Two mines in Alaska’s Interior have recently been recognized for their efforts in mine reclamation and safety. Ajax Mining Alaska was awarded the state of Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ 2019 Excellent Mine Reclamation Award on Wednesday. Kinross Fort Knox was awarded the National Mining Association’s Sentinels of Safety Award in October, after completing 1.5 million hours of injury-free work in 2018.

Ajax Mining Alaska was given its award on Wednesday at the Alaska Miners Association convention in Anchorage. Ajax Mining is a placer gold mining operation located in the Fortymile Mining District. The reclamation award was presented by Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Fiege.

Ajax has mined in the Walker Fork drainage since 2008. The operation’s mining method involves removing layers of earth and replacing them continuously throughout the mining process. The company keeps topsoil and uses it to create a “rough ground texture that helps plants grow and retains water.” Additionally, according to a Natural Resuorces press release about the award, Ajax’s stream reclamation work, including the creation of wetlands and berms in floodplains, is “excellent” and encourages revegetation.

The release passed on a message given to Ajax owner Kim Ferguson by Feige in a letter informing him of the award. “Your mining and reclamation activities in the area is a fine example of utilizing, developing and maintaining resources all while adhering to the principles of sustained yield and proper stewardship,” Feige wrote.

The news release said the operation earned the reclamation award for its “successful reclamation practices.” Specifically, Ajax “has worked hard to promote the stability and regrowth of established native vegetation, exerting significant effort to restore mined land back into the surrounding valley.”

Feige’s letter went on to say, “(DNR) wishes to thank you for your responsible custodianship of Alaska’s resources and congratulate you as a most deserving recipient of this award.”

Kinross Fort Knox

A statement from Kinross Fort Knox’s External Affairs Manager Anna Atchison attributed the mine’s successful record to its safety program, called “SOS,” which stands for “See It, Own It, Solve It.” The SOS team leads went to Washington, D.C., along with Kinross leadership to attend the award ceremony on Oct. 21.

To qualify for the Sentinels of Safety Award, a mine site must go a minimum of 4,000 hours without a single lost-time injury. Fort Knox’s 600 employees went 1.5 million hours with no lost time accidents in 2018. According to Atchison, 2,900 mines qualified for the award. Only 20 mines across the nation were recognized.

The Sentinels of Safety Award was started by Herbert Hoover in 1925, prior to his presidency, when he was Commerce Secretary. Hoover was a former mining engineer. According to the NMA website, the Sentinels of Safety Award is “the nation’s most prestigious awards recognizing mining safety.”

In a National Mining Association news release, Rich Nolan, NMA president and CEO said, “Safety is not just a top priority — it is the foundation that supports everything else in our industry. The Sentinels of Safety Award acknowledges outstanding achievements in safety and serves as a reminder that even the best safety programs require constant attention and awareness.”

Contact staff writer Cheryl Upshaw at 459-7572 or find her on Twitter: @FDNMcity.