FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Rock piles left behind in a valley north of Fairbanks were nearly sterile after 100 years of mining, and waterways had no fish.
Then Fairbanks Gold Mine Inc. sought to open the Fort Knox Mine, promising to restore the environment as it worked the claim.
Now a million arctic grayling fry live in a new pond and its channel. Moose have flocked into the valley to graze the new greenery, and a wolf pack has moved in.
This week, the company got an award for its restoration efforts. Also honored for the project was the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The awards were presented this week by Pat Pourchot, commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, at the Alaska Miners Association convention in Anchorage.
The award is proof that private industry and government can work together, said Fairbanks Gold general manager Tom Irwin.
''It really was a cooperative effort between Alaska Fish and Game and Fairbanks Gold Mine,'' he said.
The award was the first reclamation award given to a government agency instead of a mining company or operator, Pourchot said.
Pourchot also recognized Kvaerner Environmental for its reclamation and closure of the AJ Gold Mine in Juneau.
The commissioner said there's been a big increase in mining claims in recent years. Last year, 12,793 claims were filed, a whopping increase from the 2,000-3,000 filed annually in the 1980s, he said.
Pourchot also told the miners his department has changed the way claims are staked, recorded, paid for and handled. As a result, the department has only a two-week backlog of filed claims in its computer system, he said.
The department is developing a permit process for large mines.
''We're currently working on True North and Pogo,'' he said. ''We're happy with (the process) because we have been able to develop good working relationships early on in the process, and frankly, resolve problems that won't boil up into litigation down the road.''
The miners conference ends Friday.
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