The Australian mining company exploring gold prospects in a remote area of the western Matanuska Susitna Borough has discovered almost 10 million ounces of gold in two separate deposits.
If a mine is ultimately developed it would be an economic anchor for a 100-mile industrial road planned to be built to the area, the West Susitna Access Project.
Tolls paid by the mining company will pay for the road, which is being developed by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, the state development corporation.
NovaMinerals Ltd. reported in early February that it is now working on a plan for a “starter pit,’ an initial mining area, at the RPM deposit, one of two major prospects being explored.
The second prospect, Korbel, is north of RPM and in a north-south corridor of about 35 miles.
Both prospects are west of Skwentna and about 130 miles northwest of Anchorage. The “Whiskey Bravo” airstrip is near the project area and is used for support for an all-year camp.
The prospects are also near the route of a proposed natural gas pipeline that could be built to the proposed Donlin Gold mine is near the NovaGold prospects, which means that natural gas could be used to generate power.
The area is highly mineralized, NovaMinerals said, with 21 identified gold deposits.
Most of the 9.6 million ounces discovered are what minerals geologists called “inferred,” meaning that the gold is known to be there but more exploration is needed to confirm it.
However, 3 mlllion ounces are in what geologists label as the “indicated,” category, meaning more test drilling has been done to confirm the resources.
The three million ounces of indicated gold are at the RPL deposit at the southern end of the prospect area where NovaMinerals is planning its initial mining pit. The larger accumulation is in the Korbel deposit.
NovaMinerals said it will be publishing updated resource estimate based on 2021 drilling, so the numbers will increase. In addition, another prospect has been discovered in the nearby “Stony” prospect, which is “poly-metallic” in containing several metals, in this case gold, silver and copper.
The company is also now planning a “slurry” pipeline from RPL to the larger Korbel deposit where NovaMinerals would build its ore processing plant. Unlike a pipeline built mainly to transport liquid, like crude oil, a slurry pipeline moves solids typically mixed with water.
AIDEA’s plan for the road is modeled in the authority’s project in the late 1980s to build port and road infrastructure for the Red Dog Mine, which is now the world’s largest zinc mine.
The investment in the road and port have long since been paid off, and the continuing tolls paid by the Red Dog operator, Teck Alaska, are a major source of profits for the state authority.
If built, the NovaMinerals mine would similarly be a major economic boost, adding to the Matanuska Susitna Borough tax base. The borough needs new industrial property to help spread the local tax burden, which is now borne mostly by residential home owners.
The mine would also be a source of employment as well as new sales for businesses in the borough, much like Kinross Gold’s Fort Knox Mine near Fairbanks is a major employer and the largest taxpayers in the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
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