The Delta Junction City Council recently received an update concerning the proposed Kinross Manh Choh mining project in Tetlin.
Normally a project like this, over 100 miles away, would not be of concern to the Delta Junction community, however some aspects of this project could affect the local community for up to four years or longer.
Anna Atchison, the manager of external affairs for Kinross Alaska addressed the Council via telephone to provide updates concerning the project.
Atchison explained that they are still in the permitting phase of the operation with an expected start of physical mining activity in early 2024.
Originally the Kinross Manh Choh mining project was planning to have an ore processing and tailings storage facility constructed on the mine site. Construction of a processing facility of this kind can be costly and carries many environmental concerns that would need to be navigated.
Kinross has decided to instead not construct an onsite ore processing facility. The plan has changed to mine the ore in Tetlin and then haul it to their operation at the Fort Knox Mine located east of Fox.
Hauling the ore from the Tetlin site will now bring the gold bearing ore trucks through Delta Junction.
It is expected that there will be four trucks driving north from Tetlin to the Fort Knox mine and four trucks driving south and returning to the Tetlin mine every hour, twenty-hours a day.
This means there will be an additional 192 trucks rolling through Delta Junction daily.
The Council voiced some concerns about how this increase in commercial traffic could impact school buses, school bus stops, normal traffic flow through Delta Junction including school buses turning onto the highway where lane speed is up to 65 mph, and the anticipated vehicle breakdown.
Other concerns touched upon the added impact the increase in traffic will have upon the roadway and the ever-aging bridges.
Concerns about the post-COVID seasonal vacation travel returning to more normal levels coupled with the anticipated increase of commercial mine traffic and planned military exercises could create an interesting traffic situation from Delta Junction to Fairbanks.
According to Ryan Anderson, Northern Region Director for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, during the past winter Kinross approached the DOT regarding their plans and to begin the discussions regarding the potential impacts a project of this type could have on the highways and some of the mitigation efforts that might be necessary.
Anderson did say that the mining company is still working on the details regarding their hauling operations, and that there will be more discussions when more details are available.
Anderson added that, “DOT&PF has several projects in the works as part of previously planned improvements on the Richardson Highway between Fairbanks and the Richardson Highway that will improve the conditions.”
The addition of passing lanes between MP 299 and MP302 is currently planned to begin during summer 2022.
Additional passing lanes are planned but work will be based on construction funding.