Companies fight over rights to Alaska gold claims in lawsuit

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The former and current owners of an Alaska gold mine are involved in a lawsuit over who owns the rights to gold claims.

Great American Minerals Exploration Inc. filed a lawsuit in November contesting gold claims that were part of a $260 million sale of the Pogo mine, the Alaska Journal of Commerce reported Wednesday.

Sumitomo Metal Mining America Inc. announced in August 2018 that it agreed to sell the underground mine in eastern Alaska to Australia-based Northern Star Resources Ltd.

Great American said it was unaware the deal included about 56 square miles (145 square kilometres) of state mining claims known as the Monte Cristo property.

Great American signed an option agreement with Sumitomo and its subsidiaries in August 2016 providing exclusive rights to eventually purchase the Monte Cristo claims, provided it met certain work criteria.

Judge Jennifer Henderson issued a preliminary injunction Dec. 30, a day before the option agreement was set to expire, that essentially freezes the agreement until the injunction is lifted or the case is resolved.

Great American paid Sumitomo $700,000 in installments over two years and fulfilled commitments to perform at least $8.5 million of exploration work at Monte Cristo from 2017 to 2019, according to its complaint.

Sumitomo denied the majority of the allegations, but acknowledged the exploration company fulfilled its work commitments in 2017 and 2018 and made its final $250,000 option fee payment Aug. 29, 2018, a day before the Pogo sale was announced.

The lawsuit filed by Nevada-based Great American also named Northern Star Resources and RCI Capital Group Inc., a Canadian finance firm.

The Associated Press