New era of Alaska gold for Kinross
Mining Explorers 2023 - January 18, 2024
Last updated 1/17/2024 at 11:19am
With an August groundbreaking ceremony celebrating the start of Mining at Manh Choh, Kinross Gold Corp. fully entered into a new era of mining in Alaska that is expected to push Fort Knox gold production up into the 400,000-ounce-per-year echelon, a significant jump over the 291,248 oz recovered at the mine in 2022.
This next phase of mining in the 49th State is being built upon the "Kinross Alaska" strategy; an initiative launched in 2020 to enhance gold production at Fort Knox by supplementing the primarily heap leach-grade ore mined from the immediate property with higher-grade mill feedstock from satellite deposits within a 300-mile "economic radius around Fort Knox."
The Kinross Alaska initiative was officially launched with 2021 start of mining at Gil, a deposit on the Fort Knox property about nine miles east of the mill that hosted 8 million metric tons of probable reserves averaging 0.8 grams per metric ton gold (205,000 oz) gold at the onset of mining.
The grades of deposits that could feed ore into Kinross Alaska mill at Fort Knox are largely dependent on how far away they are– the Gil satellite deposit is likely at the lower end and the 8 g/t gold being trucked 250 miles from Manh Choh is representative of grades required from deposits near the outer edge of the economic radius.
For Kinross, this strategy means that it continues to have ore with the grades to keep its mill operating alongside the heap leach operation, boosting gold output, and maximizing the efficiency at Fort Knox.
For smaller but higher-grade gold projects within the Kinross Alaska radius, this strategy offers a path to realizing the value of deposits without the lengthy and costly process of permitting and building a mill and tailings facility.
With a hungry mill already in place and pits from more than 25 years of mining available to store tailing in, ore mined from Kinross Alaska satellite projects is simply blasted, loaded, and trucked to Fort Knox – more akin to a gravel pit than a metal mine.
Manh Choh gold boost
The shrunken footprint, simpler permitting, quicker development, and increased economics of Manh Choh underscores the brilliance of the Kinross Alaska strategy and what it could mean for the future of gold mining across a large swath of the state.
Being developed under a joint venture between Kinross (70%) and Contango ORE Inc. (30%), the Manh Choh Mine is expected to produce roughly 1 million gold-equivalent oz, which includes the value of both the gold and silver recovered over an initial 4.5 years of mining detailed in a 2022 feasibility study
This operation is based on 3.9 million metric tons of proven and probable reserves averaging 7.88 g/t (998,000 oz) gold and 13.6 g/t (1.7 million oz) silver.
This is more than 10 times higher grade than the current Kinross Alaska mill feedstock, even with the boost from higher-grade ore from Gil.
With the supplemental feedstock from Manh Choh, the gold production at Fort Knox is expected to jump to the nearly half-a-million-oz-per-year category during the currently anticipated 4.5 years of mining at Manh Choh.
"Our commitment to responsible mining stewardship is unwavering, and with the addition of ounces from Manh Choh and Gil, we aim to become a major producer, processing over 500,000 oz annually," Kinross Alaska General Manager Terence Watungwa said during a celebration of the 9 millionth oz of gold poured at Fort Knox.
As Kinross Alaska looks forward to pouring the 10 millionth oz of gold at Fort Knox as early as 2026, it also looks ahead to continuing to be a beacon of responsible mining at Fort Knox and Manh Choh, as well as an economic driver for Interior Alaska and across the Last Frontier.
"Kinross Alaska is dedicated to the state of Alaska, its people, and the sustainable development of our mining operations," Watungwa said. "We are not just mining gold; we are mining the future."
The first gold is expected to be poured from Manh Choh ore in the second half of 2024.