmore expansions project…….”.
“The expansion is expected to extend mne life to 2030 at a low capital cost…….”. – In-house. Gilmore Corporate News, June 14, 2018.
HEADLINE: Ft. Knox gold mine extended to 2030
Kinross “will look for ways to continue optimizing our mine plan effort to extend mill life”. This could come from ongoing exploration of the upside potential around the current Ft. Knox pit….the ore body has not yet been delineated to the west, south, and east”. Atchison – Shane Lasley. North of 60 Mining News, June 14, 2018.
HEADLINE: Interior gold mine gets new life, $100K expansion
“A feasibility (Kinross) conducted on the prospect indicates the Gilmore project could yield 1.5 million ounces of gold and initially extend operations at the Ft. Knox to 2030. Milling at the mine is expected to stop in late 2020 without it. Now mining is expected to continue into 2027 with ore processing running to 2030”. – Elwood Brehmer. Alaska Journal of Commerce, June 15, 2018.
HEADLINE: Ft. Knox Gilmore Expansion Project, Alaska
The expansion project is expected to extend mine life of Ft. Knox to 2030 ……. “Processing for the Gilmore expansion project will be like that [of] the existing Ft. Knox operation.” – Staff article. NS Energy, July 2018.
HEADLINE: Ft. Knox Mine Expansion Will Boost Fairbanks Economy
“The Kinross Gold Corp. reports that the proposed expansion will produce 1.5M gold equivalent ounces and extend the life of the Ft. Knox Mine to 2030. – Mike Mason, Press secretary. Alaska State Legislature Rep Adam Wool http://akhouse.org, Jun. 18, 2018.
HEADLINE: Gilmore Expansion at Ft. Knox
“In June, Kinross President and CEO J. Paul Rollinson announced plans for a $100 million Gilmore expansion that would keep the mine open until 2030.”
“We are pleased to proceed with the initial Fort Knox Gilmore project, a low-risk, low-cost brownfield expansion that is expected to extend mine life to 2030 at one of our top performing operations……” – Julie Strickler. Fairbanks Gold Mining Inc, Nov. 1, 2018.
HEADLINE: Comprehensive Annual Financial Report
“In June 2018 Kinross announced it was proceeding with $100M Gilmore expansion…….it is expected that Ft. Knox mine life will extend to 2030……” – Debra Lyrebird, CFO. Fairbanks North Star Borough Financial Services Department, Dec. 6, 2019.
HEADLINE Ft. Knox Gold Mine: Gilmore and Beyond
Two slides speak to Gilmore extending mine life to 2030 – Assorted PowerPoint Slides. Report to Resource Development Council by Kinross Gold, 2019.
HEADLINE: Alaska’s Ft. Knox: Fbxs gold mine thought to close in 2008 will now produce until 2030 or beyond
“The end-of-mine-life date keeps being pushed out too. In 1996 it looked as if mining would stop 2008. Then it got pushed to 2011, then to 2013 and then 2015”. The latest estimate is 2027, with its heap leach……facility operating until 2030 or 2031”. – Tim Bradner. Anchorage Press https://www.anchoragepress.com/alaskas-fort-knox-fairbanks-gold-mine-thought-to-close-in-2008-will-now-produce-until/article_cdb8ce38-3245-11ea-8ccc-9377cdca47fd.html , Jan. 6, 2020.
HEADLINE: FT. Knox Gilmore Expansion Project, Alaska
“The Gilmore expansion project will extend the life of Ft. Knox mine by ten years to 2030 with mining activities to be carried out until 2027 and leaching until 2030”- Staff report. Mining Technology, March 30, 2020.
HEADLINE: “Ft. Knox plans for eventual closure”
“Ft. Knox poured its 8 millionth ounce of gold last October and has pushed its mine plan out to 2030.” – Julie Strickler. Daily News-Miner https://www.newsminer.com/business/fort-knox-plans-for-eventual-closure/article_cc77a8ea-6b35-11ea-b567-179e71270d92.html, March 22, 2020.
HEADLINE: “Alaska Nanooks ….Highlight Kinross Fort Knox for Week of February 22, 2022
“With the initial Gilmore expansion, it is expected that Ft. Knox mine life will extend to 2030.” – Staff report Thank You Series. Alaska Nanooks Communications, Feb. 22, 2022.
As the above list clearly indicates, any suggestion the proposed ore haul is necessary to “save” Ft. Knox mine and the jobs therein, is clearly unsubstantiated. Witness the 15 separate publications from 14 divergent sources spaced out over almost four years touting the longevity of the Ft. Knox mine into 2030 and beyond, an eternity in mine-life projections. But note, there is not one word written that speaks to an ore hauling plan as an integral part of contributing to that longevity. These projections were made with no expectation of an unprecedented ore haul from Tetlin, yet today we are suddenly faced with the enormity of an ore transportation system requiring over 70,080 truck / trailer transits per year.
So, what does this mean to us? It’s simple math. Whether you are just out for a Sunday drive, or an ambulance driver trying to saving a life, or a school bus operator stopped to load your child, you will face or follow a 120’-long ore train on our highways Every. Five. Miles.
So please, as recently as this very day when Kinross states on their Manh Choh information website that: “The Manh Choh project will not only be a means of securing those current jobs in the Fairbanks area but will also add over 400-600 additional opportunities for local employment”, respectfully ask the developer: 1) “Weren’t those jobs going to be there regardless of a 500-mile ore haul? And 2) “Where are these 400-600 additional opportunities located?”
We are being faced with converting our scenic highways and byways into unsafe mining haul roads for decades; there just must be a better way.
Gary Wilken, Spokesman
Advocates for Safe Alaska Highways
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