Shipping UPS to Nome

Special instructions on how to make sure a package sent via UPS to someone in Nome arrives there promptly. Written by the Nome UPS manager, reposted here as a public service. This is very useful information, as shipping to Nome can be very frustrating, I am reposting this here for my own reference and to help out anyone else that finds this useful:

For 17 years I have been the UPS Person in Nome.

You can contact me at the number below; if for some reason
you forget, the national number 800-PICK-UPS will work well.

1. How to address your Nome-bound package.

We *cannot* deliver to PO Boxes or General Delivery, so
here is some information.

A) Your street address.  Use this format:

    Jane Doe
    123 E 3RD           <=== see below.
    Nome, AK 99762

123C E 3RD (for Apartment C)
Duplexes, if unmarked are A for the one on the left or
downstairs or in front; B would be the one on the right,
back or upstairs.

123 E 3RD #103   For apartment #103

AVOID THE USE OF Useless information, such as the use
of ST, AVE, AVENUE, STREET, LANE, DRIVE, DR, or spelling
out things like APARTMENT, APT, UNIT or spelled out
EAST, WEST.

Why?  They take up room on the label and often get cut off.

AVOID splitting your address.  It does not show up in the
information UPS sends me and *might* delay your package.

This is wrong:

Jane Doe
123 E 3RD
APARTMENT 103
Nome, AK 99762

B) Often, shippers will tell you the address is invalid.
They use a Postal Address Database, and Nome has no post
office delivery therefore they only have the street
address of the post office building.  If everything else
fails, these sometimes work:

GENERAL DELIVERY
or
113 W FRONT

Here are a few hints.

** Try and have the shipper put your phone number on the label.
That way we could contact you when the package gets here.

** Disguise your PO Box number on the address.  Do it ONLY
this way:

113 W FRONT #2624   <--- for box 2624

Do not, under any circumstances put "BOX" or "PO" on it or
the shipper will probably reject it.  Just do it the way I
have it above.

This way, if your package comes by USPS mail, at least *they*
can get it to you at BOX 2624 ...

C) Package shows up with General Delivery or 113 W Front, no
phone number etc.

I suggest you track your package on www.ups.com.  When it gets
to Anchorage it is generally here the NEXT day.  Ground packages
sometimes take an extra day.  Once it hits Anchorage, please
email, TEXT or call me.  Be SURE you have the tracking number
handy!  I will then make notes and get the package to you.

D) You been getting a few packages at General Delivery; won't
the driver remember me?

No.  UPS wants us to go package by package per the label.  Any
phone calls, texts etc. apply to THAT PACKAGE ONLY.  Next one
a week later, please call again.

E) **PLEASE** DO not call the Drivers.  They have their hands
full and their trucks are loaded certain way.  If you call them
they have to pull to the side of the road, handle your call, go
thru their tablet phone (needs to hang up with you for that),
bring up their information and it may be in the *other* truck
anyway.  Rinse and repeat.

Do not expect the driver to rearrange his load, and go out of
his way or meet you somewhere.  That is all best arranged by
contacting ME, and I will get this package to you shortly, and
the poor driver fella does not have to work extra 5 minutes that
day.  5 minutes is not much, but if you get 20 calls that is
almost two hours.

For that reason I have told the drivers to refer all calls to me.
We rotate phone numbers for the drivers also.  Also, we have
several drivers, do not assume it is always a particular one.

F) My package is broken!

OK, if it is obvious from the outside, DO NOT SIGN FOR IT.
Once you sign for it, we cannot return it to the sender.  The
label on the box is "used up" once you sign for it.  You will
then have to put in a claim.

If you do not sign, just refuse it, and it goes back without
further ado.

You need to contact the shipper either way about a Claim.  Unless
you paid UPS yourself, you cannot put in a claim to UPS.  Only
the person that paid UPS can.

Example, your amazon.com order is busted and you discover that
when you open the box.  Don't call UPS about it.  You did not
pay UPS for the shipping; Amazon did.  I know ... amazon.com hit
your credit card for shipping, but the money that UPS got is
from Amazon, not you.  Let Amazon worry about it; they are
*very* good about returns and customer satisfaction.

Other shippers ... maybe not so much.

