MAPTS wins grant to train workers for mine near Tetlin

A $300,000 grant from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development to the Petroleum and Mining Training Service will provide mining training to local residents (Photo by Eric Engman)

Fairbanks, Alaska (KINY) – A $300,000 state grant will help the University of Alaska Fairbanks train local residents to work at the Kinross Manh Choh mine project.

Manh Choh is a gold prospect located on Tetlin tribal land southeast of Tok. The funding is part of a pilot project to train up to 28 residents of the Tok area.

UAF’s Petroleum and Mining Training Service, a branch of the university’s Cooperative Extension Service, will provide the training at its center near Delta Junction.

MAPTS Director William Bieber said the trainees will gain the skills necessary to start and maintain mine-related jobs. Many of these lifelong skills are transferable to other jobs, he said.

“This program and facility is the only one in the world that trains novice miners in a real mining environment,” Bieber said.

According to McKinley Research Group, the average salary for a Manh Choh employee will be more than $130,000 annually, not including benefits, providing families with an excellent quality of life.

“This is a win-win for everyone involved,” said Cathy Munoz, acting commissioner of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, which awarded the grant. Muñoz noted that the training project began after Gov. Mike Dunleavy visited Delta’s facilities last year.

“We are excited about the new job opportunities that Manh Choh will bring to Tok area residents interested in working on the project,” said Meg Smith, Manh Choh’s human resources manager. “The partnership between DOLWD, MAPTS and Kinross Manh Choh is an example of preparing a local workforce for mining careers that are in high demand in Alaska. We are already scheduling several job fairs for the week of March 21 in surrounding communities.”

The Manh Choh project is a joint venture between Kinross and Contango ORE. The Tetlin Native Village owns the surface and subsoil of the land to be mined. Plans are to start producing gold in 2024, with a focus on local sourcing and optimization of local businesses. Kinross will transport the high-grade ore to Fort Knox for processing, which the company says would reduce the environmental footprint by eliminating the need for a tailings facility.