Kinross Ore Transportation Plan – A Critical Review | Letters
There are some things going on that every Delta Junction resident should be worried about. Kinross, the foreign company that operates the Fort Knox mine near Fairbanks, is developing two new surface mines on leased land near Tok from the village of Tetlin. In public presentations, Kinross says that starting in 2024, they plan to transport 5,000 tonnes of raw ore every day using commercial trucks on our critical public highways between Tok and Fort Knox. This is a distance of 248 miles one way and will require 96 round trips each day (24/7/365) using double trucks and 70 ton, 125 foot long trailers traveling day and night. To put that into perspective, if you park near the Alaska/Richardson Highway, a 125 foot long truck will drive past you every 7 1/2 minutes.
This outrageous proposal effectively converts our public highway system in Alaska into a private ore haul road. This will cause significant safety issues, damage to the road surface and bridges, traveler inconvenience and frustration, and disruption to commerce and security in the Delta Jct. community.
Speaking of safety, driving a set of long double trailers requires skilled and experienced drivers who are used to these roads and weather conditions. To achieve this, Kinross will need to hire at least 150 drivers to operate these trucks. This at a time when the industry is experiencing a nationwide shortage of 80,000 drivers. Even if they find enough drivers, they will be inexperienced and unfamiliar with our Alaskan roads. There’s a reason we don’t see many doubles on our roads in winter: it’s dangerous. We all hang on when we meet a long truck on a snowy day, we are blinded for a few seconds when they pass. Now imagine that you have planned a trip to Fairbanks and it is snowing or there is snow on the roads, a common occurrence in winter. With the Kinross plan, you will share this road to Fairbanks with approximately 40 long double trucks of 125 feet each. You won’t be able to pass them if they’re slow, you’ll have to drive blind when you encounter one, and with what should have been an easy journey, it ends up being very stressful and extremely dangerous. Yes it will be dangerous, if you review the number of accidents along the Richardson Highway with doubles you begin to understand why many trucking companies choose not to operate doubles in the winter.
While all of this is happening, the added weight of these trucks, at 70 tons, will wreck our already overloaded highways; and they will accelerate the deterioration of the Gerstle Robertson and Johnson River bridges. This truck traffic will be on top of the increased military traffic we are already seeing on the roads as well as the normal increase in overall traffic on our old narrow two-lane highways. The Alaska Department of Transportation’s response is to consider building a few more passing lanes in the future. We all know how hard it is to pass a 125 foot long truck; and a passing lane can put you and a few other cars past a truck. After that, you start following again at the leader’s slow speed. The congestion and additional risk of the 208 school bus stops made during the school year will be significant.
The obvious question is why is Kinross doing this? They must have other options for transporting or processing the ore. It should be noted that oil companies built the Alyeska Pipeline to move their crude rather than trucking it and Usibelli Coal uses the Alaska Railroad to move their coal rather than trucking it. The answer is money. It is the cheapest and most profitable way to extract gold from the rich ore body of the Kinross Manh Choh mine. Their options include: 1. Building a processing plant in Tok but this would be expensive, would require a permit and is opposed by the village of Tetlin. Kinross also says the company is concerned about the environmental impact of processing near the mine site, but it appears Kinross is willing to haul all that same raw ore on our critical highways and pose a significant environmental risk to our lands. , our water and our people. the road; 2. Construct a private road with the assistance of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority; 3. Partial financing and lobbying for the extension of the Alaska Railroad from Eielson to Tok, a plan already authorized and justified.
Kinross tells Alaska that this venture will only last two to three years, but that’s not true. If you read mining periodicals, future planning is already underway. In these articles, Kinross and others talk about the vast claims ready for development in the Tanana Valley over the next 30 years and, in their own words, accessible to the public road network. Looks like they’re setting up our public roads as a permanent ore haul route to Fort Knox.
Kinross intends to maximize utilization of the Fort Knox processing plant northeast of Fairbanks. It may be good for Kinross’ bottom line, but it doesn’t benefit the traveling public. Kinross wants to use our highway system as a private ore haul road with little to no investment or consideration for the rest of us Alaskans who depend on these highways for our medical, business, recreational, and access to critical hospital care and the airport. . This proposed transportation plan is not in the public interest and is irresponsible. Our concern is to maintain safe and reliable roads for all Alaskans and visitors to use and enjoy. Kinross must be the responsible good neighbor that the company claims to be and find an alternative for its mining/processing operations that does not negatively impact the citizens of the State of Alaska.
The bottom line is that this proposed transportation plan, and the likely unprecedented use of critical interior Alaska highways as a transportation route for corporate benefit, compromises the health and safety of travelers and does not should not be allowed.
Please join the Advocates for Safe Alaska Highways at [email protected] to help keep our highways safe and convenient for the traveling public.
Karen Cedzo has been in Alaska since 1975 and she and her husband have lived in the Delta region for 36 years.
Bill and Marcia Ward have been in Alaska for 48 years and Delta Jct. since 1999.
Bill Ward has 50 years of experience as a CDL driver, including 125 foot long double trucks.