So, if you hear glass rattling inside your box; DO NOT SIGN
FOR IT!  If you did, then see the above rant.

G) I have an OUTGOING package.

** It is a prepaid return.  Toner Cartridges, Amazon returns
for the shoes that did not fit, etc., you will be provided a
label by Amazon by eMail etc., ...OR.... sometimes they send
the label to the UPS agent (me).  Contact me and I will get
this label to you.

** You have a fresh package that you are paying for to go
out.  Call 800-PICK-UPS and make the arrangements.  Be sure
you have the size of the box and the weight.  Example:
11" x 12.5" x 18" at 33.5 pounds.  Or an envelope.

Once you have done the label thing and paid UPS via their
800 number, they will send YOU or ME the label and we go
pick it up.

H) I move and drive around.  Where can I meet you guys?

Well, we can meet anytime, but the best time for us is at
the Polar Cafe Restaurant between 1215 and 130 PM 5 days
a week.

I) Can I pick up my package on Saturday or Sunday.
Sunday deliveries cannot be made.  Forbidden to us by UPS.
Saturday, if you know your package is here, call 800-PICK-UPS
and see what you can arrange.  Good luck.  We are not allowed
to deliver Packages on Saturdays except as arranged through
them.

Be aware that we get only about one Saturday delivery every
three years; so as a rule we are out enjoying the outdoors etc
on the weekends.  Try if you must, but good luck.

J) Please know where you live.  You would be surprised how
many people use addresses that haven't existed for over
14 years.  Or think "We are on the green house across from
John D. Blow".  Those are undeliverable.  EVERY house in
Nome has a number/street address.  If the number is not
on your house, or is defaced, see your Landlord or City
Hall and they will fix you up.

K) My package is coming to a PO Box.  Can you deliver it?
If you can only put a PO Box on the package, UPS is
sort of reluctant to accept it, but they do get by from
time to time.

If you call ahead (see above), we can get you the package.
Else, we will send you a PostCard to that PO Box.  Depending
on the foibles of the postal system, it could take a week
to get you that postcard.  After 10 days, we return the
package.

L) How long do you keep packages?

If there is hope of delivering it; 10 days.

If you are on vacation etc., and let ME know, I can hold your
packages indefinitely.  Within reason.  We are not a warehouse,
but, yeah, if you are in Disney World with the kids for 2
weeks we of course will hold things for you.  Best you let me
know in case we have a brain problem here.

M) Can I get a package forwarded?  I moved from Nome back to
Tucson, Arizona and my order is coming to Nome!

Call me ASAP.  I can often get this intercepted in Anchorage
and on its way to you much sooner than if it comes to Nome
first.

Either way, the package is often forwarded to your new address
at no cost to you.

N) Can I get my packages delivered at Norton Sound or the Schools?

No, we cannot deliver personal packages to Norton Sound.  Sometimes
you can make arrangements with the School District (at the high
school campus), but you have to talk to them about it first.
All school packages go to the District Office.

This does not apply to the apartments, those go there if you
are home.  We do not leave packages on the corridor.

Kawerak is much more liberal; we leave your packages at the Mail
Room.  But it needs to have your written instructions to do so,
eMail or TEXT etc.

Well, that was quite a rant.  Print it out, and eMail me if you
have any questions!

-- 
Ramon Gandia / Nome UPS / 907-304-1053
rfg8xx at xalaska.com
www.xalaska.com

Reddit IAmA Gold Miner, AMA

I am Andrew C. Lee, a Bering Sea Gold Miner. AMA.

I’ve been a gold dredger for 9 years, mining offshore Nome, Alaska. I’ve designed, built, and operated several gold dredges, 6″, 8″, and 10″. My 10″ dredge was featured on Discovery Channel’s Bearing Sea Gold. Because the name “Ziggurat” was deemed too brainy for American audiences, it was called “The Edge” and later “The Eroica” on the show.

Currently I am a partner in the largest most successful suction dredge operation offshore Nome. We operate an 18″ ROV suction dredge on our 3200 acres of mining leases.

Proof: http://safonatt.com/reddit-iama-gold-miner-ama/

Ask Me Anything. There are certain topics that I will not answer in detail because they are trade secrets, such as gold production and certain technical details.

