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FAIRBANKS - A draft environmental impact statement due in January likely will provide the go-ahead for the huge Pogo gold mine near Delta Junction, according to federal environmental regulators.
"It's looking that way," said Bill Riley, mining coordinator for Region 10 of the Environmental Protection Agency. "We still have to go through the public process yet. It hasn't been completely settled."
Teck-Pogo Inc. wants to build an underground gold mine near the Goodpaster River that would employ up to 500 workers during construction and about 300 people for 10 years of production, according to Karl Hanneman, Teck's Alaska regional manager.
The EPA will release a draft environmental impact statement in January, Riley said. The public will have 60 days to review the document.
Riley anticipates the final impact statement will be released three months later. Then there's another 30-day waiting period.
The state's decision on the project will be released as an attachment to the draft EIS, said Ed Fogels, large-mine coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources.
"We've pretty much picked the same road that Teck wants," Fogels said.
Teck-Pogo expected the draft decision a year ago, but ran into water runoff issues, said Teck's Hanneman.
The company has agreed to treat water that runs off the tailings piles, he said. That runoff could turn acidic by interacting with naturally occurring chemicals in the rocks. It would then run into the Goodpaster River.
Even if Pogo gets final government approval, there is one last hurdle. The board of Teck's parent company, TeckCominco, has to approve spending on the project, Hanneman said.
"We start (construction) the day after we get board approval," he said.