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Flu-like virus wallops Pogo crew


Last updated 5/22/2005 at Noon

Construction work at the $320 million Pogo Gold Project near Delta Junction slowed in late April when a gastrointestinal virus plowed through workers at the remote site. The 24-hour bug, which caused nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and vomiting, is similar to noroviruses that have attacked cruise passengers in Alaska waters in recent years, according to state health officials. About 60 percent of Pogo's work force took sick just days after the first victim was reported April 27, said Karl Hanneman, vice president of Alaska affairs for Teck-Pogo Inc.

Workers at the mine are suspected of spreading the illness through poor hygiene while using a self-serve food buffet line at the project's camp site.

Hanneman said May 5 catering facilities would be reorganized to prevent future outbreaks. He also credited education efforts by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the Alaska Department of Health with quickly curbing the outbreak.

Pogo, 85 miles southeast of Fairbanks, is expected to produce 400,000 to 500,000 ounces of gold a year, beginning in 2006. Teck-Pogo plans to develop an underground mine and operate a 2,500-ton-per-day mill. Teck-Pogo is a subsidiary of Teck Cominco Ltd., which owns a 41 percent interest in the Pogo deposit. Co-owners are Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. Ltd., which owns a 51 percent stake, and Sumitomo Corp., with 9 percent interest.


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