FAIRBANKS -- A newly discovered deposit at the Pogo mine in the Interior contains at least 1.2 million ounces of gold, a find that company officials believe will extend the life of the project by more than two years.
General manager Chris Kennedy said exploratory drilling conducted so far hasn't reached the bottom of the deposit and that upcoming efforts are planned to find its boundaries.
An exploration program will continue this summer and likely into 2013, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. The remote underground mine is located about 38 miles northeast of Delta Junction.
Kennedy said the deposit could extend out roughly another half-mile, making the current find just a small portion of a much more significant discovery.
"It's just a hunch, but I kind of look at it as an iceberg," Kennedy said.
Pogo was fully purchased by a pair of Japanese partner companies -- Sumitomo Metal Mining and Sumitomo Corp. -- in 2009. Canadian mining company Teck Alaska Inc. sold its 40 percent share to the companies for $245 million.
Pogo had previously planned to continue its mining operations until 2017, but the new find stretches that timeline out to at least 2019.
"It's really exciting for us," Kennedy said.
The East Deep find boosts the known reserves at Pogo by more than 20 percent, according to company estimates. The mine began extracting gold in 2006 and expects to produce its 2 millionth ounce sometime this summer, Kennedy said.
The additional find also comes at a lucrative time. The price of gold closed at $1,659.10 per ounce Friday, about five times its value from a decade ago.