BULLETIN: Pogo mine sells; initiative hearings set; concerns over Donlin, Navy exercises

Australia-based company buys Pogo mine from Sumitomo

FAIRBANKS (AP) — Ownership of a large gold mine southeast of Fairbanks is being transferred to an Australia-based gold mining company.

Japan-based Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. and Sumitomo Corp. are transferring full ownership of the underground mine in Delta Junction to Northern Star Resources Ltd., receiving $260 million in compensation for the transfer, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported last week.

The companies have agreed to the deal that’s expected to go through in October, the companies said in a joint statement.

“By investing in exploration and development, we are confident we can grow the inventory, production and mine life for the benefit of the mine’s employees, contractors, the local community and our shareholders,” said Bill Beament, the executive chairman of Northern Star.

The mine produces about 300,000 ounces of gold each year, resulting in more than 3.8 million ounces mined since opening in 2006. It employs 320 direct workers and about 150 contractors.

The mine’s current life expectancy runs through 2020. Northern Star is planning to invest in a “targeted intensive drilling program” to extend the mine’s life, according to company documents.

Pogo Mine spokeswoman Wendie MacNaughton declined to say why Sumitomo decided to divest its interest in the mine, but noted it had put Pogo up for sale.

“They (Northern Star) are going to maintain continuity of operations and employees exactly as it is now,” MacNaughton said.

State sets public hearing schedule for Alaska ballot measure

JUNEAU (AP) — Public hearings have been scheduled on a ballot initiative that supporters say would protect Alaska salmon. Opponents of the measure, however, say it could hinder resource development.

According to a notice issued by the state, the first hearing will be Sept. 7 in Juneau.

Additional hearings will be held in Kotzebue, Nome, Anchorage, Sitka, Fairbanks, Bethel and Dillingham. A statewide, teleconference-only session also is planned.

The notice states that public testimony will be taken. People also can submit written comments.

State law calls for at least two public hearings in each Alaska judicial district on a scheduled ballot initiative. Each hearing is to include written or oral testimony of one supporter of the initiative and one opponent.

The so-called Stand for Salmon initiative will appear on November’s general election ballot.

Bethel-area residents question aftermath of gold mine

BETHEL (AP) — How a massive gold mine proposed in western Alaska will clean up after itself and pay for it were the topics of a public meeting in Bethel.

More than two dozen people expressed their views Aug. 28 about the proposed Donlin Gold mine at the meeting requested by the Yukon-Kuskokwim River Alliance, KYUK-AM reported.

The Bethel-based organization opposes the open-pit mining project, which is planned for a site 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of the village of Crooked Creek in the Upper Kuskokwim River drainage. The project is proposed for lands owned by The Kuskokwim Corp. and Calista Corp.

The meeting was to focus on the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s draft approval of the plans for reclaiming the mine site and its financial assurances.

The mine will be required by state law to pay $317 million for the cleanup and land restoration efforts. The mine expects to operate for at least 27 years.

Area residents voiced skepticism about the amount, questioning who would pay for the cleanup if the mine goes bankrupt and the state can’t cover the cost.

“This is a subsistence economy,” said Alyssa Rogers, a co-founder of the river alliance. “It always will be and it always has been.”

Voicing opposition to the mine, William Charlie Brown, an Elder from Eek, said that if a mining accident were to occur, it could contaminate the Kuskokwim River — a vital food source for the region.

The Kuskokwim Corp. consulted with independent experts and worked with the mine, the state and Calista Corp. to form the current reclamation plans, said Maver Carey, CEO of The Kuskokwim Corporation.

“Responsible economic development is a critical factor for our corporation,” Carey said. “Responsibly developing our land and natural resources was what our forefathers and founders identified when selecting lands, including mineral rich lands, for the betterment of all TKC shareholders.”

Northern Edge military exercises in Alaska planned for May

KODIAK (AP) — The U.S. military has scheduled its exercises in the Gulf of Alaska for the spring, despite calls for the trainings to be moved to the fall.

The U.S. Pacific Command’s 2019 Northern Edge exercises, which involve participation from all military services and other agency partners, are planned for May 13-24, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.

The exercises that are held every other year are expected to involve more than 6,000 service members, 200 aircraft, and multiple Navy destroyers and Coast Guard cutters.

The exercises allow the military to hone its current abilities and “test future applications of combat operations and weapons capabilities,” U.S. Air Force Sgt. George Maddon said. Some of the exercises involve live munitions.

Alaska municipalities and preservation groups have opposed the exercises in recent years, citing concerns the event could harm aquatic wildlife and the environment.

The Kodiak Island Borough passed a resolution last year, calling for the training to be moved to after September “when overall marine mammal, fish and migratory bird abundances are lower.”

The Eyak Preservation Council based in Cordova has also opposed the event.

“The issues are that explosive munitions and high-powered sonar can impact fish, sea mammals and seabirds, especially at times of the year when migratory species are present,” said Carol Hoover, the organization’s executive director.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski requested in 2017 for the military to consider moving the 2019 event to the fall.

The Navy’s environmental assessment in 2016 determined the impact on fish and marine mammals would be minimal, Maddon said.

“The survey determined most species do not have the capacity to hear sonar,” Maddon said, adding that those species that can hear sonar “would need to be very close to the sonar source for a duration of time that is highly unlikely.”

Most of the exercises involve flying over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, Maddon said. The effects from explosives would be contained to where the detonation occurs, he said.

“The impact of explosives within any of these exercises is pretty limited,” Maddon said.

09/05/2018 - 10:15am