Exploration points True North to north

Photo/Rob Stapleton/AJOC
FAIRBANKS -- Fairbanks Gold Mining officials want to expand gold mine operations at the True North deposit after receiving favorable results from an aggressive exploration program last year.

Three ore deposits north of True North’s current mining pit have enough reserves to extend the life of the mine at least another year.

"The mine life is extended from 2003 to 2004, which is good news for employees," said Tom Irwin, vice president of Fairbanks Gold Mining, the company that operates True North. The mine, 30 miles north of Fairbanks, employs 100 people.

Fairbanks Gold spent $2.1 million on a drilling and exploration program at True North, Irwin said.

The company moves 10,000 tons of True North ore daily to its Fort Knox processing mill 10 miles east of True North and to do so moves about 20,000 tons of development or waste rock, a 2:1 strip ratio, Irwin said.

The new ore bodies will have higher concentrations of development rock with a strip ratio of 4.2:1, meaning that for every 10,000 tons of ore obtained, the company will have to move 42,000 tons of development rock.

Irwin said the company has not completely analyzed how many more ounces of gold reserves the new discoveries will add.

Fairbanks Gold has applied to the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for permit revisions so it can expand True North’s operation, Irwin said. The new pits fall within the mine’s current mill site lease area.

Ed Fogels, large mine project manager with the state Division of Mining, Land and Water, said he is still reading the application. He anticipates public hearings and possibly a public meeting to discuss the expansion.

The company wants to begin work on the expansion this summer, Fogels said.

One concern is whether the mineral makeup of the new ore discovery will be compatible with current extraction methods at the Fort Knox mill. Fairbanks Gold uses a mix of chemicals to extract microscopic gold from crushed hard rock.

"After looking at the chemistry we want to make sure this stuff is OK to put in the mill," Fogels said.

01/21/2002 - 8:00pm