Read my AMA on Reddit: I am Andrew C. Lee, a Bering Sea Gold Miner. AMA.

Bering Sea Gold Nuggets, mined by Andrew Lee

Bering Sea Gold Nuggets, mined by Andrew Lee

Andrew C. Lee, Bering Sea Gold Miner

Andrew C. Lee, Bering Sea Gold Miner

Andrew C. Lee with a few pounds of gold he mined off the Bering Sea floor near Nome, AK

Andrew C. Lee with a few pounds of gold he mined off the Bering Sea floor near Nome, AK

A several pound sample of placer gold mined from the floor of the Bering Sea near Nome, Alaska.

A several pound sample of placer gold mined from the floor of the Bering Sea near Nome, Alaska.

Gold sample drying on an outdoor propane camp stove.

Gold sample drying on an outdoor propane camp stove.

Gold sample. Dried and screened to several sizes to determine the distribution of each mesh range.

Gold sample. Dried and screened to several sizes to determine the distribution of each mesh range.

Construction of my ice dredging hut

Construction of my ice dredging hut

View from inside ice hut though tailings hole.

View from inside ice hut though tailings hole.

Using 48" chainsaw to cut hole in the ice.

Using 48″ chainsaw to cut hole in the ice.

The main pieces of equipment. Mini-ex, tracked ATV, and my ice hut design.

The main pieces of equipment. Mini-ex, tracked ATV, and my ice hut design.

Andrew C. Lee in Nome working on sub-sea crawler.

Andrew C. Lee in Nome working on sub-sea crawler.

Nome sees sharp decline in offshore gold dredgers, port usage

2014 saw a sharp decline in the number of active dredges mining for gold offshore Nome, Alaska. Despite the high numbers of valid mining permits for this type of gold mining, the number of gold dredges moored in the Port of Nome (including the inner harbor, the Snake river channel, and the outer cells) numbered merely 76 at its peak this summer. Gold mining vessels in dry storage on Port of Nome property that never got in the water during 2014 numbered around 28. A similar number of dredges were being stored throughout town on private property in people’s yards; like Blue Water Mining’s $250k 8″ dredge that was in dry dock all year.

This compares to around 90 dredges operating out of the harbor in peak years of 2011 and 2012, when gold prices were 50% higher, and right after California outlawed gold dredging. The decrease in total dredges is mostly due to fewer 6″ and 8″ dredges in the water; these recreational sized operations mostly last less than one year. The lower gold prices combined with lower unemployment and better opportunities at home have decreased interest. And with good reason, most first-year Nome gold miners would have been money ahead if they had stayed home and worked a minimum wage job.

While the number of 10″ dredges has remained about the same, there has been a slight increase in the number of larger excavator-style operations. These vessels take up more space in the harbor, so the overall feel seems to be about the same, as far as crowding goes. The pullout of the Cashman Mining operations, after blowing $7.5M has opened up some space. I expect that Blue Water Gold aka Blue Water Mining won’t be able to afford to return again with their $600k 10″ dredge, after getting less gold than a decent 6″ inflatable dredge for the third year in a row; that should open us some more room.

The Port of Nome reports a sharp increase in port usage since 2011, but this is a flat out lie manipulated figure, designed to try to get more state and federal funds. The increase in numbers is due mostly to the fact that the Port started requiring docking permits for vessels parked in the Snake river (which is probably a violation of state law to charge for this) and they started counting and charging for skiffs. For example, 2011 and prior, we were one vessel; 2012 and after we are counted as 3 vessels (one boat and two skiffs).

For 2015, I expect the trend to continue, much fewer 6″ dredges, several fewer 8″ dredges, about the same number of commercial 10″ dredges, and about the same number or a couple more of larger commercial gold dredges. Most likely there will be some newer in each category, and not all of the past ones will return.

If you are interested in coming to Nome, contact me for more information.

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Dry dock all summer 2014

Question About Selling Gold

Question sent in by “Ordell”

I got one question. There are gold buyers who purchase gold from the miners on the spot. They are paying for the gold at the current rate. So how do the buyers make any money? Are they counting on gold to go up? Making something with it and charging a premium?

