Pogo Mine

Pogo mine. near Delta.

Australia-based Northern Star Resources expects to produce 220,000 ounces to 250,000 ounces of gold at its underground Pogo Mine east of Fairbanks in the company’s current fiscal year, which began in July.

That is an increase from 204,000 ounces produced last year.

The company is now working toward a goal of 300,000 ounces in annual production that it plans to achieve next year.

Pogo is an underground mine, meaning that its ore body is reached through adits, or tunnels, which allow access for equipment and mine employees, and for the ore to be moved out of the mine to a nearby processing mill where gold is removed from the ore, essentially leaving rock as a waste product.

Now the only underground mine in Interior Alaska Pogo produces ore from three underground ore deposits. The company is exploring for more gold deposits in the immediate area which could be reached by expanding its underground infrastructure.

Pogo is notable for its paste backfill system where about 20 percent of the mine’s tailings from which gold has been extracted are mixed with cement and then pumped back underground to support further excavation.

This has the additional environmental benefit of reducing the amount of tailings that need to be stored on surface, minimizing the footprint of the mine’s tailings storage facility

Northern Star Resources has also expanded its workforce to 525 employees, up from 320 prior to Northern Star’s purchase of the mine from Sumitomo Heavy Metals, a Japanese company that originally discovered the gold at Pogo and developed the mine.

The company has also expanded its workforce to 525 employees, up from 320 prior to Northern Star’s purchase of the mine from Sumitomo Heavy Metals. There is no current information available on wages paid in Alaska but when Pogo employed 320 a few years ago its workere earned about $44 million a year, according to information on the Alaska Miners Association website.

Pogo is east of Fairbanks and northwest of Delta Junction and its discovery was interesting to geologists because it was in a remote area where a major minerals find was considered unlikely.

The mine is now reached from a 50-mile private industrial road from the Richardson Highway, which connects Delta and Fairbanks. Resource development industrial roads can be politically sensitive in Alaska because public access to lands can lead to environmental damage.

In developing the mine Sumitomo opted to build and pay for it mainly so that access could be controlled and limited to industrial use. The company made a special allowance, however, for owners of recreation cabins in the Goodpaster River area who are given special rights to use the road.

The higher gold production at the mine is now made possible by a $36 million capital project that has just been completed. Improvements at the mill allow more ore to be processed, which results in more gold production.

In addition to Pogo’s employees there are about 150 contractor workers engaged at the mine.

The company has a $55 million capital budget for this year that includes some expenses for the mill upgrade as well as improvements to the underground and surface infrastructure.

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