By Sarah Hurst
For Mining News 

New manager adds personnel at Nixon Fork

Cliff Nelson has worked at large and small mines in the United States and overseas, but is happy returning to remote site in Alaska


Last updated 5/27/2007 at Noon

Alaska's newest mine has a new general manager, just a few months after shipping its first gold doré. Cliff Nelson, 51, replaces William Burnett at Nixon Fork, a historic underground mine near McGrath. Burnett first worked at Nixon Fork as a mine geologist from 1995 until it shut down in 1999. He returned a couple of years ago as general manager with Mystery Creek Resources, a subsidiary of Ontario-based St. Andrew Goldfields, hoping to see the refurbished mine through to commercial production.

Neither Burnett nor Nelson would comment on the reasons for Burnett's departure. Nixon Fork is now undergoing an expansion, Nelson told Mining News. A carbon-in-leach circuit is being added to the mill and the number of underground miners per shift will be increased from about five to 13. Nelson has created other new positions and hasn't had much trouble filling them, he said. Kris Alvarez, who was previously at Pogo gold mine, will start at Nixon Fork soon as a senior geologist, and there will also be a new senior accountant.

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About 70-80 percent of Nixon Fork's employees are from Alaska, according to Nelson. Many are locals from nearby villages such as McGrath and Nikolai - among them mill operators, mechanics, underground miners, an exploration driller, a carpenter and employees of contractor Chiulista Camp Services. The only other contractor currently active at the site is Procon, which provides underground miners, Nelson said.

Size of camp will be increased

The size of the camp at Nixon Fork will be increased to accommodate 80 people instead of the 50 it was originally built for. More underground equipment is also being purchased, including muckers and a truck. The mine has produced about 5,000 ounces of gold since operations began in January, mostly in the form of concentrate, Nelson said. The next step will be to dredge the existing tailings and put them through the carbon-in-leach circuit. The tailings will then be dry stacked, probably before the end of this summer, and the tailings pond will be reclaimed, with no more tailings going into a pond.

Nelson came to Nixon Fork as mill superintendent last December and was recently promoted to general manager. His most recent previous jobs were as mill manager at BHP Billiton's Robinson mine in Nevada, and various positions at BHP's Superior mine in Arizona. Before that he was general manager of the Bema gold dredge at Nome, Alaska, for two summers. So why Nixon Fork? "I finally got to a point in my life where I could take a camp job," Nelson said. "And I wanted to come back to Alaska."

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