Fairbanks mining employment drops

Posted: Monday, June 18, 2007

FAIRBANKS- Mining employment in Fairbanks slipped the first three months of the year, the result of the end of construction at the Pogo gold mine near Delta Junction, officials said.

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The average number of mining and natural resources jobs in Fairbanks fell 14 percent in the first quarter of 2007, according to federal labor statistics. The dip five consecutive years of first quarter growth. Preliminary figures show a recovery in the second quarter of 2007.

The end of the Pogo mine construction late last year led to the decline in jobs for the last quarter of 2006 and the first quarter of 2007, said Rich Hughes with the Alaska Office of Mineral Development.

"There's no major project that will take the place of Pogo right now," he said.

The estimated 800 industry jobs in the area in January represents the lowest monthly total since February 2003. It also represents a 20 percent decline from January 2006 figures.

Monthly employment figures rose to 900 jobs for both February and March, but those months represented a 10 percent loss from the same period in 2006.

Statewide, mining and natural resources employment in the first quarter of 2007 rose slightly more than 16 percent from the same period last year. That growth is expected to continue if construction begins on the Chuitna Coal project in the Beluga Coal Field near Cook Inlet, the Donlin Creek project between Bethel and McGrath and the Pebble project outside Lake Iliamna.

Lower metal prices five years ago forced many mines to shut down or merge, creating a highly competitive job market. With metal prices now reaching record peaks, highly qualified applicants are in great demand again.

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