Ester Dome morning

Morning on Ester Dome. 

A private Australian company has applied to a state agency to lease roughly 10,200 acres in the greater Fairbanks area for potential mineral exploration at Ester Dome, Murphy Dome and the Cleary Summit area.

The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority published a public notice on June 25 about its intention to “complete a mineral lease of certain trust land to Felix Gold Alaska Inc.” The three sites are within the Fairbanks Mining District. 

The public is invited to submit written comments on the proposal, which are due July 30. People can email comments to mhtlo@alaska.gov

“It's a historic mining area,” said Rep. Grier Hopkins of Fairbanks, noting he grew up near the Ester Dome. “But the area has grown since then with a lot of new homes and businesses. I want to make sure the process plays out, and we listen to the public.”

Millrock Resources Inc., with headquarters in Canada, assigned its option rights in January to Felix Gold, the Australian-based company. Millrock will continue as operator for exploration, on behalf of Felix Gold.

Exclusive right to explore 

The trust authority, a state corporation, is the property owner with a trust land office that manages an endowment for raising revenues to fulfill its mission. Land and other non-cash assets are part of the endowment, including the property in greater Fairbanks now under consideration for mineral exploration.

According to "Best Interest Decision" documents by the trust land office, the lease agreement would grant Felix Gold Alaska the exclusive right to explore for minerals and “the right to mine, extract, remove and sell locatable minerals ... Development activities are not proposed for the initial agreement term, however positive exploration results could lead to development under this proposed lease.”

The proposed three-year lease contains an option for two three-year renewals. The property owner would collect lease payments and a production royalty based on the price of gold.

The initial lease cannot be issued until the executive director completes the public notice process, which includes consideration of written comments.

"The decision can be affirmed and stand as it is, or can be modified or changed before it is affirmed. If affirmed, we move forward with the lease signing and operations can start," said Jusdi Doucet, deputy director of the trust land office.

In ‘our backyard’

The mining exploration proposal is prompting conversation on social media. Black Spruce Brewing on Peger Road talked about its opposition to the project in a Facebook post.

The post on the Black Spruce Beer Facebook page stated, “We recognize Fairbanks’ roots with mining, but we cannot support a project that would very literally take place in our backyard and that would disrupt local wildlife, local recreation and local residents’ lives.”

The post also said, “While we support the overall goal of the trust authority to raise funds to support mental health services in our state, we do not support this proposed exploration.” 

The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority's mission is to support organizations serving Alaskans with behavioral health conditions and developmental disabilities. The revenue it raises facilitates grant-making by the trust authority, which extends to nonprofits, state and local governments, and tribal organizations across Alaska.

Public comment period

The public is encouraged to submit comments. Individuals who believe the lease decision should be changed because it is not in the best interest of the trust or its beneficiaries, or is inconsistent with the trust authority’s mission, are encouraged to submit their views in writing. The comments will be reviewed by the executive director.

People can mail comments to the Mental Health Trust Land Office, 2600 Cordova Street, Suite 201, Anchorage, AK  99503. Comments may be faxed to 907-269-8905. They also may be emailed to mhtlo@alaska.gov. The comment period ends July 30 at 4:30 p.m. 

Do you support Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority’s proposed lease to Felix Gold Alaska Inc?

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Contact Linda F. Hersey at 907-459-7575 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.