Outside interest seeks permits to mine gold in Bonanza Channel
The prospect of a gold mining operation at Safety Sound and Bonanza Channel has caused alarm amongst subsistence users in Nome who frequent the area to fish and subsistence hunt.
A company called IPOP LLC with an address in Las Vegas, Nevada, applied in early April for an APMA general mining permit from the Alaska Dept. of Natural Resources to mine for gold in the brackish waters there.
A professionally produced video gave Nomeites the first impression of what’s proposed. The promotional video, which was widely shared amongst Nomeites on Facebook, showed the pristine area at Safety Lagoon, Nuuk, the subsistence camps and the area surrounding Solomon, teeming with birds and fish.
The video proceeded to show a dredge that would mine for gold right in the lagoon that is known to be used as a nursery by young ice seals. The proposed mining method showed a dredge technology that — unlike linear traveling suction dredges— sweeps the bottom of the channel from side to side, like the old time bucket dredges, scooping up material to be processed on a floating barge. According to an animated graphic shown in the video, the tailings are to being spouted from the rear end of the dredge in a high airborne arch.
The Application for Permits to Mine in Alaska, APMA for short, lists that IPOP is applying for mining/reclamation and a suction dredge operation to start on May 1, 2018 and to end in 2022.
No permits have been granted yet.
According to the APMA, IPOP holds claims to 32 State of Alaska mining claims in the Solomon area. They propose to use a suction dredge with an amended nozzle size of 10 inches in diameter —reduced from 12 inches in the original application— and gold separating equipment of centrifuges, sluice boxes and screen shakers on a separate processing barge. The mining location is given as “an unnamed water body between Safety Sound and Solomon River.” A map attached to the APMA shows the mining to be done in two locations: one area right at the mouth of the Bonanza in the lagoon between Safety and the Solomon bridge and one area east of the bridge.
The application states that the dredge can reach 31 feet below the water level. Sand and gravel, the application narrative says, will be deposited immediately back onto the bottom within 100 feet of the dredged extraction points. As for reclamation, the proposal says that the “excavated sub-marine area left from the dredge is filled in by the processing barge, as it passes over the excavated area.” The heavy machinery to be used is listed as a single engine, 45’by 24’ dredge, a 25’ by 12’ dredge tender, a Pearce pump, a 700 hp Caterpillar engine and a Vosta 36-inch cutterhead to dredge up the material. However in a different part of the application, the vessel is identified as a Super Diamondback, 100-feet long by 20-feet wide.
It is proposed to operate 20 hours per day and moves 285 cubic yards per hour. The location is given as offshore, in a stream and a pond connected to a stream. Water for the man camp is to be extracted from an unnamed stream with a two-inch water pump.
The proposal calls for mining once the winter ice is gone and until ice forms again. Boats and dredge tenders would transport the crew onto the dredge and barge. Operations would take place within 300 feet of the Nome-Council Highway.
They also propose a man camp on state land in form of “trailer-able RV types quarters,” powered by diesel generators. The mining equipment would be moved to Nome for storage during winter off-season.
The application is signed by Edwin A. Epstein, Jr., IPOP LLC, as owner and operator of the project.
Permits needed include reviews by state agencies such as Dept. of Environmental Conservation for water discharge permits, Dept. of Fish and Game, DNR and also federal permitting from the Army Corps of Engineers. John Budnik, ACE spokesman, confirmed on Monday that no permit applications concerning IPOP LLC were received yet.
Those permits also rely heavily on public comment taken. DNR’s Charlene Bringhurst told The Nome Nugget that she still accepts public comment. Bringhurst told the Nugget also that of the comments received, none was in favor of the project.
Kawerak submitted a detailed letter to the DNR stating its opposition to the project. It begins with stating that the area considered for the mining operation is home to “numerous subsistence users and their camps that have been utilized for generations. Camps are for harvesting birds and marine mammals in the spring and fall, harvesting salmon in the summer and fall and harvesting moose and berries, families gather all throughout fall to ice fish for what is known as tomcods or Saffron Cod.”
