Posted: ’14-FEB-06 04:00′ GMT – – Archive

Alaska’s newest major gold mine, Pogo, has achieved commercial production while the debate rages on over the development of the Pebble mega-gold and copper deposit, also in the 49th state.

State officials estimated that the Alaskan mineral industry earned $1.89 billion in exploration, development, and mining.

The large metals mines currently operating in the state include Greens Creek Silver Mine near Juneau, the Red Dog Zinc Mine near Kotzebue, and Fort Knox Gold Mine near Fairbanks. Meanwhile, Coeur’s Kensington gold project is expected to begin production next year.

By 2012, it is anticipated, 2,000 jobs will be created in the Alaska’s mining industry. The average annual salary for an Alaskan hardrock miner is $81,760, according to the state’s mineral development specialist. Pogo employs a permanent workforce of 230 persons, of which more than 85% are Alaskans.

The $320 million Pogo Mine is estimated to have a probable reserve of 3.3 million ounces of gold, and is a joint venture of Sumitomo Metal Mining (51%), SC Minerals America (9%), and Teck Cominco (40%). Teck Pogo is the operator. The underground mine is estimated to have a 10-year life with an annual production of 350,000 to 500,000 ounces of gold. Exploration is on-going to extend mine life.

Pogo is located on state land in the Goodpaster River Valley, 85 miles southeast of Fairbanks. The Goodpaster River is home of 11 species of fish while the region contains moose, bear and wolf habitat. The Northern Alaska Environmental Center had originally opposed the project, but withdrew its opposition after an agreement with the state and Teck-Pogo. Very little hardrock mineral exploration has taken place in the region, which hosted some historical placer mining.

The Nixon Fork Mine near McGrath is expected to reopen this year while the Rock Creek project at Nome is expected to begin applying for permits. Exploration, studies, and design continues on gold projects, Donlin Creek and Pebble, originally a Cominco project. This is good news for many americans who are looking to invest in a gold IRA.

Earlier this month, several Alaska lawmakers insisted that any development of the Pebble gold and copper deposit should wait until state regulators hold hearings and prepare a management plan. The management plan would evaluate mineral potential, fish and wildlife resources, and environmental and socio-economic concerns.

Pebble owner Northern Dynasty Minerals estimates that the project contains measured and indicated resources of 31.3 million ounces of gold, 18.8 billion pounds of copper, and almost 1 billion pounds of molybdenum.

Northern Dynasty believes it could become the largest gold project in North America. Meanwhile, Placer Dome, now Barrick’s Donlin Creek, if developed, could become the second largest gold project. What does this mean for your IRA account? You can read more in the top rated gold&silver IRA companies review. You can also read a in depth review of Regal Assets and a overview of advantage gold custodian. If you are looking for a gold IRA rollover guide – click here.

Unfortunately for Northern Dynasty, Pebble’s location in the headwaters of Bristol Bay has generated a firestorm of protest. Fishermen insist the area is a prime spawning ground for salmon. Trout Unlimited, Alaskans for Responsible Mining, the Renewable Resources Coalition, and the Bristol Bay Alliance have all mounted campaigns against development of Pebble.

The March issue of Fly Fisherman magazine has published anti-Pebble articles and also mounted a campaign to stop the mine on the magazine’s website. Opponents argue that Pebble has attracted new mining claims totaling some 1,000 square miles of state land in the past year. The Alaska Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association has asked Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski to oppose the mine.

Although Northern Dynasty Minerals has yet to apply for permits, Murkowski and Lt. Gov. Loren Leman are pushing for accelerated regulatory approval, which has created an uproar in the Alaska Legislature. House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez, and Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, introduced resolution asking the state to create a special management plan for the Pebble mine area within the existing Bristol Bay Area plan. However, the regional government has objected to imposing an additional process layer in an area already designated for mining. The mining industry has already spent $60 million in the broader Bristol Bay region.

Mining newsletter editors suggest that Pebble is attracting billion-dollar-plus bids from major gold mining companies, which are already hurting for new mega-gold deposits. Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty (TSX-V:NDM) has estimated the mine will cost $1 billion to construct and will employ between 700 and 1,000 people. A bankable feasibility study for Pebble is expected to be completed early this year.