Big changes are coming to the ore terminal at Skagway’s port.
Last week, the board of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority approved a $7.5-million construction project. The plan is to add 50 metres to the ore storage building, build more truck unloading facilities and a covered stockpile area, and connect with the existing conveyor system to unload materials from boats. Construction should begin later this summer, and should be finished by early next year.
The project will give space to Eagle Industrial Metals Corp. The company plans to extract magnetite from the iron-rich tailings at the old Whitehorse Copper mine site. The ore will then be trucked to Skagway.
The company, which received a water licence for its project in May, anticipates shipping around 360,000 tonnes of ore a year. It is working on an agreement to lease the new facilities at the port for five years at $1.9 million per year.
That deal is about two years in the making, said Karston Rodvik, project manager of external affairs with AIDEA. The lease still needs to be finalized. But it promises to bring much-needed employment to the community. Construction workers will need to be hired. Between three and five permanent jobs at the port will be created, and about 30 drivers will be needed to truck the ore once the mine is in production, said Rodvik.
Expanded facilities could make it easier to get more long-term contracts in the future, he said.
AIDEA already leases space at the terminal to Capstone Mining Corp.
But the terminal is grossly underused, said Skagway Mayor Stan Selmer last week.
It’s been this way since the mine in Faro closed. Once this expansion is complete, the terminal will be at about 65 per cent of what it was about 30 years ago, said Selmer. And Skagway wants to be the port for Chieftain Metals’ proposed Tulsequah Chief mine near Atlin, B.C. and Western Copper and Gold’s Casino project, said Selmer.
“This only affects us in positive ways,” Selmer said of the new deal. It will be important to have as many local companies involved as possible, he said. During the tourist season, many people work two or three jobs, he said. But in the winter, unemployment rates can rise to around 30 per cent, he said. In recent years, Skagway’s unemployment rate during the month of February has been the highest in the state, he said.
If more mines go into production, Skagway’s economy will keep growing, he said. “These are exciting times as we hope for our economy to become a year-round economy again,” said Selmer.
The Eagle mine has a lifespan of about five years. The company is hoping to start construction at the site in the next month or two, company president Chuck Eaton said last week.
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