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.