new Division of Mining, Land and Water

TRUE NORTH PROJECT UPDATE

August 1, 2001

HAUL ROAD CONSTRUCTION

The new haul road connecting the True North Mine and the Fort Knox Mill has been completed. The road is to final grade, and all signs have been installed. The Steese Highway Underpass has been completed, and paved. The final surfacing of the designated portions of the new haul road with high-float has also been completed. High-float is a mixture of crushed rock and a binder that forms a durable yet flexible road surface, and will result in lower dust and noise impacts to the nearby residences.

DNR inspectors have conducted over 30 inspections of the True North project area since the authorizations were issued on December 20, 2000.

Are all the vendors and employees now using the new haul road?
FGMI has instructed all vendors and employees to begin using the new haul road as of June 15, 2001. There may still be some incidental use of the Fish Creek access as it is a public road, but FGMI has assured us it is making every effort to route all mine-related traffic onto the new haul road. Also, some vendor/employee traffic may have been routed onto the Fish Creek access while construction and surfacing of the haul road was being completed. DNR has asked FGMI to ensure the return of all vendor and employee traffic to the new haul road.

What will happen to the Fish Creek Road?
FGMI will be grading the portion of the Fish Creek road from the Steese Highway to the Twin Creeks road one more time before maintenance responsibilities are turned over to DOT. DOT will be doing its inspection of this portion of the road on August 2, 2001.

Is the dust from the road toxic?
No, the rock that is being used to surface the new haul road is not toxic, and will not produce toxic dust. The fill material that is being used for surfacing the road is granite from the Fort Knox mine. The granite was analyzed during the initial Fort Knox Mine permitting process and was found to be non-toxic. Also, all the granite is analyzed quarterly, and test results are submitted to DNR and DEC. Further, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has also evaluated the dust from the rock with respect to worker safety, and has found no problems with the material. Finally, this fill material meets or exceeds Department of Transportation standards, and will generate considerably less dust than the schist that both the Fairbanks Creek and the access haul road were constructed from.

The processes at the Fort Knox mill do not concentrate heavy metals in the material used on the haul road, they simply extract the gold from the ore. ADEC believes that the dust generated along the haul road is not unlike dust generated from any other gravel road in the area. The probability of heavy metals being carried to the water table by rain or road watering is not elevated as a result of the haul road. The road was built from materials naturally occurring in the area and previous groundwater sampling in the source area of the material showed no significant contamination due to heavy metal leaching.

How are dust problems being addressed?
FGMI has completed surfacing the haul road with high-float sealant, which should greatly reduce dust problems. If DNR receives reports of excessive dust on the True North haul road, we will inform FGMI and ask them to take measures to reduce the dust. Also, DNR inspectors look for dust problems while conducting periodic inspections of the True North and Fort Knox mines. FGMI will continue to treat problem areas with calcium chloride in addition to watering those section.

ORE HAULAGE

To date, Fairbanks Gold Mining, Inc. has mined about ½ million tons of ore from the True North Mine. This ore has come from the Hindenberg pit, and has been hauled to the Fort Knox Mine mill for processing.

How much ore is FGMI allowed to haul each day?
DNR does not regulate the amount of ore FGMI can haul each day. DNR regulates the environmental effects of the mining and hauling of the ore. Consequently, DNR’s authorizations only address the number of trucks operating and the resulting noise levels, but do not directly limit the amount of ore that FGMI can haul each day.

Whose trucks are hauling ore?
FGMI has a fleet of 9 60-ton trucks that haul ore from the True North Mine to the Fort Knox Mill. DNR has authorized FGMI to temporarily add an additional 10 trucks to their hauling fleet. These trucks are operated by a contractor (Northstar Trucking, Inc.), and must comply with the noise certification requirements of the noise monitoring plan. These additional trucks must also adhere to the DNR noise standards, and the total number of trucks operating at night (7:00 pm to 7:00 am) cannot exceed 9. Only three of the contractor trucks can operate during the nighttime hours.

What is being done about ore spilling from the trucks?
If DNR receives reports that ore is spilling from the ore trucks, we will notify FGMI and request that the spilled ore be picked up and removed. DNR has asked FGMI to ensure that the trucks are properly loaded, and that spillage is avoided to the extent possible.

Reports of improperly loaded trucks and ore spillage onto the public sections of the haul road will also be reported to the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, which regulates commercial vehicles on public roads (including the two sections of haul road that are public). The Department of Transportation & Public Facilities has indicated that they will be conducting inspections of the public portions of the haul road, and the True North trucks hauling on those sections. The FGMI hotline is still available to expedite cleanup.

NOISE MONITORING

Will the noise levels for truck certification be revised?
No, the noise levels for the truck certifications will remain at 82 dBA for both FGMI’s 60-ton trucks and the contractor’s 30-ton trucks at least until the initial noise monitoring has been completed. The main reason that each truck is tested and certified is to give DNR and FGMI a benchmark indication of each truck's performance with respect to meeting the noise standard set in Stipulation #33 of the right-of-way permit for the haul road. The testing will give us a method to monitor each truck to see if maintenance is required to reduce increased noise levels caused by routine wear and tear. The grade of the road at the testing site is not what we are regulating here. What is important to us is that the noise standards at the residences are met as stated in Stipulation #33, and consistent with FGMI's approved Ore Haul Truck Monitoring Plan. The certification noise levels may be re-evaluated after the initial noise monitoring has been completed.

When will the initial noise monitoring be done?
DNR is working with a third party contractor to develop the work plan for the initial noise monitoring at the locations specified in the noise monitoring plan. The noise monitoring should be conducted in early August.

Will the noise standards be applied to all mine-related traffic, including employees and vendors?
No, noise standards apply only to the ore haul trucks. DNR has always maintained that most the existing traffic to Fort Knox would be re-routed to the new road and, with respect to traffic to Fort Knox, the new road would lessen the noise from these sources. By far, the most significant new noise source related to the True North Mine that has potential impact on the local residences is the ore haul trucks. Thus, it is the haul trucks that are regulated in the True North Plan of Operations permit. In addition, it is impractical and unreasonable for DNR to regulate and certify all vehicles used by vendors and employees.

If any member of the public has complaints, comments, or questions about the True North Project, they should contact either DNR (Tom Crafford, 269-8629, tom_crafford@dnr.state.ak.us) or FGMI (Security, 488-4653 x2875).

 


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