Mining

Graphite prospect near Nome holds big potential

There is ample development potential in Alaska’s lone graphite prospect, according to a preliminary economic report on the mine venture.

The Graphite Creek flake graphite deposit near Nome is being pursued by Vancouver-based Graphite One Resources. A preliminary economic assessment of the resource and Graphite One’s plans to extract and process it found the project could have a value to investors of more than $1 billion and a payback period of just four years.

Legislation filed to require commissioner consensus on Pebble

JUNEAU — A measure intended to add roadblocks for Pebble mine got its first hearing Jan. 31 in the Legislature.

House Bill 14, proposed by Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, would require the Legislature to approve any permitting documents or authorizations for mines within the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve.

Pebble Mine, proposed for the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, is within the reserve.

Speaking to the House Special Committee on Fisheries, Josephson said his goal was to strengthen a ballot initiative passed by voters in 2014.

Chugach Alaska Corp. makes California carbon credit deal

ANCHORAGE (AP) — An undeveloped Alaska coal field, California’s offsets for carbon pollution and thousands of acres of forest are the unlikely players in a complex agreement that is expected to generate millions for an Alaska Native organization.

The agreement protects the land from development and sets up financial benefits for the Chugach Alaska Corp., a regional Alaska Native corporation representing 2,500 Aleut, Eskimo and Indian shareholders around Alaska’s Prince William Sound. Many largely rely on commercial fisheries and a subsistence lifestyle.

Pebble revived: Owner plans to file for permits in 2017

Alaskans are used to seeing apocalyptic images about the Pebble mine.

TV ads opposing the large copper-gold prospect near Iliamna cast images of toxic sludge cascading down mountain valleys into Bristol Bay, killing all the salmon.

Is the hype shoe now on the other foot?

It’s jarring, but sponsored-content pitches are now showing up on mainstream Internet sites touting Pebble, posted not by owner Northern Dynasty but by people touting Pebble’s stock.

Silver, gold production steady in Southeast

The metal mines of Southeast Alaska had consistent and positive production in 2016, according to year-end results released by the operating companies.

Hecla Mining Co. reported Jan. 10 that its Greens Creek underground, primarily silver mine on Admiralty Island west of Juneau produced 9.3 million ounces of silver during the year, the highest production level since the company took full ownership of the mine in 2008.

State, Doyon, miners opposed to Eastern Interior plan

The State of Alaska and mining proponents are once again at odds with Bureau of Land Management; this time the dispute is over the agency’s updated plan to manage 6.5 million acres of federal lands in Eastern Alaska.

On Jan. 5 BLM released the decision documents to its Eastern Interior Resource Management Plan that would keep approximately 4.8 million federal acres off-limits to development, namely mining in the region known for gold production.

British Columbia to clean up mine near Juneau

JUNEAU — Canadian officials say they will take action to prevent polluted water from a decades-old mine from entering the Taku River, a key source of salmon caught in southeast Alaska.

British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett told CoastAlaska News experts will explore different options, including plugging leaking tunnels from the defunct Tulsequah Chief Mine. The acidic water has been carrying pollutants into the Tulsequah River, which is a tributary of the Taku near Juneau.

Year in Review: Mining

Alaskans worried about the potential impact of upstream Canadian mines on Southeast Alaska fisheries officially got their voices heard by the State Department after years of asking for federal intervention.

An assistant secretary of state wrote in an October letter to the Alaska congressional delegation that the State Department is actively engaged with Canadian officials to protect the “transboundary” watersheds that bisect the U.S.-Canada border along Southeast Alaska.

Mining at Ambler district advances, as does road

After a brief timeout in 2015 for monetary considerations, progress is being made on both ends towards development of the metal-rich Ambler mining district.

Trilogy Metals Inc., formerly NovaCopper Inc., is in the midst of evaluating the results from its $5.5 million 2016 summer drilling program at its Northwest Alaska prospect.

While any drilling that contacts the metal veins helps further define the resource base, Trilogy Metals CEO Rick Van Nieuwenhuyse said in an interview that the recent work focused on gathering pre-permitting environmental and engineering data.

Pebble suits proceeding; DNR rebuts reclamation report

Pebble Limited Partnership is asking for legal fees to wrap up one lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency and hopes to settle another out of court.

