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Committee to oversee studies on Kinross ore-trucking plan impacts

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Kinross Gold officials presented plans to haul ore extracted from a mine in Tetlin to the company's mill north of Fairbanks using slideshows during virtual meetings it held for members of communities along the 240-mile trucking route.

DOT forms panel in response to public outcry over prospect of heavy truck traffic along 240-mile corridor

A committee that will help study Kinross Gold’s controversial plan to haul ore from a gold mine in Tetlin to the mill near Fairbanks met for the first time Monday. The diverse panel formed by the state Department of Transportation will represent the concerns and interests of communities and agencies along the 240-mile route.

Twenty-six members of the Transportation Advisory Committee for the Tetlin to Fort Knox Corridor Analysis spent most of Monday’s virtual meeting getting to know each other and the plan for a study that they’ll help develop.

Meeting host Julie Jessen addressed the reason for the committee’s work early-on in the meeting.

“So why is DOT doing a corridor mobility study? Well, we heard from the people!” she said.

Jessen is a planning and public involvement specialist with Anchorage-based CRW Engineering Group. DOT contracted the company to facilitate the long-range study. Jessen says agency officials decided to conduct the analysis and form a committee to oversee it in response to an outcry from the public over Kinross’s plan to run up to 192 heavy trucks every day over the 240-mile route for at least four years, starting in 2024.

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Kinross officials said in January that they plan to route the trucks hauling ore around the Steese Expressway by diverting the big rigs onto the Mitchell Expressway, Peger Road and Johansen Expressway.

“There’s a concern that people have expressed that … they would like somebody to look at a corridorwide plan,” she said.

The corridor extends from Tetlin to Delta Junction on the Alaska Highway, then Salcha and North Pole on the Richardson Highway through Fairbanks on to the Kinross mill near Fox on the Steese Highway.

The committee includes representatives of communities along the route and interest groups opposed to the trucking plan and others that support the mine. It also has emergency services personnel, local, state and federal officials, and members of industry groups, like the Alaska Trucking Association.

“So DOT is looking at this corridor-level study,” she said. “But its role for this project is not to do the study.”

Jessen says that’s because the agency wants to ensure the public will know it’s taking an impartial approach to studying the trucking plan and the public’s concerns about it. She says DOT will contract a company within a couple of months to conduct the study, working with the agency and the committee. DOT Northern Region Planning Chief Judy Chapman says that’s why the agency contracted CRW to begin the whole process.

“The DOT is not driving this, in any stretch,” Chapman said. “We are just a member at the table.”

Committee members raised several concerns during the meeting about the trucking plan, involving safety, air quality, noise, environmental impacts and infrastructure damage. Dave Waldo, who represents a group call Advocates for Safe Alaska Highways, hopes among other thing that Kinross will provide more information than it has so far.

“We’d like to start to see a little bit more detail,” Waldo said. “There’s a lot of things we don’t know, even basic things, like axle configurations for the trucks. Which is obviously something we have to know in great detail to calculate damage to the infrastructure.”

Chapman says committee members will help analyze those and other concerns and help ensure they’re shared with those who can do something about them.

The committee will meet next on May 25 and again in August. More information about it and corridor study is available on the Tetlin to Fort Knox Corridor page on the DOT website.