FAIRBANKS (AP) -- NovaGold, the company that hit it big when it identified 23 million ounces of gold in Southwest Alaska, is progressing quickly to develop the find.
NovaGold Resources will know by next spring many of the details on how it will mine at least 18 million of those ounces. The company also is finishing $8 million of exploration this fall that could identify more gold at Donlin Creek, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
''You don't bump into the 22nd largest mine in the world every day,'' NovaGold President Rick Van Nieuwenhuyse said.
Van Nieuwenhuyse and other NovaGold officials planned to host a group of investors Tuesday at the mine, located north of Crooked Creek, a small Athabascan and Eskimo village on the Kuskokwim River.
The company has said 18 million ounces could be economically mined if gold stays at $300 an ounce or more. The gold is locked into hard rock that will have to be crushed.
Van Nieuwenhuyse is considering a gold processing operation similar to the one used by Fairbanks Gold Mining Inc., which operates the Fort Knox and True North mines.
Fairbanks Gold uses a cyanide/carbon system that leaches and strips gold particles from crushed gold-bearing rock.
NovaGold plans to add a step to get rid of sulfides, which lace their ore, Van Nieuwenhuyse said. NovaGold is looking at other methods such as having an underground mine, he said.
The method the company ultimately will settle upon will be included in a study to be released in the spring, Van Nieuwenhuyse said. The study will establish the work flow of the mine, from mining the hard rock, moving it to a mill system and stacking waste rock.
NovaGold believes it can produce 1 million ounces of gold a year and could mine for two decades. By comparison, Fairbanks Gold produces about 440,000 ounces, and its mines have a lifespan of at least another decade. The company will begin the state and federal permitting process next year after its study is released, Van Nieuwenhuyse said.
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