State gives final approval to True North gold mine

Posted: Wednesday, December 20, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The state has approved a $30 million gold mine named True North for development near Fairbanks.

Approval came after addressing neighborhood concerns about traffic safety and lights from mining interfering with local aurora-viewing businesses, said Pat Pourchot, state commissioner of Natural Resources.

The developer, Fairbanks Gold Mining Inc., can start Jan. 20, Pourchot said. ''We are anxious to begin work,'' said Tom Irwin, general manager of Fairbanks Gold.

The company is owned by Kinross Gold Corp., a Toronto-based mining company that runs the nearby Fort Knox gold mine.

The company intends to produce about 180,000 ounces of gold per year over three years. That would make the mine one-half to one-third the size of Fort Knox.

Some 10,000 tons of ore would be trucked daily to Fort Knox, making the mill at that big Interior mine more efficient.

True North will support more than 100 jobs, state officials said.

Kinross hopes to develop other area deposits as satellite mines to its Fort Knox operation, similar to the way the oil industry has developed satellite fields near the huge Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk fields on the North Slope.

The development had been mired in controversy through the summer and fall. Residents testified at public hearings about safety hazards of ore trucks crossing the Steese Highway at an expected rate of one truck every four minutes, 24 hours a day.

Pourchot said Fairbanks Gold has agreed to build a $1 million underpass at the highway crossing. Only mine traffic will be able to use that road.

Two nearby aurora-viewing businesses expressed concern that lights and noise from the mine and trucks would cost them customers.

Fairbanks Gold moved the road away from the businesses, and the state is requiring that no direct lighting from the trucks can shine at the nearby residences, Pourchot said.

Fairbanks Gold also will install better mufflers and meet state noise standards, he said.

The open-pit mine will affect 313 acres, of which 68 already have been disturbed by mining, the commissioner said. The state and the state's Mental Health Trust own most of the True North land, Pourchot said.

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