Fort Knox wants to build new Steese Highway intersection

Posted: Thursday, March 30, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Fort Knox gold mine has submitted its development proposal for the True North deposit and the company now is asking permission to build a new intersection along the Steese Highway.

Under the company's preferred route, a new road crossing would be located 2,400 feet southwest of the Cleary Summit intersection that leads to Fort Knox itself.

The project also calls for nearly two miles of gravel road and upgrades to an existing state-owned dirt road to accommodate heavy truck traffic hauling ore from the company's claim block on the northwest flank of Pedro Dome to its cyanide-processing mill 12 miles away near Cleary Summit.

The company's development plan is subject to approval of the state and federal governments, both of which received copies of the project description and the company's reclamation plan Tuesday.

Dick LeFebvre, deputy director of the state Division of Mining, Land and Water, said his permitting team will devise a time frame for the regulatory process.

''That's what we need to do next,'' LeFebvre told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. He noted that the Army Corps of Engineers and the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority also will be involved.

Fort Knox officials submitted a preliminary plan last month on behalf of the company's parent corporation, Kinross Gold Corp. They estimate that the claim contains 180,000 ounces of gold. The company plans to spend $14 million on a three-year project that should generate at least 100 new jobs.

The project would operate around the clock, 365 days a year. Ore would be hauled in a conventional tractor trailer, 60 to 100 tons per load. The company estimates that between 100 and 170 truck loads would be shipped to the mill each day.

Bill Jeffress, manager of environmental services at Fort Knox, said the new crossing will let truck traffic bypass the existing interchange, segregating heavy loads from vehicles traveling to Skiland and the Cleary Summit area.

''There's less impact from noise and traffic,'' Jeffress said. ''We just want to get along with the neighbors. That was the one (route) that we thought was most reasonable.''

Total development costs could eclipse the $30 million mark as Fort Knox gold mine tries to bring its first satellite operation on line in the first part of 2001. The company would like to start construction by the end of June and finish before September.

That time line is subject to regulatory review and will require a wetlands permit from the Corps of Engineers.

LeFebvre said the state will review the information and likely issue an preliminary decision regarding the project, the route and reclamation plan before holding a public comment period. That would be followed by a final finding, he said.

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