Mining

Exploration payrolls down as producing mines add jobs

Minerals employment and industry spending dropped in 2014 compared with 2013 and 2012 but the decline is attributed mostly to sharp declines in expenditures for exploration.

The state’s larger producing mines added jobs in all three years, according to the latest minerals industry economic report by McDowell Group.

The report was recently released by the Alaska Miners Association. McDowell Group is a Juneau-based economic research firm. 

Groundhog Day for mining controversy in Southwest AK

Is another mining controversy stirring in Southwest Alaska?

Nondalton’s tribal council is protesting the move of its village corporation, Kijik Corp., to form a joint venture with Anchorage-based Alaska Earth Sciences to explore a copper/gold deposit near the village and adjacent to the Pebble project.

Pebble Partnership vs. the EPA — a yearlong conflict

The legal sparring between Pebble Limited Partnership and the Environmental Protection Agency drew headlines throughout the year.

It began right away Jan. 15 when the EPA released its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, a 1,000-page report three years in the making, which concluded that a large surface mine in the upper reaches of the Bristol Bay watershed would cause significant harm to the region’s dynamic salmon fisheries.

Pebble has maintained a stance that the assessment is a seriously flawed document based on biased science.

Federal judge orders EPA to halt pending Pebble action

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to block Pebble mine is on hold after a Nov. 24 federal court ruling.

U.S. Alaska District Court Judge H. Russel Holland ordered a preliminary injunction be put in place on the EPA’s Clean Water Act Section 404(c) process in the Bristol Bay region.

The ruling came immediately after oral arguments on a motion for the injunction filed by Pebble Limited Partnership in its lawsuit against the EPA.

Record crowd expected at miners convention

The annual Alaska Miners Association convention will set another attendance record this year with about 1,000 signed up to attend so far, AMA Executive Director Deantha Crockett said.

It is also marks the 75th anniversary of the AMA, making it one of the state’s oldest trade and professional organizations. The AMA was organized in 1939 to give the mining industry, then one of the territory’s two industries (the other being fishing) a way to present a united front in dealing with new land policies being formed in Washington, D.C.

Not much has changed, Crockett said.

Pebble sues EPA over attempt to veto mine

The Pebble Limited Partnership took the Environmental Protection Agency to court May 21 and claimed the agency is illegally overstepping its bounds by attempting to block a mine before the permitting process begins.

In a statement released in conjunction with Pebble’s complaint filed in U.S. Alaska District Court, company CEO Tom Collier said the plea to the court to stop EPA’s actions is not an attempt to strip the agency of its regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act. Rather, he said, it is an attempt to ensure guidelines set by Congress are followed.

Pebble cites EPA emails were biased

Pebble mine developers claim they have proof Environmental Protection Agency officials acted with bias and a pre-determined mindset when examining the potential risks a mine could pose to Bristol Bay fisheries.

Exploration off 38%, producing mines strong

JUNEAU — Mining is good for Alaska’s economy, but while the state’s six producing mines are holding up well, and some even expanding, a sharp 38 percent drop in exploration spending last year is having ripple effects.

Overall, mining employed 4,600 Alaskans directly last year and the overall employment impact totaled 9,100 including indirect jobs created by the spending. Direct payrolls of mining companies totaled $630 million in 2013.

DNR ordered to rule on Chuitna apps

A state Superior Court judge ruled Oct. 14 that the Department of Natural Resources cannot ignore water reservation applications filed by the Chuitna Citizens Coalition.

The coalition applied for three instream flow reservations on the Western Cook Inlet Chuitna River for fish and wildlife protection in 2009. After more than two years of inactivity on the applications, the Chuitna Citizens Coalition and environmental advocator group Cook Inletkeeper filed a joint lawsuit against DNR in November 2011.

Major discovery at Bornite prospect

Minerals companies exploring the western Brooks Range say they have identified as much as 9 billion pounds of copper in high-grade ores and additional resources of zinc.

The Arctic and Bornite copper deposits have been explored for decades but a new discovery at Bornite by Vancouver,B.C.-based NovaCopper Resources this summer may push the known higher-grade copper resource to up to a critical mass where development may be possible.

Gold operations in rural areas pick up the pace

High gold prices have stimulated Alaska mining projects including several in remote areas.

