MEETING— G1 Senior Vice President of Mining Mike Shaffner provides updates of Graphite One mining plans  during the Monday, April 22 meeting at Old St. Joe’s in Nome. MEETING— G1 Senior Vice President of Mining Mike Shaffner addresses a comment from the audience during the Monday, April 22 meeting at Old St. Joe’s in Nome. MEETING— G1 Senior Vice President of Mining Mike Shaffner addresses a comment from the audience during the Monday, April 22 meeting at Old St. Joe’s in Nome. MEETING— G1 Senior Vice President of Mining Mike Shaffner addresses a comment from the audience during the Monday, April 22 meeting at Old St. Joe’s in Nome. MEETING— G1 Senior Vice President of Mining Mike Shaffner addresses a comment from the audience during the Monday, April 22 meeting at Old St. Joe’s in Nome.

Graphite One updates Nome on mine development plans

Graphite One is on track to complete the feasibility study by the December 2024 deadline allowing the company to get financing for the project so they can begin applying for permits, which is when the public comment period will open.
“The soonest you could possibly start mining out there would be 2029,” Graphite One Senior Vice President of Mining Mike Schaffner said.
This week a team from the company traveled to Nome, Teller and Brevig to present latest updates on the proposed graphite mine located at the northern slopes of the Kigluaik Mountains, near the Imuruk Basin. The open pit mine is predicted to be one mile long and a half mile wide at the widest point.
During the April 22 meeting at Old St. Joe’s in Nome, Schaffner introduced the second part of the Graphite One project, the a graphite anode plant in Warren, Ohio where the graphite from the mine will be processed. The mined graphite on the Seward Peninsula will be shipped to Seattle and put on a railcar to Ohio for processing, Schaffner said.
In May of 2023 Graphite One began the feasibility study. In August they were awarded $37.5 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to support the development of the mine. “Why would they do this? They’re doing this because they desperately need the graphite source,” Schaffer said at the meeting. The grant has helped move the program along by funding the summer drilling work. Following the award announcement the tribes of Teller, Brevig Mission and Mary’s Igloo wrote letters last October to the department expressing concern over the premature funding decision that will impact an area of land the communities use for subsistence activities.
In September Bering Straits Native Corporation signed a shareholder agreement with Graphite One, investing $2 million. The agreement states Graphite One must donate $100,000 to both Teller and Brevig over 2023 and 2024 for projects that benefit the communities. It also required a $30,000 donation to Nome, which was given to the Nome Emergency Shelter Team last fall.
When it comes to the estimated 170 employees needed to maintain the mine, Graphite One is looking to the region.  
“I can assure you that 100 percent of the employees for this mine could come from Nome,” Schaffner said. The company plans to partner with BSNC on an internship program to develop skilled workers for the mine. BSNC shareholders will have hiring preference. Schaffner also spoke about $25,000 in scholarships over the next two years, with more scholarships to come as the project continues.
Last April when Graphite One presented in Nome they announced the mine’s increased graphite output from 2,760 tons to 10,000 tons per day to be of use to automobile makers like Tesla, General Motors and Ford.
Nome resident Carol Gales asked during the question period how many trucks would be traveling through Nome hauling graphite a day. Schaffer said it would be about 15 to 18 double or two trailer trucks a day, carrying 40 tons of material. The graphite would be transported in closed trucks on the proposed 20-mile road that would go from the mining site through Mosquito Pass and connect to the Kougarok Road then to the port for export.
During the meeting the strong emphasis on a local workforce gave way to questions about travel and housing. Graphite One is now looking into a camp in Nome instead of just one at the mine site. With the intention to keep the road open all winter long, mine workers could commute back and forth to the mine year-round. Schaffner said he understands there will be days where the road won’t be an option to travel on, which is why there will be a camp out there. “It’s literally only 37 miles out there. So with a good road, you’re talking about a 45 to 50 minute ride out there,” Schaffer said, prompting the laughter of Nomeites in attendance.
When it comes to recruiting workers from Nome, the challenge of finding employees in the area was pointed out in a public comment, Schaffer acknowledged this and said that’s why they’re “starting early” partnering with BSNC and University of Alaska Northwest Campus to garner youth interest in jobs.
The total footprint of the open pit mine is predicted to be one mile long and a half mile wide at the widest point. This is an increase of a quarter mile from the prefeasibility study.
Ed Fogels, the permitting manager for Graphite One, presented on the environmental studies being conducted in advance of the project. “Probably at the end of the day there may be over 100 permits that Graphite One will have to obtain before they have the ability to start construction,” Fogels said. Key permits include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wetlands Permit, Alaska Department of Fish and Game Fish Passage permit, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Water Discharge Permit, and Air Quality permits. There will also be an environmental impact study that goes through rounds of reviews. The State Historic Preservation Office at the Department of Natural Resources needs to give cultural clearance to the project. The process to obtain permits will likely begin in early 2025, accompanied by public comment periods for each permit.
Also part of the meeting was a presentation form Bill Morris on the fish and aquatic resource review of the region. Morris and team will this summer continue their surveys of rivers and streams that feed into the Imuruk Basin.
The proposed mine has no road access and Graphite One proposes to build an access road from the Kougarok Road at mile 30 through Mosquito Pass to the mine site. The road would cross over at least six rivers. One community member brought this up during the Q&A segment of the meeting. “What you guys are saying is absolutely right. And honestly, this seems to be the most difficult part of putting a mine in Alaska is deciding where to put the road because no matter where you put the road, it does impact someone. So, true to your statement, everything you said is right, the area is very, very beautiful…But when you look at gradients that you can put a road off, that’s probably the one that’s least invasive,” Schaffer replied.
The next steps for Graphite One are finalizing the feasibility study. This summer they will continue to drill in the area and better characterize the rock mass for the design of the pit.
The Graphite One team also met with the Subsistence Advisory Council which is made up of community members from Nome, Teller, Brevig and Mary’s Igloo.

The Nome Nugget

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