Delta hearing favors Pogo mine

Posted: Thursday, May 01, 2003

DELTA JUNCTION (AP) City officials favor construction of the Pogo gold mine near their community, they said at a public comment meeting on the mine conducted by the government agencies responsible for issuing permits for the $250 million project.

We welcome the project and hope it goes forward soon,'' said city administrator Pete Hallgren, representing the Delta Junction City Council. The mine, 38 miles northeast of the community, would generate hundreds of jobs.

The mineworkers' four-day-on, four-day-off schedule could encourage them to live in the area, Hallgren said, adding that the city supports keeping the access road open for future logging.

The agencies' preferred alternative calls for a 50-mile road to the mine off the Richardson Highway. This alternative includes public use of the first 23 miles of the road, but the government representatives said Tuesday they wanted comments on whether public access would be a good idea.

None of the speakers said the road should be open to the public during the estimated 10- or 11-year life of the mine.

Public access might only invite problems, said Paul Knopp, speaking for the Delta Regional Economic Development Council.

The road goes nowhere. It goes to a dead end and it seems like it would be very hard to keep tourists from getting up in there into trouble,'' he said. The road would be only one lane in some places.

The development council figures the mine would aid Delta's economy, and suggested a few additions to the Pogo plans, including a 660-foot buffer zone which could not be logged on each side of the road, which is on state land.

More than 60 people attended the Delta gathering. A similar public meeting was being held Wednesday in Fairbanks.

The meetings involve representatives from the state Department of Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The draft EIS includes alternative plans for access to the mine, supplying power and treating runoff water.

The boards of Teck Cominco Ltd. and Sumitomo Metal Mining Co., which own Pogo, are expected to make a decision in September on whether to build the mine.

Construction could take two years and as many as 500 workers. The mine would employ roughly 300.

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