Anchorage, Alaska — MININGREVIEW.COM — 19 October 2009 – The world’s biggest zinc mine “’ the Red Dog mine in northwestern Alaska “’is on the verge of growing even bigger, with federal and state approval of a major expansion expected imminently.
Operated by Teck Resources Limited on land owned by the region’s native Inupiat Eskimo people, Red Dog mine will be allowed to start processing ore at a new site that would effectively double the 20-year-old mine’s lifespan under the pending permits.
Since the mine opened in 1989, Teck has processed about 1 million tonnes of zinc and lead annually from ore pulled out of the original Red Dog mine pit. The operation above the Arctic Circle has infused money into the remote region where cash-paying jobs are scarce.
Now Teck and NANA Corporation “’ the Inupiat company that owns the Red Dog property “’ are seeking to expand mining into an adjacent and relatively newly discovered ore body called Aqqaluk.
That expansion “’ contingent on several federal and state permits “’ is needed to keep Red Dog from shutting down in 2011, company officials say.
“We need the ore to continue to provide feed to our plant," said Red Dog manager of environmental and public affairs Jim Kulas. “After 2011, the deposit we are mining now will be totally exhausted
The EPA, after two years of formal review, issued a final report earlier this month saying it planned to approve the Red Dog permit application. “The final permit could be issued as early as December, after a 30-day public-comment period and a 30-day administrative appeals period expire,” said Patty McGrath, the EPA regional mining coordinator managing the review.
Kulas said the wetlands permit was also expected soon, as were associated state and local permits.
“The mine operators hope to start working on the Aqqaluk deposit in early 2010,” he said.
“As soon as we get the authorisation to move into the area, we will,” he added.
Red Dog and its planned expansion, has the backing of Alaska’s political and business establishment. The mine is cited as an Alaska success story, producing income and creating jobs and careers for indigenous residents who might otherwise be impoverished.