The small Nixon Fork underground gold and copper mine near McGrath on the upper Kuskokwim River continued operations in 2012 according to its owner, Canada-based Fire River Gold Corp.

In late October the mine was producing 3,800 tons of ore daily, twice the rate from earlier in the year, and had reached a stable production rate, according to Fire River spokeswoman Kimberly Ann.

Doyon to spend $37M on exploration

Doyon Ltd., the Interior Alaska Native regional corporation, says it will spend $37 million this year on several oil and gas projects in Interior Alaska and will drill second a test well in the prospective Nenana Basin, west of Fairbanks, this winter.

Doyon will also be the first explorer to take advantage of a new Alaska exploration incentive that will have the state pay for 80 percent of the well and extend preferential state tax treatment, Doyon CEO Aaron Schutt said in a Aug. 27 briefing in Fairbanks.

With six drill rigs at work, it's a busy summer at Livengood

FAIRBANKS — International Tower Hills Mines is continuing development planning on the company’s Livengood gold project on the Elliott Highway north of Fairbanks.

Engineering and other work continues on a development plan for the mine that is now due in mid-2013. Normally, a mining company does a “pre-feasibility” study to initiate permitting, followed by a “feasibility” study following the obtaining of permits. But at its Livengood project, ITH is combining the two into one feasibility study.

Both sides of Pebble find fault with EPA study

Scientists and attorneys on both sides of the Pebble mine controversy are voicing starkly different opinions of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Bristol Bay watershed study.

A panel of 12 independent scientists concluded three days of meetings on the study in Anchorage Aug. 7. A report to EPA by the group will be made late this fall, the scientists said.

Gold find adds 1.2M ounces at Pogo

FAIRBANKS – Drilling crews are busy on new exploration this summer at the Pogo gold mine near Delta, east of Fairbanks. It is the biggest exploration season since the mine opened, says Lorna Shaw, external affairs manager for Sumitomo Metal Mining, which owns and operates the mine.

Mineral exploration spending tops $300 million in 2011

Mining is growing fast in its economic punch in the state, new studies by the industry show.

In 2011 the industry employed 4,500 in producing mines exploration, up from 3,500 in 2010 in terms of equivalent full-time jobs, according to studies by McDowell Group, the Juneau-based consulting firm.

The average annual pay for a worker in mining reached $100,000 in 2011, up from an average of $95,000 the previous year. State revenues from mining totaled $148 million in 2011, 170 percent up from $58.9 million in 2010, which was also 40 percent up from 2009.

Miners busy with expansions, new projects

From far Southeast Alaska to the far Northwest, minerals companies are busy with projects. Alaska has seven producing mines now, one more than last year.

The new producing mine is Nixon Fork on the upper Kuskokwim River, a remote location where fuel and supplies must be flown in. Several new mines may move into production the coming years, all in different parts of the state.

Here’s a review of the producing mines and prospects around Alaska:

Southeast

Pebble debate breaks out between BBNC shareholders

JUNEAU — Sharp opinion differences over the proposed Pebble mine within the Bristol Bay community spilled out in Juneau March 19.

The occasion was an informal “lunch and learn” noon session for legislators and staff in the state capitol where Bristol Bay Native Corp., the regional Alaska Native corporation for the area, gave a presentation on its activities, finances and dividends paid to shareholders.

State sues Lake and Pen Borough over initiative aimed at Pebble

The State of Alaska has filed its challenge to the recently enacted ordinance in Lake and Peninsula Borough aimed at stopping the Pebble mine.

Alleging the ordinance unconstitutionally usurps the state’s role in managing natural resources for the maximum benefit of all citizens, the state filed its lawsuit against Lake and Peninsula Borough in the Alaska Superior Court 3rd District Oct. 28.

Alaskans know very little about the real process of mining

Except for TV commercials, which are laden with mixed messages and misinformation, most Alaskans know little about the mining process and have seldom seen the inner workings of a mine.

Until World War II, for example, mining was the state’s largest employer, and the industry operated under few environmental regulations. With the advent of the Clean Water Acts of 1977 and 1987 and new mining technology, most operations contain the water or leave it cleaner than before the mine opened.

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