CONCERNS ABOUT THE
KINROSS GOLD ORE
Why Are We Concerned About the Kinross Ore Transportation Plan?
Kinross Gold / Contago Ore plans to transport ore from the Mahn Choh mine project near Tetlin, Alaska over 250 miles of public highways to the processing plant at Fort Knox near Cleary Summit north of Fairbanks. Up to 192 times every day, double-trailer ore hauling trucks 120 feet long and weighing up to 80 tons would travel roads maintained by the State of Alaska. By Alaska Department of Transportation regulations, the longer double-trailers cannot run through town. This means the loads will have to be broken down to single trailers, causing the number of trips through Fairbanks up to the mill at Fort Knox to double.
This ore transportation plan:
- Creates safety hazards to the traveling public.
- Accelerates the degradation of Interior Alaska’s transportation infrastructure.
- Impacts environmental and air quality along the route.
- Opens potential liability issues for the State of Alaska.
Advocates for Safe Alaska Highways believes that the current Ore Transportation Plan has not been fully developed. In addition, there has been no rigorous review and analysis of the existing plan by the appropriate regulatory agencies. ASAH strongly supports efforts by both the developer and appropriate agencies to develop better alternatives to hauling ore 250 miles on Alaska’s public highways.
Safety must be the primary goal and the ultimate concern for DOT&PF, Kinross, and the respective trucking companies hired for this project. The addition of 80-ton, 120′ long double trailers driven in all Alaskan weather conditions will create unsafe conditions. Everyone knows about the challenging driving conditions during the winter months. Of particular concern are the “snow tornadoes” created by passing or oncoming vehicles. Big rigs create the worst of these snow whiteouts, which often result in serious accidents on Alaska’s highways.
Using DOT&PF traffic counts and information provided by Kinross, truck traffic will increase significantly along the route. For example, between Delta and North Pole truck traffic will increase 210%. At the intersection of Airport and Peger Roads, it will increase 43%.
Other considerations demand a thorough examination:
- the safety of our children at the 180+ schoolbus stops along the route;
- the added demand on volunteer first responders in communities along the proposed truck route;
- how the addition of slow-moving military convoys will further increase traffic congestion;
- the safety risks and reduction in positive experiences for RV visitor traffic along the Richardson Highway Scenic Byway between Tok and Fairbanks.
Increase In Truck Traffic along the routeSource: The Alaska Department of Transportation’s Traffic Analysis and Data Application website
*indicates only TOTAL vehicle count is available, truck traffic is not separately counted
On mobile devices, click "+" sign to view additional table data
|Location||Increase||Avg Daily Truck Traffic||Add'l Ore Truck Traffic||Data Year|
|AK Hwy @ Johnson River Bridge||96%||200*||192||2021|
|AK Hwy east of Delta Junction (MP 1421)||117%||164||192||2021|
|Richardson Hwy @ Moose Creek (MP 346)||2%||8980*||192||2021|
|Richardson Hwy @ Big Bend (MP 359)||19%||1020||192||2021|
|Peger Road @ Chena River Bridge||45%||863||384||2020|
|Steese Highway, South of Fox (MP 10)||198%||194||384||2021|
|Steese Highway, North of Fox||75%||513||384||2020|
Kinross currently plans to use Interior Alaska public highways to transport ore without recognizing the damaging impact persistent heavy haul operations will have on our highway system.
The Gerstle River and Johnson River bridges were built in 1944 and are approaching the end of their functional life. They are currently on DOT&PF’s “Replace List.” It is probable that the bridges may not be able to withstand the proposed ninety-six 80-ton loads per day. The same is true of the Chena Hot Springs interchange bridge, which would require trucks to be diverted around the bridge. A robust bridge structural analysis with a third-party peer reviewed engineering study is required to address these issues.
The Richardson Highway from Delta Junction to Eielson AFB is already dangerous and subject to high maintenance demands, particularly in the seven months of winter.
How will trucks navigate the hairpin curve (Skoogy Gulch) on the way up to the mill on Cleary Summit without veering into oncoming traffic?
All of these concerns must be examined.
Who is liable if someone gets killed? Certainly the truck operator should be responsible for causing any accidents. The truck operator’s insurance may not be adequate to cover damages resulting from an accident. Plaintiffs and co-defendants will look for other potentially responsible parties to pay a portion of the accident damages. We are concerned this will include the State of Alaska. That means that for a private mining operation, operating on public highways, the State of Alaska can be drawn into the web of liability if it is negligent in maintaining the highways, or failed to adequately warn or signal the highways, or created a dangerous condition on the highways.
The State of Alaska is an investor in this project, and stands to profit from allowing the ore haul to occur on public highways, with minimum or no safeguards for the public. This creates a conflict of interest for the State. Any studies and analyses it performs concerning the Kinross trucking operations are suspect unless they are independent and peer-reviewed.
Because the State of Alaska knows that some of the highways proposed for use as the ore haul route are not up to current safety standards, the State may be held to a higher duty to warn, signal and maintain the highways, to minimize dangerous conditions and accidents.
We are concerned about how much this project will actually cost the state of Alaska, in terms of liability for accidents, for additional maintenance and re-construction of infrastructure, inspections, supervision, and planning. To date, no analysis of this risk has been done that we are aware of.
The Fairbanks and North Pole areas are already non-compliant with EPA air quality standards. How will adding hundreds of diesel-powered double tractor-trailer trucks increase this problem? Addressing this concern will be part of the Corridor Analysis of the Route Between Tetlin and Fort Knox, a third-party, peer-reviewed study commissioned by the Alaska Department of Transportation.