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Pogo Gold Mine

Last Modified: 27th May 2013

Pogo Mine aerial view

Aerial view of the Pogo Mine

source: Copyright held by photographer

Summary

The Pogo Mine is a large gold mine located in Interior Alaska, which produces around 400,000 ounces of gold per year.  This mine is one of the largest producers of mining waste in Alaska, and one of the largest mercury polluters in the country.

Mine Information

Pogo Mine began production in 2006 with an anticipated operating life of 10 years.  However, this operating life has been extended by the exploration of nearby deposits.  The mine employs around 300 people and is the most productive gold mine in Alaska.  The Japanese-based Sumitomo Metals Mining Co. Ltd. has owned and operated the mine, since Canadian-based Teck Resources Limited sold out their share in the project in 2009.

The underground gold mine is located about 85 miles southeast of Fairbanks, and 38 miles northeast of Delta Junction.   Pogo Mine receives electrical power (around 14 MW) from the regional grid and is connected to the state road system which it uses to transport gold dores off-site for further processing.

Pogo Mine Tailings Facility

The "dry stack" tailings facility at Pogo Mine, Alaska

source: Copyright held by photographer

Environmental Concerns

According to the EPA’s "Toxic Release Inventory (TRI)", Pogo Mine is the fourth-largest producer of mining-related toxic waste in Alaska (behind Red Dog Mine, Fort Knox Mine and Greens Creek Mine). Pogo mine is one of the 10 largest producers of mercury waste in the US and the mine uses cyanide for purification of the gold.
The mine expects to produce over 11 million tons of mine tailings waste over it's operating lifetime.  Half of the tailings are placed back into the mine, and the other half into a dry stack tailings pile in a nearby creek. An estimated 10% of the tailings contain leftover cyanide and are mixed with cement before going back in the mine.  As with the Kensington Gold Mine, the decision by the EPA to allow the placement of "non-hazardous" mining waste into a natural water body prompted an outcry by environmental groups.  In this case a settlement was reached that allowed deposition of the tailings in the creek, but required extensive water and fish monitoring by the mine. The EPA required Teck to form a "Pogo Stakeholders Group" composed of representatives with an interest in Pogo Mine, including hunting, fishing, conservation, and local residents.  This group regularly reviews environmental practices at the mine.

Acid mine drainage was not predicted to be a problem at the Pogo Mine due to the high neutralization potential of the surrounding rock, and has not been detected to date.  However, it should be noted that in many cases acid generation can take years to develop, and in the event of acid production at Pogo, the reclamation bond posted by the mine would be seriously inadequate for continued water purification and monitoring.  

Exploration:
2010Extensive exploratory drilling program consisting of 76 surface holes and 35 underground holes. Also airborne surveys, aerial photography, geophysical surveys, and soil sampling.
2011Large drilling program (underground and surface) consisting of 68 drill holes in total.
2012Extensive exploratory drilling to expand the reserve.
2014Extensive ongoing exploration in three seperate zones.  $17 million exploration program.

See also further details on this exploration or our interactive map of exploration in the state.

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Attribution and Copyright info

By David CoilElizabeth LesterBretwood HigmanGround Truth Trekking

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Date Created: 5th July 2010