Manh Choh: volunteer group raises alarm, Kinross cites economic benefit

Published: Nov. 9, 2023 at 7:23 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The volunteer group Advocates for Safe Alaska Highways has raised a series of concerns about the proposed method of hauling ore through the City of Fairbanks, while Kinross Gold Corporation has defended its right to operate and the safety measures being taken by the corporation.

According to Barbara Schuhmann, Spokesperson for Advocates for Safe Alaska Highways, “The state’s cost, if they pay for all of these different improvements and upgrade the maintenance, which will be needed, I mean, it’s approaching a billion dollars, is what it’s looking like, and it’s all because of the ore haul for one private, for-profit corporation.”

Jenny Campbell, an engineer with the organization came up with a potential price tag for road maintenance and bridge replacements of $852 million dollars “for the bridges, additional passing lanes because these trucks, on all the uphills, will slow significantly, and there’s a factor in there, if the trucks slow 10 miles per hour below the speed limit, there ought to be a passing lane.”

While suggesting the construction of a mill at Manh Choh, Campbell says only a small fraction of the ore being hauled is actual gold. “So really, they’re transporting one mountain from the Tetlin region all the way up our public highways to build another mountain of tailings. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Kinross, meanwhile, says the use of the Fort Knox mill sustains the site and its employees. According to Brenna Schaake, External Affairs Supervisor for Kinross, “That’s a positive thing because we are an economic anchor, contributing to things like property taxes, which then pay for the borough’s library, infrastructure, services.”

That’s in addition to jobs at Manh Choh itself, which, according to Kinross, provides skill sets and training to younger workers. “We have our 200 people down here, plus contractors, so it’s bringing in four to five-hundred jobs over the course of Manh Choh.” The corporation also points to $600,000 in community donations.

Finally, in response to feedback from the village of Tetlin itself, Kinross has agreed to construct a living facility in the area for elders in the community.