The letter cites an Alaska Statute that spells out subsistence priority over commercial and sport activities. It also cites the Hunter Harassment Law which outlaws the obstruction or hindrance of people’s lawful hunting, fishing, trapping or viewing of fish and game. The letter points out that the Flambeau, El Dorado, Bonanza and Solomon Rivers are habitat for seals during the ice free months due to the large amount of fish that return through the brackish lagoons to these rivers to spawn. “The Flambeau, El Dorado, Bonanza and Solomon Rivers are all anadromous,” the letter explains. “The turbidity caused by this vessel could possibly make it so any/all salmon could not enter any one of the rivers to spawn.” The letter pointed out that the AMPA permit says the tailings would be gravity fed, “however, according to the video provided on their website, the offshore dredge will shoot the tailings into the air and some 80-feet out in a zig-zag pattern.” The plume left by the tailings could extend for miles and has the potential to completely alter salmon behavior as turbidity in the water column stops them cold. Kawerak also points out that the mouths of those four rivers create an immense wetland area and estuary “home to thousands upon thousands of migratory birds, including Spectacled Eiders, which are on the ESA list as threatened.” Kawerak also points out that the Northern Norton Sound had experienced severe chum salmon crashes and only recently chum salmon runs have recovered, however, not in great enough numbers for the Solomon River. “Will subsistence users have to bear the burden of conservation for another 40 years on the Solomon River if this operation is allowed?” Kawerak’s letter asks.
Another TV reality show
Gold mining may not the end game of the project. The promotional video and other project documentation indicates that the mining operation is to go hand in hand with the production of a reality TV show called “Rivers of Gold” and Rivers of Gold branding of merchandise.
The promotional video for Rivers of Gold has been removed from YouTube and an internet search for IPOP LLC or Rivers of Gold ends in the homepage with the address https://rogtv.show. Further information is accessible for investors only. It offers the cell phone number of a David Sao Marcos, Principal.
Efforts made by the Nome Nugget to get in touch with IPOP LLC were not successful. Calls to a Las Vegas number given as contact to IPOP LL in the APMA application remained unanswered and a message left was not returned by press time.
Michelle Johnson with Alaska Earth Sciences, an Anchorage company, said they assisted IPOP LLC with the permit application and staking state claims. When asked who IPOP LLC is and how to best contact them, she said that “he” is not too keen on speaking to media and that further conversations may be possible once the necessary permits are in place. She agreed to relay a message from the Nugget to an IPOP representative that the newspaper is seeking comment, but to no avail.
However, a copy of the private placement memorandum, which is readily available by a simple Google search for IPOP LLC and gold, provides more insight.
“Rivers of Gold, Alaska Mining, Global TV Show, Global Merchandising LP, a California limited partnership, is organized to acquire at least one (1) mining lease (the “Lease(s))” to dredge (mine) for gold in ocean waters within approximately 3,000 feet of the shoreline in the gold bearing area centered in the Nome, Alaska area,” says the document. “Intelligent Practices GP LLC (“IPGP”) will be the General Partner. IPOP LLC (“IP” or “IPOP”) will be the Operator and conduct dredging operations in accordance with an Operating Agreement (“OA”). The Partnership, in addition to mining for gold, plans to create episodes of “Rivers of Gold” reality TV show intended for global distribution, based on ROG dredging operations. Kupcinet Productions, Inc. will be the producer of the television show. The Partnership shall bear all costs related to the television show and the dredging operation and will share revenues with the Operator, TV Producer, Marketing experts, and Digital Marketing Experts.”
“The Partnership aims to enter in a production agreement to produce two seasons (24-48 episodes) of Rivers of Gold, a reality cable TV show based on the gold mining operation,” the document reads.
Merchandising of the River of Gold brand is planned to create revenues from licensing and royalties of items bearing the trademark name Rivers of Gold or its logos, including clothing and jewelry.
The document lists the products as t-shirts, coffee mugs, jewelry, baseball hats, belts, and even knickknacks such as koozies, bobble heads, magnets and snowglobes.
The document does not spell out any exploration results in the Bonanza Channel or how many ounces of recoverable gold they expect to find. “Upon partner subscriptions of $1,500,000 limited partners agree lease acquisition may commence in or as soon as Alaskan weather permits and such costs are borne by the limited partners contributions,” the document reads. No mention is made of permits that need to be in place or the status of permit applications before operations can begin.
On Linkedin, Ed Epstein lists Intelligent Practices GP LLC as his current occupation, as well as Rivers of Gold LP in the field of Investment Management. He bills himself as a “37 years experienced inveterate wildcatter and expert in all things pertaining to minerals explorations formation, operations and production.” Epstein’s LinkedIn page says, “Gold exploration TV shows have easily attained proof of concept recognition and superior marks in 18-54 year old men audiences globally. ”
The memorandum to potential investors for the limited partnership in River of Gold, offered by Intelligent Practices GP LLC with an address in Mission Viejo, California, states that “the interests offered hereby have not been registered under the Securities Act of 1933” or the securities laws of certain states and are being offered and sold in reliance on exemptions from the registration requirements of said act such laws.”
The memorandum also states risk factors as significant and that potential partners should carefully consider the risks and only those are suitable investors who can afford “to lose all of their investment.”