By Richard Tilly
1. No matter how anyone tries to paint the Kinross/Contango/Black Gold trucking plan as “legal”, this scheme is a private industrial ore haul. The scheme benefits solely one international mining conglomerate, its corporate shareholders and is potentially detrimental to thousands of highway users in Alaska. It is ironic that the public is barred from entering a Kinross site (for safety reasons) but they wish to put ore trucks on public roadways and claim everything will be “legal, therefore safe”.
2. To date, I find no real benefits to the state. No mineral royalties or property taxes, no financial assistance in road maintenance and road upgrades, bridge upgrades and snow removal requirements, or overall safety upgrades. (Possibly, some corporate taxes due the state annually? Statistically, the mining industry pays minimal taxes towards state revenue.) Potentially, a detrimental scenario to overall highway safety.
3. Kinross/Contango (K/C) has touted the renovated man camp in Tok as a facility for their rotational workers. Black Gold Transport (BGT) has developed a man camp just south of Fairbanks for their out of state truck drivers. Simple logic tells us, if these actions/comments are in fact true, then that blows out of the water any state claims that the mining/trucking plan is producing local jobs.
4. The designation as interstate highways for the Alaska, Richardson and Steese Highways bring up the conundrum of how can you have dozens of school bus stops and hundreds of private driveways without controlled access onto an interstate highway? Yes, Alaska is unique in our transportation highway rules. However, a mining conglomerate and its trucking goals should not supersede our current roadway allowances and practices for their benefit of a cheaper way to truck, and process, a non-renewable resource.
5. I’ve asked: “Please explain how the K/C/BGT trucking scheme is in the best interests of the 100,000 people that live in the interior and along the trucking route”? Not one elected official has offered a cogent answer. We hear political fluff about “jobs, jobs, jobs”. No statistics offered to back up those “jobs” statements. I am at a loss to understand why most elected officials are blatantly ignoring the concerns of their constituents. They should be aware that thousands of people have signed petitions opposing this ore haul.
6. It is obvious that K/C/BGT wishes to set an enormous precedent by getting their Tetlin/Ft. Knox trucking on the road before anyone can say “no”. Once that trucking effort begins, they will develop numerous other mines in Alaska along the road system and commandeer and hijack additional highway routes……and all roads then lead to Ft. Knox, on the state highways daily, 24/7/365.
7. A challenge for the elected officials. You have heard an earful from folks opposed to the trucking scheme. A simple clarifying observation; there is no commerce taking place here. The Alaskan road systems are built for the vehicular movement of the general public and the movement of actual freight, goods and supplies commerce. This trucking plan, plain and simple, is a private industrial ore haul. Please advise, “How many people have contacted your office and insisted that we need ore trucks on the local highways? Or, have requested we need additional ore trucks on all Alaskan highways?” Please forward your written replies for publishing in the FDNM.
8. Most Alaskans would support responsible mineral development in our state. (I am pro-mining). But conduct the mining on your claim properties, not on the public roadways. If the mine sites are not safe for public access, then in our quest for public safety, keep ore trucking off of the highways.
9. DOT has the authority and regulations in place (“Industrial Haul Roads regulations”) which gives Alaska the ability to stifle the commandeering of the roads, the ability to set vehicular parameters, the ability to demand control of public safety and stifle the hijacking of our highways. The state must lead here and not follow the demands of mining companies. These trucks are not hauling freight or goods in the promotion of commerce. The trucks are hauling mining ore. Unfortunately, DOT appears to be siding with the mining companies.
10. What’s a good solution? The Tetlin Mine may go on for decades. Collectively, we cannot deal with ore hauling on the roads for decades. So, the state and the ARR should consider to fast track the survey, the permitting and land ROW’s for railroad construction from the Tetlin/Tok/AK border, north to Ft. Greely and north to connect at Eielson AFB. Then build a rail line out the Goldstream Valley to Fox and beyond. If K/C desire to process ore at Ft. Knox, then this is the acceptable plan. Get out the Kinross/Contango checkbooks and get it built in record time. (By, the way, this would be a huge economic project for all Alaskans). The state/AIDEA can coordinate with Kinross/Contango, let them pony up some corporate money, and get a railroad built.
It appears our governor wants this mine built and trucks running no matter what….. I, for one, believe his leadership here is sorely lacking and is detrimental to 100,000 folks that live in the interior. So, collectively, we need to speak up and devise and demand a brilliant plan of action….so mining can co-exist with the residents who live, work and play here in the interior. Road hauling of private ore is a bad idea and a poor decision for Alaska. We need to think towards the future, and not just next week, or month, to placate an international mining consortium in their immediate quest for gold.
Richard Tilly resides in Fairbanks and is a retired building contractor. His Community Perspective is reprinted with permission.