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Mine agreement renewal upheld by Assembly

Posted: July 29, 2013 - 10:30pm  |  Updated: July 30, 2013 - 12:06am

Three Assembly members Monday lost a vote aimed at reconsidering renewal of a more than 30-year-old agreement that makes it easier for a potential mine developer to negotiate over reopening mine properties in Juneau and Douglas, including the site of the AJ Mine.

A motion to reconsider a resolution passed earlier this month that would renew the agreement to unitize certain mining properties in the City and Borough of Juneau failed at the regular Assembly meeting.

Resolution 2656 is an updated agreement between the CBJ and AJT Mining Properties, Inc., the original agreement dating to 1979 and 1980.

The Assembly passed the renewal resolution on July 15 (http://goo.gl/wiyovP). Mayor Merrill Sanford said the resolution’s goal was to explore possibilities for mining the now defunct areas on Douglas and in Downtown Juneau.

Four members of the public addressed the Assembly Monday with concerns about a public hearing process regarding the matter.

“I encourage you to reconsider that resolution, so there may be time to fully address any questions,” said Paula Terrel. “Further, the language describing the resolution online is troubling.”

The resolution states that it seeks to demonstrate to lessees the commitment of the CBJ and AJT to make their properties available for responsible development.

“This language makes it sound like a decision to pursue the reopening of the AJ mine has already been made,” Terrel said.

Unitizing creates a clear property owner that mining companies can negotiate with in the future. It’s an agreement that has remained unchanged for 34 years, according to Rorie Watt, CBJ Engineering Director who spoke before the Assembly at the July 15 meeting.

Assembly Member Jesse Kiehl voiced concerns over a lack of public comment at the July meeting, and reiterated that point Monday.

“My primary concern then was that I didn’t believe that the taxpayers of Juneau had adequate information and opportunity to tell us what they thought about the course of action that the resolution accomplishes,” Kiehl said.

In the two weeks since then, the Assembly received a slew of feedback on its decision to adopt the resolution.

An online petition on Change.org gathered more than 100 signatures of Juneau residents who sought a reconsideration of the resolution in the belief that adequate public comment on the matter was not given.

“What I’ve heard, overwhelmingly, in those comments from the public, is that they still don’t know what it does and they’re still not sure if it’s a good idea, and they’d like for us to hash it out a little more,” Kiehl said. “I think it’s appropriate for us to take up reconsideration tonight. And to do what the tax payers have asked us to do.”

The motion to reconsider Resolution 2656 was struck down. Assembly Members Crane, Kiehl and Jones voted to reconsider.

Guy Archibald, mining and clean water coordinator at Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, offered public testimony at the beginning of the meeting Monday and said he was unsatisfied with the decision made by the Assembly.

“To me, it’s actually going to make finding a developer harder, even if you’re for a mine here. This is going to make it more difficult even if the citizens want a mine,” Archibald said. “The city is acting both as a regulator and as an owner so they have an inherent conflict of interest here.”

He felt that mine developers would walk into a community “at war.”

“It’s typical of the way this thing has gone for two and a half years. It’s being railroaded down the citizens’ throat,” Archibald said. “We were promised an open and transparent public process, and this is just indicative that we’re not going to get it.”

Contact reporter Kenneth Rosen at 523-2250 or at kenneth.rosen@juneauempire.com.

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