• Optimum transportation systems to serve the mineral industry north of the Yukon basin in Alaska

      Wolff, E.N.; Lambert, C.; Johansen, N.I.; Rhodes, E.M.; Solie, R.J. (University of Alaska Mineral Industry Research Laboratory, 1972)
      In 1972 the U. S . Bureau of Mines awarded a grant (No. G 01 22096) to the Mineral Industry Research Laboratory, University of Alaska, for a research project to determine optimum transportation systems to serve the mineral industry north of the Yukon River basin in Alaska. The study was conducted during the period May 1 - November 1, 1972. The study assesses the mineral potential of the region and selects two copper deposits: a known one at Bornite, and a potential one on the upper Koyukuk River. Two possible mining sites within the extensive coal bearing region north of the Brooks Range are also selected. A computer model was developed to perform an economic analysis of technically feasible transportation modes and routes from these four sites to Alaskan ports from which minerals could be shipped to markets. Transport modes considered are highway, rail, cargo aircraft, river barge, winter haul road and air cushion vehicles (A.C.V.). The computer program calculates the present worth of tax benefits from mining and transportation and revenues based on the value of minerals at the port, as well as the auxillary benefits derived from the anticipated use of the routes by the tourist industry. Annual and fixed costs of mining and transportation of minerals are calculated, and benefit-cost ratios determined for each combination of routes and modes serving the four mineral sites. The study concludes that the best systems in terms of a high benefit-cost ratio are those utilizing a minimum of new construction of conventional highways or railroads. The optimum system as derived from this study is one linking together existing transportation systems with aircraft or A.C.V. These modes are feasible only for the shipment of a high value product, namely blister copper produced by a smelter at the mining site, Of the several alternatives considered for the shipment of coal, only a slurry pipeline to an as yet undeveloped port on the Arctic coast showed significant promise. The study recommends that: 1. More government support should be given to mineral exploration in Alaska. 2. Potential mineral industry development should be considered in transportation planning at state and federal levels. 3. Additional research pertinent to mining and processing of minerals in the North should be conducted, and the feasibility of smelting minerals within Alaska explored. 4. Alternatives for providing power to Northwestern Alaska should be investigated.