Ambler Road draft EIS expected in July

 

Last updated 5/31/2019 at 4:39am

Ambler Mining District Industrial Access Project AMDIAP

Shane Lasley

The Bornite camp is the headquarters for exploration of Trilogy Metals' Upper Kobuk Mineral Projects at the western end of the proposed Ambler Road.

Trilogy Metals Inc. May 20 reported that permitting for the proposed road to provide surface access to the Ambler Mining District is slated for completion this year.

The 211-mile Ambler Mining District Industrial Access Project (AMDIAP), the official name of this transportation corridor, would connect the Ambler Mining District to Alaska's contiguous highway system. This surface access is a key piece of infrastructure needed to begin realizing the vast potential of this minerals-rich region of Northwest Alaska.

Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) is expected to build and maintain the Ambler road and be paid back from collecting tolls from the mines developed in the Ambler District.

This is similar to the arrangement that built the Delong Mountain Transportation System (DTMS), a 52-mile road and port facilities constructed to deliver zinc and lead concentrates from the Red Dog Mine to world markets, which is among the most successful AIDEA- funded projects to date.


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Over the years, the development authority has recouped the US$267 million it invested in building and maintaining DMTS and pays a dividend to state coffers from the profits it gets from ongoing tolls.

AIDEA worked with private investors to finance construction of the DMTS, and the costs of road and port construction were paid back through tolls paid by the mine for use of the road. No state general funds were used to construct the DMTS.

This successful project serves as the model for funding, building and operating the Ambler Road.

AIDEA filed an application for rights of way, permits and other authorizations needed for the Ambler Road in 2015 and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the lead agency for permitting the project, began the Environmental Impact Statement in 2017.

BLM is expected to publish a draft EIS for AMDIAP around July 19, which will mark the start of a 45-day comment period for the industrial road.

Under BLM's current schedule, the final EIS would be completed on Oct. 31 and a record of the decision for the Ambler Road is expected around the end of the year.

"I am extremely pleased at the progress that the BLM has made in permitting the AMDIAP and expect that all the permitting activities should be completed before the end of 2019," said Trilogy Metals President and CEO Rick Van Nieuwenhuyse. "The completion of the federal EIS process for the Ambler Mining District Access Road represents a significant milestone for the company and is a demonstration of what Governor Dunleavy has stated clearly many times: 'Alaska is open for business.'"


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As permitting for AMDIAP enters its final stages, Trilogy Metals and its partners continue to advance the rich mineral deposits at the western terminus of the proposed road.

Earlier this year, Trilogy announced a US$18.2 million work program this year for the Upper Kobuk Mineral Projects (UKMP), an enormous package of state and private lands owned by NANA Corp. that cover most of the Ambler Mining District.

This program includes US$9.2 million funded by South32 Ltd. to continue exploration of Bornite, a large copper-cobalt deposit; US$7 million to carry out work in support of a feasibility for developing a mine at Arctic, the most advanced project in the Ambler Mining District; and a US$2 million program funded by both partners to explore earlier staged deposits and occurrences along the 60-mile-long Ambler Volcanogenic Massive Sulfide Belt covered by UKMP.

As part of the latter program, Trilogy and South32 are just wrapping up district-wide versatile time domain electromagnetic (VTEM) and z-axis tipper electromagnetic (ZTEM) geophysical surveys flown over both the Cosmos Hills, which hosts Bornite, and the entire Ambler VMS Belt, which hosts Arctic. Electromagnetic surveys such as these have been successful in identifying targets and mineralization in VMS districts.


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Data generated by the survey is being processed to identify and prioritize targets for follow up geologic mapping, soil geochemistry and drilling – including on known historic resources previously identified along the belt.

The South32-funded program at Bornite is expected to include: roughly 8,000 meters of infill and expansion drilling at the copper-cobalt deposit; additional metallurgical work to optimize copper recoveries and determine the next steps for the recovery of cobalt; and initial engineering studies to prepare Bornite for a preliminary economic assessment once the 2019 work programs are completed.

At the same time, Trilogy will continue to advance engineering and environmental work in support of completing a feasibility study and preparing the Arctic Project for permitting. This program will include additional hydrological and geotechnical work at the site, along with water management, tailings facility and waste rock containment analysis and design. Additional metallurgical test work to verify ore hardness and grinding characteristics is currently underway.

Trilogy expects to complete the Arctic feasibility study in the first half of 2020.

–SHANE LASLEY

Ambler Mining District Industrial Access Project AMDIAPAmbler Road map

United States Bureau of Land Management

 

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