Alaskan Miners' 5M Ounce Gold Discovery Could Be Among World's Largest

A gold discovery north of Fairbanks is among the largest worldwide in 10 years, said a mining exploration company.

International Tower Hill Mines Ltd. updated its reserves estimate on land about 70 miles north of Fairbanks, the state's second largest city.

The new estimate puts the find at 5 million ounces of gold, but company president Jeffrey Pontius says that additional exploring could push the figure to 10 million ounces.

"We have found a really exceptional concentration of gold that Mother Nature put out there," he said. "That's a tremendous thing."

It will also take additional exploration to learn how much of the gold can be economically recovered, and to determine the recovery method.

Drilling will continue this winter. Economic estimates to determine how to mine the gold could be ready by July, Pontius said.

Pontius says the mine could be operating within five to six years. This falls in line with an October report.

Pontius also remains bullish on gold as a commodity.

"People are looking at that as a safe haven in these economic times," he said. "That's going to be a big demand in the future."

Jim Dodson, president and CEO of Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation, said the having another mine that is akin to Fort Knox in scale is "terribly exciting."

Mining industry jobs are among the highest paying statewide, he said.

Dodson said the city should reap some benefits as a supply and transportation center for the mine near Livengood because it's on the road system.

The Dalton Highway bisects part of the discovery.

Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, International Tower Hill is an exploration company.

"We're exploration guys; we're not really mining guys," Pontius said. "Our real goal here is to define a compelling project for somebody to partner with us to develop the project."