The company that runs the largest mine in Alaska, confronted with a pit mine nearly depleted of ore, began prepping a next-door deposit on Thursday despite some uncertainty over its federal water pollution discharge permit.
Teck Resources hopes to break into ore late this year or early next at the Aqqaluk Deposit of zinc, lead and silver at the Red Dog Mine site near Kotzebue, said Jim Kulas, the company's environmental and public affairs manager. Mining the site could breathe decades of life into Red Dog, which is expected to run dry late next year.
Kulas said the new pit is close enough to the existing mine that their perimeters will eventually connect. The existing pit is about one mile across by two-thirds of a mile, and the new one will be about the same size, he said.
"We will fill the existing pit with the waste materials out of the new pit and cover it, re-vegetate it, and make it a natural landform. So there will only be one pit at the end of the day," Kulas said.
Teck in March received a wetlands permit from the Army Corps of Engineers allowing it to begin excavation in the new deposit, Kulas said. It will take about a month and a half to establish roads and other infrastructure at the site; then it could take most the rest of the year to remove soil and get down to ore-bearing rock, he said.
The mine is a main source of jobs and tax revenue in Northwest Alaska, and because a Native corporation -- NANA Regional Corp. of Kotzebue -- owns the property, the mine profits are shared with other Native corporations across Alaska under federal law. At least nine organizations in the Northwest Arctic have passed resolutions in support of new permits to allow Red Dog's expansion.
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