Alaska is facing a massive mineral boom, but at what cost? -by Lois Parshley ( – July 26, 2023)

Adusting of snow clings to the highway as Barbara Schuhmann drives around a hairpin curve near her home in Fairbanks, Alaska. She slows for a patch of ice, explaining that the steep turn is just one of many concerns she has about a looming project that could radically transform Alaskan mining as the state begins looking beyond oil.

Roughly 250 miles to the southeast, plans are developing to dig an open-pit gold mine called Manh Choh, or “big lake” in Upper Tanana Athabascan. Kinross Alaska, the majority owner and operator, will haul the rock on the Alaska Highway and other roads to a processing mill just north of Fairbanks.

The route follows the Tanana River across Alaska’s interior, where spruce-covered foothills knuckle below the stark peaks of the Alaska Range. Snowmelt feeds the creeks that form a mosaic of muskeg in nearby Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, a migration corridor for hundreds of bird species.

When Schuhmann first heard about the project about a year ago, she was surprised. Kinross’ contracted trucking company, Black Gold Transport, will use customized 95-foot tractor-trailers with 16 axles, which will weigh 80 tons apiece when fully loaded. These trucks will soon rumble by homes and businesses every 12 minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with trial runs starting this summer.

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