Rock Creek Mine

Rock Creek Mine

Construction at the Rock Creek Mine in 2006
source: Dave Chambers, CSP2 (2006). Copyright held by photographer.

The Rock Creek Mine is a closed gold mine six miles north of Nome.  The mine operated for only two months before closing in November 2008.

The mine was operated by NovaGold Resources Inc. through their subsidiary, Alaska Gold Company Inc.  Rock Creek was shut down twice during its two months of operations because of machinery failures and problems with the crushing system.  The project was repeatedly fined for violating its permits.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation cited Alaska Gold Company for violations of turbidity limits in stormwater run-off into Rock Creek on two occasions.  Additionally, Alaska Gold Company did not construct a number of stormwater diversion ditches required by the stormwater pollution and prevention plan.

The mine’s tailings impoundment system was flawed.  The impoundment dam was nearly overtopped with water because it had been designed to only hold solids.  The mine also had inadequate control of dust generated by trucks driving on the road and from pit blasting.

Cleanup of the site is estimated at $30 million.  Rock Creek posted a reclamation bond of $6.8 million.  This leaves the state of Alaska with a $23.2 million cleanup bill.

As part of the Roads to Resources program the state of Alaska spent $7.5 million to construct the three-mile-long access road to the mine.  Not only did NovaGold benefit from a state-constructed road, but it received $3 million for gravel used to build it.

The project underwent an abbreviated Environmental Assessment process, instead of a full Environmental Impact Statement process.Outside observers have suggested that many of these issues could have been avoided had the mine undergone a full Environmental Impact Statement process, because the mine would have undergone more thorough planning.

In 2012, the entire operation was sold to the Bering Straights Native Corporation.

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