The gold buyers charge an assay and refining fee per lot, then they return some percentage of the gold, typically 98% (they keep 2%), and 90% or no percent of the silver (they keep 10% to 100% depending on the buyer). The per lot fee is several hundred dollars, and pays for the overhead of melting and assaying the lot. If a buyer comes with less than some amount, like 10ozt or less, then the buyer typically will buy it outright, over the counter, for something like 60%, which is a better deal than paying the fees.

Here is a made up example of how it typically goes:

Deliver 100ozt clean and dry gold.
Fees are charged to account and are taken out of the first payout later. -$450
The gold is melted and assayed.
Melt loss: 10ozt of impurities, remaining weight 90ozt
Assay of that 90ozt: Gold 88% (79.2ozt), Silver 9% (8.1ozt), other 3%.
A “next day” sell order is placed by me, the next day’s London PM fix is used as the sale price, lets say this was $1200/ozt
Payout: Gold: @$1200/ozt, 98%: 79.2ozt*98%*$1200=$93,139.
Silver: @$20/ozt, 90%: $145.8
Fees: -$450
Check issued for $92,834 no sooner than two weeks after the gold was delivered by me to the gold buyer.

Some gold buyers do it differently. This example might be a bit low for us, since we get our gold very clean. It seems that the result is about 85% of the raw dry clean weight times the gold price.

Park Service is Wrong on Predator Control

Response to Sept 4, 2014 Alaska Dispatch News Article: “Park service moves to block predator control on federal land in Alaska

When will these meddling outsiders get it through their heads, in most of Alaska “hunting” does not mean going out in the woods with a couple buddies and a few cases of beer to shoot animals as something to do when there are no sports of TV. This is how people eat, its about survival. All you self-proclaimed “environmentalists” are so worried about carbon emissions, think about what it takes to farm raise beef, process, freeze, then fly by jet to the grocery stores here in remote Alaska; and compare that to sustainable local harvest of delicious and nutritious wildlife.

The National Parks Service controls an area of Alaska that is about the same size as Massachusetts,Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, Maryland, and West Virginia combined. If it was up to me, Alaska would completely take over ownership and management of all federal lands in the state except for military reservations and small areas around national monuments.

The locals know when there are too many predators. Local traditional knowledge, combined with modern tagging, tracking, and other assessment methods tell us how to manage wildlife to the maximum benefit of the people. And if locals decide that tourists looking at wolves is more important than eating moose, then the wolves will find their way to that area. If the locals want the helicopter gunships to come back and take care of the exploding wolf and bear populations, then let them. Predator control is not about sportsmanship, it’s about survival.

I trust local people to govern over their own lives, they are the most responsive to changing situations and needs, they are the ones that must live with the consequences.

Question About Ice Dredging

Question from “topdogintampa”

The Pomrenkes sound like they didn’t do so well over the winter season

Basically no one does well over the winter season. It’s twice as hard, takes twice as many man hours per nozzle hour, and the gold per hour is less than half as good as it is in the summer.

I did through the ice one year in 2011, it was horrible. There was us and one other gold mining operation on all of the Bering Sea. I lost money on that venture. Even if I didn’t have any capital costs, and with gold at $1700/ozt like it was then, I made less than minimum wage.

The Discovery production company wanted us to do it again in 2012 when they filmed the first season under the ice; and we would have if they paid enough and had given us enough warning so we could have staged our equipment differently, as it was our gear was under a 15 foot snowdrift.

My ice hut did end up on one season, the green shelter on skis that they portrayed as Zeke’s. That turned out to be about $12.50/hr for the guys working on it; and they were by far the most successful.

The only reason anyone does through the ice a second year is for the TV show, or they live in Nome year round and have nothing else to do. They would do better working as a checker at a grocery store.

Construction of my ice dredging hut

Construction of my ice dredging hut

Using 48" chainsaw to cut hole in the ice.

Using 48″ chainsaw to cut hole in the ice.

The main pieces of equipment. Mini-ex, tracked ATV, and my ice hut design.

The main pieces of equipment. Mini-ex, tracked ATV, and my ice hut design.

View from inside ice hut though tailings hole.

View from inside ice hut though tailings hole.

Nome Update 7/15/2014

First big storm of the summer has hit Nome, expected to last a week, might be another storm right behind it.

