Best Mining Story: Reflecting on Fort Knox’s rich 20-year history

Jim Oleson, Ore Processing Superintendent, Fort Knox, (and the 2014 LOVA award winner for Rigorous Financial Discipline), has been working at Fort Knox for 20 years and is an original member of the mine start-up team. He was asked to share a ‘Best Mining Story’ with us in honour of Fort Knox’s 20th anniversary.

“My story is but one of many in the 20 years of gold production at Fort Knox. So what is that story? It’s about forward-looking miners who understood, and undertook, the challenges of bringing a low-grade gold mine into production. The story is also about bringing online one of the largest gold mills in North America, designed to processed 32,000 tonnes per day. We may applaud these leaders but I am confident each of them would credit every employee who put in the hard work to achieve these goals.

The story is also about the numbers, and they are impressive. We are going on 20 years of mining and seven million ounces of gold poured, when the original plan was based on four million ounces and 12 years of mining. All of this was accomplished with the safety of every employee as the first and foremost priority of the company. This was demonstrated with many safety milestones, like consecutive years of working, with millions of man hours, with no lost time incidents. It is also about protecting the environment, and a commitment to return the land to Alaskan magnificence.

The story is also about the future of Fort Knox and mining in Alaska. In 2007, Company leadership had the vision of heap leaching ore in sub-zero arctic temperatures. The success is evidenced by producing nearly a quarter of a million gold ounces. This success extended the life of mine, ensuring continued employment for many people, which contributed to the economy and social wellbeing of Fairbanks.

Though in all likelihood my part in this story will soon come to a close, the story will continue. Your story of mining, and doing so while working safely, will be just as gratifying and will continue well into the future.”

Jim Olesen, Ore Processing Superintendent, Fort Knox