Kinross Developing Gil Project to ‘Feed’ Fairbanks-area Mill With Gold-bearing Ore
Kinross Fort Knox has begun developing a project near the company’s mine and mill north of Fairbanks. Kinross officials say they hope to begin producing ore from the so-called Gil-Sourdough Project by the end of the year and continue mining it through 2023, when the company hopes to begin developing a much bigger project near Tok.
Kinross Fort Knox spokesperson Anna Atchison says the company has been exploring the Gil-Sourdough project since the early 1980s. But she says Kinross officials have decided to begin developing the project now, because gold is fetching nearly $1,800 dollars an ounce, and because the Gil is only about nine miles from Fort Knox, so it won’t require much infrastructure.
“There might be things like a temporary maintenance shop, or a small warehouse, an office – things like that,” she said in a recent interview.
Atchison says Kinross has paid many millions of dollars over the 25 years the Fort Knox mine has been in operation to develop the mine there and expensive infrastructure like its mill and the tailings storage facility, where mine tailings are kept in huge piles after the ore is processed.
“Those are often very high cost, high capital,” she said.
They’re also much more environmentally sensitive. So Atchison says Kinross wants to get as much use out of the Fort Knox facilities as possible, and avoid the need to build them at outlying projects like Gil and the much larger Manh Choh mine near Tok.
“A lot of that is infrastructure that you can utilize bringing ore in from different areas, so you don’t have to build another mill somewhere else, you don’t have to build a tailings facility somewhere else in Alaska,” she said.
That’s why the company plans to develop a large open-pit mine and haul ore from the Manh Choh to the mill, nearly 250 miles away, in tractor-trailer-size dump trucks that will run at the rate of four trucks per hour, every day, for up to five years, beginning in 2024. Atchison says that, and the need to lease office space and recruit workers around Tok, differentiate the two so-called “feeder” projects.
“So, (it’s) similar in the sense that the ore is feeding into the Fort Knox mill,” she said. “But beyond that, there’s a lot of differences between the two.”
Atchison says Gil and Manh Choh are the only feeder projects Kinross is pursuing right now. But, she adds, the high price of gold has opened up new opportunities for the industry.
“There is a lot of exploration going on around Alaska and a lot of exploration going on around the Fairbanks area and this region down in Tok,” she said. “So, that is a key part of our business model going forward, and certainly something we’re open to.”