Fort Knox gold production drops during Q1
More ore on heap leach pad expected to boost summer output North of 60 Mining News – May 13, 2022
Last updated 5/19/2022 at 2:51pm
Kinross Gold Corp. May 10 reported that its Fort Knox Mine in Alaska produced 54,803 ounces of gold during the first quarter of 2022, which is nearly a 26% drop from the 73,830 oz produced during the previous quarter but only a 2% drop from the 55,815 oz produced during the first quarter of 2021.
A drop in gold production during the first quarter at Fort Knox is an annual event that results from the often-subzero temperatures during the coldest winter days affecting gold recoveries from the heap leach pad at this operation 25 miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Kinross said lower gold grades and mill throughput also contributed to this year's first-quarter drop in gold produced at Fort Knox.
During the first quarter of 2022, the mill at Fort Knox processed 1.85 million metric tons of ore averaging 0.66 grams per metric ton gold, compared to 2.15 million metric tons averaging 0.73 g/t gold processed during the previous quarter.
Crews, however, stacked an impressive 13 million metric tons of ore averaging 0.17 g/t gold on the Barnes Creek heap leach pad at Fort Knox, compared to 8.19 million metric tons averaging 0.19 g/t gold during the final three months of last year.
Considering that the ore stacked on the heap leach pad during the first quarter of this year is nearly double the 7.4 million metric tons averaging 0.20 g/t gold stacked on the pad during the first three months of 2021, the increased gold from the heap leach pad could be even more pronounced than usual as temperatures increase during the spring and summer this year.
The per-ounce cost of Fort Knox gold sold during the first quarter of this year was US$1,276, a 28% jump from the US$996/oz production cost of sales during the previous quarter. This cost increase is mostly due to the lower quarterly gold output. The company, however, said increased costs related to contractors, reagents, power, and fuel were also contributing factors.
Kinross also reported that a feasibility study for developing a mine at Manh Choh, a road-accessible high-grade gold project in eastern Alaska, remains on track for completion by the end of the year.
Located near the communities of Tetlin and Tok, Manh Choh hosts 9.2 million metric tons of measured and indicated resources averaging 4.08 grams per metric ton (1.21 million ounces) gold and 14.19 g/t (4.2 million oz) silver in two adjacent deposits on the project.
With the idea of processing high-grade ore from Manh Choh in the mill at Fort Knox, Kinross paid US$93.7 million to buy a 70% interest in this project from Contango ORE Inc.
Peak Gold LLC, a joint venture between Kinross (70%) and CORE (30%), budgeted US$26 million for the 2022 program at Manh Choh.
Most of this work is in support of a feasibility study that details plans for trucking high-grade ore mined from Manh Choh roughly 240 miles to the Fort Knox mine for processing. Without the need to build a mill and tailings storage facility at Manh Choh, this proposal is considered to be the most economical and environmentally sound option for recovering the more than 1 million oz of gold on lands owned by the Alaska Native Village of Tetlin.
Interior Alaska residents, however, have raised concerns about the safety of having two to four trucks per hour making round trips between Manh Choh and Fort Knox.
Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities is carrying out an independent analysis of the proposal to truck ore along the Alaska and Steese highways that connect Manh Choh to Fort Knox.
A transportation advisory committee that includes representatives from a wide variety of viewpoints is being assembled to participate in the analysis, review the work, and make final recommendations.
This partially assembled committee includes representatives of the communities along the proposed ore haulage route; Interior Alaska Native groups; advocacy groups both for and against the plan to truck ore from Manh Choh to Fort Knox; and state and federal government agencies.
"I do believe we can have both safe highways and resource development," said Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities Commissioner Ryan Anderson. "This transportation advisory committee and the independent Corridor Analysis are good tools to assure the public that we have balanced the needs and have the right plan in place to deal with this, or other future development along our highways."
Kinross expects initial production to begin at Manh Choh by the end of 2024, dependent on a positive decision on the permits applied for last year.