Mining Company Eyes Up Ski Area

The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority will consider a proposal from a Vancouver mining company to turn the oldest downhill ski area near Fairbanks into a gold mine.

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority will consider a proposal from a Vancouver mining company to turn the oldest downhill ski area near Fairbanks into a gold mine.

Freegold Ventures Ltd. already leases other land near Cleary Summit northeast of Fairbanks. It has applied to lease land occupied by some trails at Mount Aurora Skiland, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/1xdocO8) reported.

The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority is a state-owned corporation that manages 1 million acres of state land to produce income that helps pay for care of Alaskans who experience mental illness.

Skiland was founded in 1962 by Fairbanks downhill skiers, said Skiland board member Jeff Fay. It's owned by skiers who earned shares by working as volunteers. Since the late 1980s, it has been run by Ski Inc., whose owners have announced they plan to stop operating the business after this winter. The Skiland board is looking for a new owner.

In annual leases, Skiland has paid just $2,500 per year to use trust authority land. The mining company would pay a higher fee and royalties if it extracts gold.

A subcommittee of the trust authority on Wednesday voted to advance a proposal to extend Freegold Venture's leased land by 1,481 acres, said Marcie Menefee, director of the trust's land office. If the full board approves the proposal Nov. 21, the public would have 30 days to comment on a mine lease. Afterward, the trust could negotiate a contract with the mine company.

Fay acknowledged the trust would receive more money from miners than skiers but hopes its board sees value in the downhill runs.

"My contention and I think the (Ski Land Inc.) board's contention is that while Skiland has never been a money maker ... it's a community resource," he said.

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