FAIRBANKS — Wall movement in the Fort Knox mine caused sloughing along the west side wall on Friday, forcing the mine’s operators to shift all projects to another region of the mine.
No one was injured in the sliding, according to the mining company.
Sloughing takes place when debris such as rocks and boulders are knocked from their place and proceed to slide and roll downhill.
The Fort Knox mine, an open pit mine located about 25 miles north of Fairbanks, is owned and operated by the Kinross Gold Corporation and has been in operation for 18 years.
Anna Atchison, a spokesperson for Fort Knox, said the mine has a number of ground sensors that predicted the possibility of movement before it actually occurred, allowing the company to take the necessary precautions.
“We anticipated that there was a potential for it and so we suspended operations in the area,” Atchison said. “So there was no potential for anyone to be in the area at the time it actually did happen.”
Wall movement is common in pit mining, Atchison said, and is therefore something for which the miners prepare. She said Fort Knox has adjusted mining plans in the past to accommodate wall movement, but she said she could not remember the last time such movement caused sloughing at Fort Knox.
Ed Fogels, deputy commissioner for Alaska Department of Natural Resources said he spoke with the mine’s general manager on Sunday. Fogels said his department doesn’t deal with safety issues — those are handled by the Mine Safety Health Administration — but it does regularly visit the mine to perform environmental checks.
Sloughing at a large mine such as Fort Knox is not something he would worry about, Fogels said, since the crews are monitoring ground movement and are generally safety conscious.
The sloughing at Fort Knox wouldn’t be something Fogels would likely send anyone out to look at, he said, and — while he didn’t want to speak for Mine Safety and Health — he didn’t anticipate the sloughing would be bad enough it would send a team out either.
The sloughing occurred in an area of the mine referred to as phase west 7.
Atchison said mining in the pit was moved to another section and not interrupted and has continued since the incident.
Contact staff writer Weston Morrow at 459-7520. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMschools.