FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A mining company has buckled under public pressure and now wants to build a $1 million Steese Highway underpass. Fort Knox Mine had proposed allowing its ore trucks to cross the highway about every four minutes to take boulders from True North, a mine the company wants to bring into production.
''It was just an argument we thought we just weren't going to win,'' said Bill Jeffress, Fort Knox environmental services manager.
The plan calls for ore trucks running beneath the highway. The grade of the highway will not change at the crossing point.
Road construction will occur this winter if government permits are issued by the end of October or beginning of November, Jeffress said. A bypass road will be built while work on the Steese is taking place, he said.
The new underpass, to be built before Cleary Summit, will include ramps from the Steese Highway to be used as the main entrance and exit for Fort Knox mine employees and service trucks, Jeffress said.
Some Cleary Summit residents and business owners don't like the route Fort Knox has chosen to transport ore from True North to the Fort Knox mill.
''The preferred route goes very close to the Cleary Summit subdivision,'' said Chuck Johnson, who owns Cleary Summit Bed and Breakfast with his wife, Margaret. ''Since our primary business is aurora watching, we're very concerned.''
Johnson said the noise and lights of a round-the-clock operation will hurt his business. Fort Knox officials have said they won't change the 24-hour work schedule because it would be costly and the noise and light impact will be negligible.
True North is expected to mine about 180,000 ounces of gold over three years and employ about 110 people. Fort Knox is hoping to start mine construction and operations by the fall.
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