Natural turbidity levels have been a problem for the divers for the past week, due I think to strong currents pulling up biomass from the bottom and murking out most people. Higher skilled dredgers have been able to use dive lights and “dredging by braille” to work.

A group of about six or seven long-time 6″ dredgers have called it quits. Fed up with the poor gold, the unwelcoming atmosphere of the local government, and they are just getting tired of it. They sold off their dredges, equipment, and cabins/accommodations.

There are several dredges of various sizes for sale, some that have not been in the water yet this year, some not last year either. Even the infamous Randy Horne is selling off his stuff; I guess his scheme of having 4 to 6 investors/partners on a 6″ dredge, that then has to hire divers, isn’t enough of a money maker anymore. (I’m hoping that is because he has run out of people to scam, because they have started wising up to people who make big promises and don’t deliver)

Several dredges have been doing well, these are mostly with seasoned crews. I am surprised that the 10″ NorPac is not in the water this year, other 10″ dredges of it’s fleet are working. This is the large dredge that lost power and grounded on the beach last year, bending a shaft and other damage.

I’ve been here 3 months and we have about 25 days of dredging in so far, which is pretty close to a record for us, and way more days than almost everyone else so far this year. We are much bigger, by far the largest suction dredge in the fleet, so we often get a more days than the smaller guys.

The harbor has finally removed the stupid stand-off bumpers that didn’t go low enough, thus pinning several boats under them every year during the fall low tides. Unfortunately they replaced them with these floating horizontal bumpers that don’t let the boats get close enough to the ladders. In what harbor in the world have you ever seen them put bumper stuff along the steel walls? Normally boats bring their own bumpers, right?

There are a few dredges still being constructed, big diggers. One has been under construction for a couple years, the other since early June. There is word that another smaller version similar to the rov-style dredge I work on will be back this summer, after a rebuild or two; maybe they will be here in August, they are having serious problems with their buy-back crab boat, and lack of money because they spend lots of time building and not enough time mining.

The two excavator barges that jack off the water have been getting the most time in, but they have huge costs with payroll and upkeep. I hope they succeed, they put a lot of hard work into their operation, but their cost per ozt has to be kept low enough to be profitable. I’ve seen plenty of operations where their cost per ozt has been over $10,000; when successful ones are much lower, below the price of gold of course, around $600 maybe. That’s about what it was for my 8″ dredge, which was really slim when gold was under $800.

I did the math on my old 6″ and 8″ operations, and asked around. Suction dredging is the greenest way to mine, with a burn rate of about 4 to 10 gallons per ozt recovered.

Good Luck

Nome update June 6th, 2014

The ice went out May 18th, a few weeks earlier than typical the last few years, but later than 2008. The winter was warm and mild, as it often is when the L-48 has a harsh one.

The first barges have arrived, only a couple new dredges appeared to be on them. There is a distinct lack of activity around the harbor grounds and few dredges in the water. There are many dredges and surf crawlers that have not been touched this year, some were not touched last year either. The 10″ dredge fleet is mostly back in the water and working. The Eroica started mining yesterday, the AuGrabber has splashed in, the Christine Rose is tented in dry dock getting it’s hull painted, I didn’t notice any of the other ones from the TV show but I don’t know all their names.

Us and a couple of the larger commercial dredges are in the water and working, another just got in yesterday but are not working yet. One new one showed up, and word is that perhaps two more are on their way. All the others are diggers. Word is a couple more rov-style crawlers have undergone redesign and will be back this year; I won’t classify them as commercial since they are so small.

It appears that the gold rush is over.

Harbor fees have gone up again; we paid almost $5k for our dredge and two skiffs. Lucas, the new harbor master is very good. One of his workers, a new harbor assistant needs some training in customer relations; like all new people who think they are “authority figures” he will learn that he works for us, or he will be gone.

The weather has been mostly wet and cold. I see a couple tents on the beach, but it’s hard to tell with binos from an anchored boat two miles away.

A few government/retired government busy bodies in Nome complain about the “miners” in the letters to the editor and general whining; as if all the problems of this place were caused by 200 seasonal workers and not the poor policies they have enacted nor the 30 chronic inebriates that account for a huge portion of the city’s budget.

