Fairbanks gold development meets opposition

Posted: Friday, October 20, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- True North's owners want to mine its gold now, saying it will boost the company's bottom line while they battle sagging gold prices. But opponents say plans to mine True North and other nearby holdings should be subject to more intense and time-consuming scrutiny before any permit is issued.

''We need the True North mine,'' said Tom Irwin, general manager of Fairbanks Gold Mining Inc. The company owns True North and the Fort Knox Gold Mine.

True North's ore will increase the company's gold per ton rate from .0245 to .32, Irwin said, and boost profits.

A wait will cost the company too much, Irwin said.

''It would mean lost income to the company and less ability to explore and encourage additional growth in the area,'' Irwin said Thursday.

But the potential traffic from moving the ore from True North to Fort Knox, as well as other concerns, have generated opposition.

If Fairbanks Gold plans to make Fort Knox a regional mill for other mines not located on that property, the plan should be reviewed in a federal environmental impact statement, said Mara Bacsujlaky, executive director of Neighborhood Mine Watch.

''Given the scope of the project, that's what is needed,'' Bacsujlaky said.

The Army Corps of Engineers, for now at least, is reviewing the True North Project under an environmental assessment, a study less intensive than an impact statement.

''The Corps normally prepares an environmental assessment first,'' said Corps project manager Victor Ross. The assessment helps the agency determine if an impact statement is needed, he said.

Ross wouldn't say if the Corps is considering an EIS because the agency is still in a public comment period on True North. That period closes Tuesday.

Bacsujlaky and others asked for an extension of the comment period. The Corps denied the extension, saying the public has had sufficient time to comment.

''We've been preparing our comments anyway, so we'll be ready to go on Tuesday,'' Bacsujlkay said.

The Department of Natural Resources also has a comment period that closes Tuesday. Chris Milles, DNR natural resource manager, said the agency has been asked to extend its comment period on the company's request for state permits, but has not made a decision on whether to grant the extension.

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