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Beware dreams of gold for Juneau

Posted: November 17, 2011 - 12:05am

Regular Juneau Empire columnist and lawyer Ben Brown suggested in Sunday’s Empire that he is now convinced, after attending a Juneau Chamber of Commerce presentation given by the City and Borough of Juneau head engineer Rorie Watt, that resurrecting the historically interesting AJ Mine is a good idea and a safe thing for us to do, as it will make us a very wealthy city indeed and will lead us to an even better drinking water source then our present Gold Creek.

That’s amazing.

While we are in this revisited gold-digging mode downtown, we are told we will be impacted naught — since it will be a small mine operating night and day underground, out of sight and hearing and maybe our mind too. Or better still — especially out of our minds! But that is precisely why we are told it is being designed as a “small mine” operation. Yes? No?

Though not being a hard-rock miner, I cannot and I must assume, most of us cannot, readily envision what “3,500 tons” of blasted-out gold ore, per day, would actually look like in say — one huge pile? While that is pretty interesting to muse, an even more interesting and totally unknown question is: If this AJ Mine actually flies, as Brown predicts it will or must — producing millions of ounces and billions of dollars at today’s pricey gold sales, what is to prevent, in the near-future, city elected officials and their administration just upping the size of digging operations to, say, 20,000 tons per day or more, the same amount per day that Brown says defeated an attempted resurrection before, as Echo Bay Mining Company tried to reopen it from the same old mine-ghosts of such a long-past gold mining era.

I must say, though, that Ben Brown does seem rather bent on fully redeveloping and re-paving the City and Borough of Juneau’s streets with solid gold — though perhaps in a more wishful moment he does appear to wonder about all the future infrastructure that will be needed to support such a mine renewal. Is this like I wonder about what happened to the affordable housing needs the Assembly at one time seemed so very concerned about?

As Juneau and Douglas residents ask the city many hard-rock mining questions and seriously deliberate and eventually go vote on whether to reactivate this downtown, historically interesting ghost of a mine, I do hope their thoughts are not held captive by many myths of intrigue and romance or by myriad daydreams of gaining untold wealth or fanciful images of bright golden treasure held stressfully in individual deer-leather pouches.

Alan R. Munro

Juneau

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