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.

Mental Health Trust exploring Icy Cape prospect

The Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Office is evaluating a heavy mineral prospect near Yakutat that could change the course of the agency for generations.

Icy Cape is a long stretch of beach owned by the trust at the entrance of Icy Bay that appears to hold world-class deposits of several heavy minerals, according to Trust Land Office Executive Director John Morrison.

Package of tax hikes on fishing, mining and fuel stalls

A bill to raise taxes on fisheries, fuel and mining remains unscheduled for a House Finance Committee hearing after public objections.

Gov. Bill Walker introduced a suite of proposals at the beginning of the session designed to hitch up taxes on state industries and individuals to help close the $4.1 billion budget gap.

Bokan mine development slowed as rare earth prices dip

Development of the Bokan Mountain rare earth mine is on hold as the company leading the project focuses on a new processing technology and waits for rare earth metal prices to rebound.

Nova Scotia-based Ucore Rare Metals Inc. finished infill drilling and drilled groundwater monitoring wells in 2014, leaving it at a natural stopping point before moving towards the next steps of development.

Ucore Vice President Randy MacGillivray said in an interview the company has delineated a resource of approximately 5 million tons that is 0.65 percent total rare earth metals.

Greens Creek mine reports record silver production in 2015

Hecla Mining Co. announced annual results that included record silver production at its Greens Creek mine near Juneau.

Greens Creek had production of 2.6 million and 8.5 million ounces of silver in the fourth quarter and full year of 2015, respectively, an increase of 4 percent and 8 percent over the same periods of 2014.

Federal officials consider Donlin mine’s subsistence impact

BETHEL — Two federal agencies have weighed in on the potential impacts the proposed Donlin Creek mine could have on subsistence along the Kuskokwim River.

Donlin Gold LLC estimates it could excavate about 34 million ounces of gold over three decades from the proposed open pit mine near the village of Crooked Creek, KYUK-AM reported.

The Army Corps of Engineers predicts that the mine would have a minor to moderate impact on subsistence practices and resources.

Nome graphite mine progress slowed, but ongoing

Development of the Graphite Creek mine near Nome has been delayed, but progress continues on the project that could become the country’s lone such mine.

Executive chairman of Vancouver-based Graphite One Resources Doug Smith said his company is moving from exploration to the technical and economic evaluation phases of the project. At the same time, Graphite One is in the midst of another round of fundraising, “a never-ending requirement in the business of junior mining,” Smith noted.

IG finds no bias in EPA Bristol Bay assessment

The Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment is on the up-and-up, at least according to the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General.

Based on “obtainable records,” an Inspector General report issued Jan. 13 found no bias in how the EPA conducted its lengthy assessment of the potential impacts of mining within Bristol Bay watershed.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Draft EIS for Donlin out; DNR issues Chuitna water decision

Donlin Gold reached a milestone Nov. 30 when the first draft of an environmental impact statement for the giant Western Alaska gold project was released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The draft EIS was 20 years in the making, as early resource definition work began at the Donlin claims in the Upper Kuskokwim River valley in 1995, according to Donlin Gold.

Donlin environmental impact statement released

Twenty years in the making, the first draft of an environmental impact statement for the Donlin Gold mine proposed for Western Alaska was released Nov. 30.

“It’s still a long path ahead of us, a lot of challenges ahead of us, but (the EIS) is a significant milestone,” Donlin Gold General Manager Stan Foo told the Resource Development Council of Alaska Dec. 3.

Early resource definition work at the site began in 1995.


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