The company pursuing the embattled massive copper and gold mining project in the Bristol Bay area filed a motion in U.S. District Court of Alaska Nov. 22 to recover $227,056 in attorneys’ fees stemming from a suit filed in October 2014 in which Pebble claimed the EPA withheld documents after a Freedom of Information Act request.

For Livengood project, smaller is better

A smaller, simpler plan for developing the Livengood gold prospect has greatly improved the project’s economic viability.

Vancouver-based International Tower Hill Mines Ltd., or ITH, released an optimized pre-feasibility study for the Livengood project Oct. 24 that determined a mine about half the size of what the company originally planned could reduce development costs by about $950 million and operational expenses by 28 percent.

2016 is a milestone year for miners

Alaska’s miners will have an opportunity to look back at the progress of three of the state’s flagship mines at the annual Alaska Miners Association convention that kicks off Nov. 6 in Anchorage.

This year is a milestone year for the mining industry in Alaska; it marks the 10th anniversary of operations at the Pogo underground mine and the 20th year of production at the Fort Knox surface mine. Both located near Fairbanks, they are the state’s premier gold mines.

U.S. State Dept has interest in upstream Canadian mining projects

The U.S. State Department has taken a positive step to recognize the concerns some Alaskans have with upstream Canadian mining projects, but the issue is far from resolved, according to the members of Alaska’s congressional delegation.

Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Julia Frifield wrote in an Oct. 6 letter to the delegation that the State Department is actively engaged with Canadian officials to protect the watersheds that bisect the U.S.-Canada border along Southeast Alaska.

Agreement reached with Canada over B.C. mining projects

Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott signed an agreement with Canadian officials Thursday, marking a step toward cooperation in protecting Southeast Alaska’s border-straddling rivers from proposed mining projects in British Columbia.

The Statement of Cooperation establishes a working group of commissioners from three Alaska State Departments and deputies from two Canadian ministries to facilitate ongoing discussions on transboundary mines between the Alaska, B.C. and stakeholders from tribal and environmental groups.

Gold prices rising as Donlin mine keeps plugging on EIS

With gold prices on the rebound, it’s full steam ahead for the Donlin Gold mine in Western Alaska.

Donlin Gold spokesman Kurt Parkan said in an interview that “things are moving along pretty steadily” as the company continues through the federal environmental impact statement, or EIS, process.

A variety of other state and federal permits are being sought in concert with the multi-year EIS process, according to Parkan.

As far as the EIS goes, the ball is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ court for now. The Corps is the lead permitting agency for the project.

Wishbone Hill permit awaits federal call after court order

Usibelli Coal Mine Inc.’s operating permits for its Wishbone Hill coal development are “in limbo” after

Federal court vacates oft-renewed Wishbone Hill permit

Usibelli Coal Mine Inc. is reviewing its options for the proposed Wishbone Hill mine after a July 7 ruling in the U.S. District Court of Alaska that vacated permits for the project.

District Court Judge Sharon Gleason ordered the state and federal permits for the planned surface coal mine north of Palmer vacated because Usibelli failed to develop the mine within the time allowed by the permitting process, according to her 35-page order.

Alaska delegation asks Kerry to review transboundary mining

Alaska’s congressional delegation responded to continued concerns from Southeast Alaskans about Canadian mine plans by asking Secretary of State John Kerry to look into whether environmental practices across the border are worthy of scrutiny under a bilateral treaty.

Rep. Don Young and Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan sent a letter to Kerry May 12 requesting the State Department to question Canadian officials about the impact active and proposed hard rock mines in British Columbia and the Yukon could have on salmon in several large “transboundary” rivers.

Borough files to dismiss suit by Red Dog over severance tax

The Northwest Arctic Borough has filed for summary judgment to dismiss a lawsuit brought against it by Teck Resources, the Canadian owner of Red Dog Mine 90 miles north of Kotzebue.

Teck filed a lawsuit against the borough on Jan. 15, alleging the borough’s new severance tax is unconstitutional. The borough insists it has the taxing authority granted to any home rule government.

The new severance tax would increase the amount Teck pays the borough from $12 million in 2015 to an estimated $30 million to $40 million in 2016. 

Usibelli resumes exports with sale to Japan

After halting exports last September, the Usibelli Coal Mine at Healy is currently fulfilling an order for 75,000 tons for shipment to Japan.

Railroad cars full of coal are now making the trek to Seward to be loaded once the ship arrives in mid-summer between June and July, according to a Usibelli Vice President for External Affairs Lorili Simon. Simon said the current order is for the single shipload.

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