I don’t know where everyone else is, are they coming late or not coming? I’ve only seen a few new people so far.

Susistance Mining

Andrew C. Lee in Nome working on sub-sea crawler.

Andrew C. Lee in Nome working on sub-sea crawler.

The life of a Bering Sea gold dredger is hard work and by no means a way to get rich quick; most dredgers are either recreational or subsistence miners. Recreational miners don’t make a profit, they are just there for fun and adventure; they hope to cover most of the expenses of their hobby with the gold they find. Subsistence miners make a net profit at the gold mining, but only really enough to cover their modest living expenses for the year and then reinvest any extra gold money into upgrades and improvements on their equipment.

Even with thin margins, the life of adventure and freedom, hard work and challenges, exploration and discovery, and all the other reasons is a strong calling to a few hardy souls. So much so, that they have made a hit TV series about the adventures and mishaps of my fellow gold miners and wannabees.

In the Nome Offshore Mineral Lease sale of 2011, we gained access to over 2400 acres of new ground, in addition to the 800 acres from the previous sale in 1999 that we have been mining on with the prototype for the past 10 years.

Over the years, we have figured out what works and doesn’t work, and have refined the design of a second generation machine that would operate much more efficiently and productively. But the prototype works well enough, we can cover expenses and make a small profit, enough to get us to the next year and to make incremental improvements. Yet it doesn’t work so well that we can afford to build a whole new replacement machine, without bringing on costly investors that would negate the value of the increased gold production.

The biggest threat to resource extraction is ignorant people who hate progress and mask their hate in the guise of protecting the environment. Luckily the State of Alaska recognizes that this type of mining (placer) is very safe for the environment; and has been extensively studied, both in general and in this specific area. However, with mining in the current political climate there is always the risk that anti-progress people will gain power, shut down mining, and kill jobs.

Along those same lines, being granted the needed permits in a timely manner is always a risk; a low risk in the case of mining offshore Nome. There are 13 government agencies at the State and Federal level that review these types of mining operation. Most of these either have a general permit that covers most operations, or do not require a permit they just want to be kept in the loop. For the other agencies, there has not been unreasonable issues in obtaining their permits. Alaska DNR has designed an excellent consolidated form called the APMA that applies for all the needed permits with one comprehensive application.

From a technical point of view, there is always the possibility that the design improvements people attempt on new mining machines will not work, or worse, would hinder production. Of the 10 or 12 operations similar to the one I work with, that have been designed and built for mining offshore Nome, only one has been successful and is still in operation; and that is the one we operate. Our extensive experience and years of trial and error serve to mitigate this risk and greatly improve our chances for success, but that took time, expertise, and a great deal of trial and error.

Weather is always a factor in the offshore Nome mining operations, but this is more of a risk to profitability. Even in the worst weather years, we have managed to get over 50 days of mining; but we always get more days than the smaller operations. While miners who get weathered out are still able to have a fun and interesting experience, the main attraction for them to Nome is working on a mining operation pulling gold out of the bottom of the sea, there are many days where this cannot be accomplished due to weather.

Mechanical issues are an important risk and challenge for any operation. Nome is an extremely harsh environment, with extreme temperatures, salt water and spray, storms, and other natural factors. Combine that with the complexity of the machines and rigorousness of the activity; the toll on the mechanics of the operation make it hard to keep running. We mitigate this risk by starting with the proper equipment, then we have backups for every component that could fail, critical components have a tertiary backup. Also, since our vessel is bigger (now only the 6th largest in Nome, down from being the largest five years ago) aboard we have welders, torches, tools, metals, and all the accessories needed to affect repairs quickly and on site.

The definition of success for each miner and wannabe is different. For some they want the adventure and are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for it. Others want to break even while having their adventure. Some have a much higher bar of success and actually want to make enough money to cover their costs and support their family, of the 200 to 300 people that attempt gold mining in the Bering Sea each year, only 50, perhaps as many as 75 actually succeed in subsisting mostly on their profits from gold mining.

If you are thinking about mining for gold in Nome, or if someone is trying to get you to invest in an operation, email me “nome” at-sign “safonatt.com” and I can provide more information and specifics on what and who to avoid.

-Andrew C. Lee