Alaska's biggest mines: zinc, copper and gold project.

Author:Bohi, Heidi
Position:MINING
 
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As oil production declines, Alaska is turning to the mining industry to help diversify the state's economy and provide different employment opportunities in more than 100 rural and urban communities statewide. Although there are challenges, such as inadequate energy and transportation infrastructure and anti-development initiatives, with five new mines in the last two decades, mining continues to demonstrate that it remains a cornerstone industry.

KENSINGTON GOLD MINE

After litigation brought on by environmental groups delayed construction of the Kensington Gold Mine, located on the east side of Lynn Canal about 45 miles northwest of Juneau, a positive ruling regarding the project's tailing facility now means the developer Coeur Alaska is back on track for completing the tailings facility in question in time to start production in July. This month the company is wrapping up the tailing facility, which is the final step before running initial ore through the plant to test all operations.

Working with environmental groups and agency officials, Coeur developed an alternative plan for tailings placement using paste technology for the tailings facility, which was approved, says Tony Ebersole, director of corporate communications.

Since construction began in 2005, despite the legal challenges, Coeur continued moving ahead on all areas not in dispute, including building the mill and crusher buildings, underground mine development to complete an almost three-mile tunnel connecting Comet Beach with the Jualin side of the project, Slate Creek Cove dock and ancillary facilities.

Kensington is currently expected to have a mine life of approximately 10 years, based on proven and probable gold mineral reserves of 1.5 million ounces concentrated gold, 50,000 of which are expected to be harvested during the first year of production, before ramping up to an annualized level of 125,000 ounces. In addition to the 300 construction jobs, there will be 200 operations jobs and 150 additional indirect positions created, generating $18 million in payroll.

Despite the legal controversy, there has been very strong support from Juneau residents and Alaska Native groups.

"The feeling is that people are really, really supportive of this project," Ebersole says, adding that since the ruling the entire community has come out to support the project.

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