MAPTS gets grant to train workers for mine near Tetlin

Group of people wearing reflective safety gear listen to a student explain how to run a piece of heavy equipment.
Photo by Eric Engman
A $300,000 grant from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development to the Mining and Petroleum Training Service will provide mining training for local residents at the MAPTS training center near Delta Junction.

A $300,000 state grant will help the University of Alaska Fairbanks train local residents for jobs 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 from the Tok area. 

UAF’s Mining and Petroleum 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 trainees will gain the skills necessary to start and hold 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 entry-level miners in a real mining environment,” Bieber said. 

According to the McKinley Research Group, the average wage of a Manh Choh employee will be more than $130,000 annually, excluding benefits, providing families with an excellent quality of life.

“This is a win-win for all involved,” said Cathy Muñoz, acting commissioner of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, which provided the grant. Muñoz noted that the training project was started after Gov. Mike Dunleavy toured the Delta facility last year.

“We are excited about the new job opportunities that Manh Choh will provide Tok-area residents interested in working on the project,” said Meg Smith, human resources manager for Manh Choh. “The partnership between the DOLWD, MAPTS and Kinross Manh Choh is an example of how to prepare 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 the surrounding communities.”

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