First five and now seven days a week: that’s the new plan from the Department of Transportation for the one-hour closure of Nome’s airport to accommodate Nome Gold’s underground blasting.
The closures are set to happen daily from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. through June. Nome Gold general manager Randy Powelson said when the closures were first announced that the blasting at the “Airport West” site along the east/west runway could be some time away. He said Monday that work could begin as early as this week.
In September Nome Gold shipped up 800,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate for the wintertime mining operation. Powelson said the explosives will be placed at the bottom of 40-foot holes and used to break up the permafrost. Loose earth and rock will then be hauled to the company’s stockpile, to be fed through their wash plant in the spring when temperatures are above freezing.
Powelson says the subsurface blasting itself only takes seconds, and DOT spokesperson Meadow Bailey said crews will check the runway after each blast and ensure it’s safe for planes to land.
Bailey added in the update expanding the blasting to seven days a week that any closure during the one-hour window can be lifted for medevacs and similar emergencies.