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Vol. 12, No. 52 Week of December 30, 2007
Providing coverage of Alaska and Northwest Canada's mineral industry

MINING NEWS: Barge access plan under review

Redfern proposes air cushion barge towed by ‘Amphitrac’ to access mine; idea being reviewed by governments in U.S., Canada

Shane Lasley

Mining News

Vancouver-based Redcorp Ventures Ltd. said subsidiary Redfern Resources Ltd. is working to complete a public comment period and coastal management plan consistency review in January in hopes of obtaining permits required to access its Tulsequah Chief Mine project from Alaska via the Taku River.

A parallel Canadian federal and provincial environmental assessment process for barge access to the project also is expected to be completed early next year, the company said.

The Alaska permits are for Redfern’s unique plan to use a specially designed air cushion barge and towing vehicle called an “Amphitrac” to transport ore by water from the mine to Juneau, about 40 miles, or 65 kilometers, to the southwest. From Juneau, the company intends to barge the ore to the Skagway Ore Terminal where it can be loaded onto ships bound for smelters in Asia.

The Alaska coastal management plan and consistency review and a 30-day public comment period on the proposal started Dec. 18. A public meeting is scheduled in Juneau Jan. 8. The Alaska coastal management consistency determination is expected Feb. 5.

Untested technology worries some

Environmental groups have raised questions about the proposed use of untested technology for transportation on the Taku, which is southeast Alaska’s largest salmon-producing river.

Redfern contends that using air cushion barges on the Taku is the most environmentally responsible way to access the mine. The company also told Juneau residents that the water route would generate about $2 million a month in additional revenue for the city during the proposed 8-to 15-year life of the mine.

An air cushion barge is similar in appearance to a hovercraft, but it moves in about 18 inches of water rather than over the water. Redfern said air cushion barges are preferred to hovercraft because they are much quieter and can carry heavier payloads. The barges that the company intends to purchase have payloads of 450 metric tons each.

The Amphitrac is a vehicle specially designed for this application. It is an adaption of the Rolligon, a low-pressure ground vehicle used in the oil fields of Alaska’s North Slope. The Amphitrac will be outfitted with an Archimedes screw for water propulsion and to assist it in climbing from open water onto ice, Redfern said.

The company originally considered building a 100-mile-long road from the mine site to Atlin, B.C. After encountering stiff opposition to that plan, Redfern opted to use the air cushion barge technology instead.

Construction continues at Tulsequah

Construction, meanwhile, continues at the mine site. Redfern received a permit to continue work on a road that will connect the Taku River barge landing to the mine. This permit also allows the company to start construction on an airstrip.

Redfern said it expects to have major construction projects under way by the end of the first quarter of 2008, and to be at mechanical completion by January 2009, slightly later than was originally projected due to a delay in obtaining permits.

Redfern also anticipates construction costs will be higher than expected, but said the increases should be offset by a reduction in the cost of capital equipment. One economizing measure was the purchase and refurbishment of a used ball mill.

A 150-person camp, currently being constructed in Tacoma, Wash., is expected to be completed in February and transported to the mine site and assembled in the spring, Redfern said.



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