Kinross updates on impact of gold mine, future plans

Average Kettle River-Buckhorn Project wage tops $82K

Geologists take core samples to determine the richness of the ore in one of the tunnels at the Buckhorn Mine near Chesaw last November. Photo by Gary DeVon

OROVILLE – A representative of Kinross Gold Corporation’s Kettle River-Buckhorn Project appeared before the Oroville City Council to discuss the mine and mill’s impacts on Oroville and Okanogan and Ferry Counties.

Deana Zaker apologized that the project’s general manager couldn’t appear as scheduled for the council’s Tuesday, Jan. 15 meeting. She said she wanted to update the council on the Buckhorn Mine, located near Chesaw, which is slated to shut down in 2015.

“Last year our target was 125,000 ounces of gold and we realized 150,000 ounces because we were mining a higher grade of ore than we expected,” said Zaker. “In 2013 we are looking at 130,000 ounces.”

Although the mine is slated for closure in 2015, Kinross’ subsidiary, Echo Bay Exploration, has submitted permit applications to the state and federal government in 2010 to expand exploration into the adjacent state and federal public lands, according to Zaker.

“We are exploring in a 9000 acre area and doing an EIS with the hope to get permits by 2014,” she said.

Zaker explained that even though it sounds like the exploration permitting will line up near the end of the current Buckhorn Mine, it will probably take several years of additional permitting after the closure before new mining could take placed.

“We are also doing exploration at K5 near where the K2 Mine used to be (in Ferry County). Surface drilling will wrap up this month. We should be able to determine by early February if we will continue with that project,” Zaker said.

One goal of this renewed exploration is an effort to keep the Kettle River ore mill near Republic in operation. The mill just exceeded two million ounces of gold, according to Zaker. The Buckhorn Mine has been it’s main source of ore and over the mine’s life Kinross anticipates it will have generated 1.2 million ounces.

Kinross contracted an independent socio-economic impact study about six months ago, said Zaker. According to the study, in 2011, the Kettle River-Buckhorn operation employed 230 direct jobs, with 610 total jobs, direct, indirect and induced, in Ferry and Okanogan counties. The operation paid $19 million in direct payroll in 2011, with a total $27 million in Ferry and Okanogan counties. The average employee wage, excluding benefits, is $82,559, said Zaker.

“Most of our employees, 95 percent, live locally, with 75 percent of those coming from Ferry County and 25 percent from Okanogan County. From Okanogan County they are mostly from the Oroville area,” said Zaker. “The property taxes the project pays goes mostly to Okanogan County, with local schools getting about $1.1 million in additional money.”

According to the study, in 2011, $1.37 million in property taxes went to Okanogan County and $110,000 to Ferry County.

The company did $9 million in direct spending in the two counties and worked with 354 Washington-based businesses.

“We made $4 million in payments to local and county government agencies, including public utilities in Ferry and Okanogan counties,” she said.

The mayor and council told Zaker they found the presentation to be very informative and thanked her for giving them an update on the mine.”

“It was a very good presentation, there was a lot of information,” said Mayor Chuck Spieth.

“We appreciate you giving us notice now about what is being done, because the impacts to our area will be great, especially to the school and the EMS,” added Kathy Jones, city clerk-treasurer, adding that Kinross is also a large contributor to local events.

“They contribute to our foundation,” said Arnie Marchand, who sits on the Wenatchee Valley College – Omak Foundation Board.

“Last year Kinross contributed $240,000 locally,” said Zaker.