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Niblack Mine

Project Status

The Niblack project is in an advanced phase of exploration. Heatherdale is working toward a pre-feasibility study on the economic viability of the project. They expect that the mine could be applying for permits as early as 2013.

Development plans call for processing about 1,500 tons to 2,000 tons per day. Currently Heatherdale has mined about 6,000 feet of exploration tunnels underground and has produced 60,900 cubic yards of waste rock. Twenty to twenty-five percent of this rock is known to be acid producing.

The project will require development of a marine access and barge facility on the adjacent State-owned tide and submerged lands. Other surface disturbances will include an access road from the bay, portal, and waste rock storage and disposal areas and a contained area for acid producing rock. The State of Alaska has proposed an access road to the mine to connect it with the current road system of Prince of Wales. This road would be through the Tongass National Forest, as shown on this map by Ground Truth Trekking.

The company plans to ship the ore from the mine site to a mill built near Ketchikan for concentration. The location of the mill has not been determined. Presumably, the tailings dump will be located near the mill site. The concentrate will be further processed overseas.

It is unclear how the proposed mill will obtain the extensive electrical power and fresh water necessary for operation. It is also unclear how many decades after closure the resulting tailings dump would have to be maintained to protect the water resources around Ketchikan from contaminated runoff.

Conservation Values

Located just west of the mine site is the Kegan Lakes and stream system that is an enormously popular and nationally recognized destination for sport fishing and recreation.  The system supports all the anadromous species of pacific salmon except for kings.  It also supports steelhead, cutthroat and rainbow trout and Dolly Varden.  The Alaska Department of Fish and Game lists the system as one of the “most important” watersheds in SE Alaska for its fisheries values.  Some of the lakes in this system have been identified as possible hydropower sources for the mine.  SEACC nominated this area for inclusion in the Wild and Scenic Rivers system.

In addition, the mine site is located in an area identified by the State Historic Preservation Office as important due to the high potential for undiscovered cultural remains.

For additional information, please contact Guy Archibald at: guy@seacc.org, or at (907) 586-6942.

 

Also see Ground Truth Trekking's Niblack Mine page.

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