In response to the lawsuit filed by the Committee for Safe Communities, lawyers for Peak Gold LLC announced in court papers that there is a change to the route the ore trucks will take through Fairbanks. Instead of using the Mitchell-Peger-Johansen loop to connect the Richardson Highway with the Steese Expressway, now the heavy haulers will go straight on the Steese Expressway and cross the bridge over the Chena River before heading out to Fox.

For over two years, DOT has staunchly maintained that the Steese bridge over the Chena River is not strong enough to withstand the weight of these vehicles when loaded. DOT claimed that the Mitchell-Peger-Johansen is a “well-established commercial truck route” through Fairbanks. In addition, DOT said that the close proximity of the traffic lights on the Steese from Airport Road to the Johansen would result in the ore trucks causing congestion.

What changed in the six weeks since the lawsuit was filed?

There are only three possible scenarios:

  1. DOT’s bridge engineers rechecked their math, found an error, recalculated their numbers and found that the bridge is stronger than they thought,
  2. DOT’s assessment of the bridge strength was correct but they have given in to pressure by the developer and others and are going to allow an unsafe operation to proceed, or
  3. Kinross has agreed to reduce each truckload to a weight that can safely be handled by the bridge.

Whatever the reason, DOT and Kinross owe the public a full explanation of what’s going on. If the answer is a reduction in ore payload, it will be interesting to see if Kinross and Contango Ore report this operational restriction in their next report to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Investors and stockholders would surely be interested in this detail.