Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, October 21, 2007

Henderson takes helm at Coeur Alaska

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JUNEAU - Idaho-based Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp. announced Friday that Tom Henderson has been appointed the general manager of its subsidiary, Coeur Alaska, and general manager of the Kensington gold mine.

Henderson will replace outgoing general manager Tim Arnold, who oversaw construction of the main tunnel and plant and mill facilities at Kensington.

Henderson has been mine manager at Kensington for the past year. He was previously a mining manager at the Robinson Mine in Ruth, Nev., and also worked at the Goldstrike Mines in Carlin, Nev. He also was the mine manager at the Grasberg Mine, one of the world's largest mines, located in Indonesia.

Henderson has 30 years of mining operations experience, according to a statement from Coeur Alaska.

Construction at the Kensington mine, about 45 miles north of downtown, is more than 90 percent complete. Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp. is one of the world's leading primary silver producers and a growing gold producer. The company has mining interests in Alaska, Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Chile, Nevada and Tanzania.

Two injured when helicopter crashes

ANCHORAGE - Two people were injured Saturday when a helicopter crashed at the Prudhoe Bay oil field during a routine operation.

The pilot and one crew member were cleaning electrical insulators on overhead power lines when the crash occurred at about 12:15 p.m. in the eastern part of the field, according to Steve Rinehart, a spokesman for BP Alaska.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known, he said.

The two were taken to the Prudhoe Bay medical clinic where they were in stable condition with injuries that were not considered life-threatening. Plans called for flying the two to an Anchorage hospital for further treatment later Saturday.

Rinehart said the weather at the time of the crash was good and it was not windy.

The pilot and crew are employees of USA Airmobile Inc., a company that provides insulator cleaning services for BP. Electrical insulators can become coated with grit and sand blown off the beach and river flats of Prudhoe Bay. If they are not cleaned off, they can short out, Rinehart said.

The helicopter has a hot water spray to hose off the insulators.

BP, which operates the Prudhoe Bay field, has contracted with the company for about 20 years, Rinehart said.

"This is proven to be a safe and effective way to do an important job," he said.

The incident was reported to both the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, as well as state officials, Rinehart said.

Educator sentenced on child porn charges

ANCHORAGE - A longtime educator in Alaska was sentenced to three years in prison on child pornography charges after thousands of images and videos were discovered on his computers.

Frederick Deussing, 64, pleaded no contest and was sentenced Friday. He will be on probation for five years when he is released and will have to register as a sex offender.

Deussing had worked in village schools in several parts of rural Alaska and most recently was an assistant principal at Heritage Christian School in Anchorage. He was employed by the Kenai Peninsula School District from 1995 until 2000.

Investigators found no indication that Deussing had molested children, assistant district attorney Trina Sears said Friday.

The images appeared to have been downloaded from the Internet, police said at the time of Deussing's arrest.

The investigation began after a computer technician found child porn on a laptop Deussing had taken in for repair last November.

Anchorage man enters not guilty pleas

ANCHORAGE - Joshua Wade has pleaded not guilty to three federal firearms and contraband charges.

The 27-year-old Anchorage man entered his pleas to being a felon in possession of a firearm, illegal drug user in possession of a firearm and possessing contraband in prison.

He also has been charged with bank fraud for allegedly using the ATM card of Mindy Schloss, an Anchorage nurse whose body was found six weeks after being reported missing Aug. 6.

He has not been charged in her death.

An indictment claims he had .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol in July and August, when he used marijuana. Officials also claim he had pot in jail after his Sept. 2 arrest for bank fraud.

He's next scheduled for court on Wednesday.

Veneer mill increases production, needs time

KETCHIKAN - The veneer mill in Ward Cove is in its fourth week of production.

While it has produced 1 million plus square feet of veneer since it began operations in September, it is not up to full capacity because of unexpected delays.

Jerry Jenkins, president of the Renaissance Ketchikan Group, said each week has seen more productivity but he needs more time before he can pay the borough the $9 million owed under the contract agreed on in May 2006.

"It's taking longer than I anticipated," Jenkins said.

RKG agreed to double interest payments in April after it failed to make interest payments from September 2006 to February 2007. Jenkins has asked for a six-month extension of the $9 million payment deadline, a period during which he would make no interest payments.

RKG has an 18-month certificate of deposit with the borough. It was due to be paid to the borough Nov. 5. RKG made its last interest payment in August, and is $150,000 behind in its double-interest payments, according to borough information.

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly last week postponed voting on foreclosure until its first meeting in November. The Assembly also directed the borough finance director to go over RKG's financial data.

Water quality tests show cleaner Kenai

KENAI - Water quality data from last summer shows an improvement in the hydrocarbon levels in the Kenai River, perhaps due to fewer polluting two-stroke motors.

Robert Ruffner, executive director of the Kenai Watershed Forum, said hydrocarbon levels above the Warren Ames Bridge still exceeded state water quality standards, but they were slightly lower this year than in previous years.

Two teams of scientists from the Watershed Forum and the Department of Environmental Conservation monitored water quality standards at two places on the river. The tests were done at the peak of the season in order to see what the water quality would be like at the highest use period.

"That's pretty good news because we had less water in the river," Ruffner said. "When you have less water there's less water to dilute the hydrocarbons. If (there) would have been more water in the river we wouldn't have exceeded state water quality standards up from the Warren Ames Bridge."

The number of boats on the river hasn't changed since the last time a comprehensive water quality study was done in 2003, but Ruffner said he suspects that the number of hydrocarbons are lower in the Kenai River Special Management Area because there are fewer two-stroke motors on the river.

Scientists reached a peak count of about 720 boats on the river at the same time on a Saturday during the dipnet and sport fishing season.

Jet may have been on wrong frequency

ANCHORAGE - An Air China jet landed without clearance at Stevens International Airport because it may have been operating on the wrong radio frequency, according to Federal Aviation Administration investigators.

To make matters worse, a union officials said a ground radar alarm that should have alerted air traffic controllers to the close call between two 747 cargo planes failed to operate.

"It could have been a lot worse. We were lucky," said Rick Thompson, Alaska vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. "The system is not properly operating. It's supposed to notify the air traffic controllers if there are two aircraft on the runway, but it didn't."

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