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Department of Transportation will study Mahn Choh to Fort Knox trucking plan

Passing lanes on the Richardson Highway north of Delta Junction. (Photo by: AK DOT&PF)
Passing lanes on the Richardson Highway north of Delta Junction. (Photo by: AK DOT&PF)

The Richardson Highway between Fairbanks and the Mahn Choh mine near Tetlin will be studied this summer for traffic impacts.

Several people shared concern about the plan for heavily-laden ore trucks traveling the hundreds of miles between the mine, south of Tok, and the milling facility at Fort Knox, just north of Fairbanks on the Steese Highway.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities announced it will perform an independent Corridor Analysis of the route.

“We heard a lot of public concerns about the Tetlin to Fort Knox corridor. And so that's what kind of drove the decision to have this independent corridor analysis and transportation advisory committee.”

That is Danielle Tessen, spokesperson for the Northern Region of the department. She says parameters for the study will be released soon and much may occur this summer.

“We're moving now. For the independent corridor analysis, we're going to bring on a consultant to focus on the Tetlin-to-Fort Knox corridor. And we're going to move quickly with this, so we're going to put that out soon," she said.

The Mahn Choh mine is on land owned by the Native Village of Tetlin and includes an open-pit gold mine. Kinross/Fort Knox owns 70 percent of the lease (as Manager and Operator of the LLC) and Contango ORE has a 30% interest. Production and ore hauling are not expected to start until late 2024.

Kinross has had several community meetings in Fairbanks, Tok and Delta explaining the 24-7 plan that calls for running 2 to 4 double-trailer trucks per hour in each direction along the 240-mile Alcan, Richardson and Steese Highway route between the mine and the mill.

That means mining trucks coming through towns or passing each other every 15 minutes to half hour between the mine and the mill.

DOT&PF has no obligation to intervene in commerce except traffic safety, and Tessen says no specific pressure from opponents or supporters of the trucking plan triggered the corridor study. But earlier (March 8) this month the trucking plan was heard in the legislature by the Joint House Transportation and Resources Committee. They heard from Kinross Ft. Knox vice president and general manager Jeremy Brans, and Tetlin’s Chief, and members of an ad-hoc group called Advocates for Safe Alaska Highways.

The department's new Transportation Advisory Committee is supposed to participate in the analysis, review the work, and make final recommendations.

The announcement said the committee pull from “a wide variety of viewpoints,” from groups supporting mining jobs or who might be impacted by the increased traffic, noise and road wear, mining advocates; Alaska Native tribes along the highway, other local government representatives.

“We have invites for that committee going out now.”

The Transporation Department will support the group by providing resources as requested.

The agency has a new website for the trucking plan: Users can subscribe to updates about the mine trucking plan.

(Editor's note: Kinross/Fort Knox is a KUAC sponsor.)