New Greens Creek ore exploration continues

1872 Mining law allows exploration in roadless area

Greens Creek Mine has received the go-ahead to begin exploration for new ore deposits adjacent to its Admiralty Island sulfide mine.

“The Forest Service has approved exploratory drilling in an inventoried roadless area for the Greens Creek Mine,” U.S. Forest Service Alaska Regional Forester Beth Pendleton Greens Creek Mine said in a recent press release.

The underground mine is owned by Hecla Mining Company.

Greens Creek plans to transport its drill rigs by helicopter.

It does not plan to build roads. Site reclamation will be completed after drilling operations are done, Pendleton said.

The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council played a role in the Roadless Rule case.

According to a written statement, SEACC is “not surprised by the Forest Service’s action” as mining activities such as road construction and tree-clearing for helicopter pads are covered by the Mining Law of 1872.

SEACC said this action is indication that earlier concerns about the Roadless Rule were unfounded.

“Concerns were raised when the Tongass exemption for the Roadless Rule was lifted by the courts last spring, but they were unnecessary, as underscored by this action,” SEACC wrote. 

Concern instead should be directed to the impacts associated with the toxic waste produced by the mine “and the impacts of disposing and diluting this waste into our environment,” SEACC wrote. “We are engaged in a public process currently underway related to a tailings disposal expansion at the mine.”

Exploration will take place within the Admiralty Island National Monument and the Greens Creek Inventoried Roadless Area, according to the Forest Service press release. Drilling is expected to affect 1.25 acres. Greens Creek will explore from 11 drill platform sites.

National Environmental Protection Act analysis has been completed for this Greens Creek exploration.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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