Report: Juneau’s mining ordinance fairly typical

Subcommittee to interpret consultant report, ask for members of public to join committee

Employees of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development watch mining students in the Entry Level Underground Mining Training program learn how to hand drill in the AJ Mine in June 2010. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Earlier this month, an Anchorage consultant filed his report on Juneau’s mining ordinance, and the Assembly Mining Subcommittee will examine it publicly Nov. 9.

 

Bob Loeffler, a consultant with natural resource issues consulting firm Jade North, LLC, spent two months examining Juneau’s mining ordinance, and sent his findings to the City and Borough of Juneau Law Department on Oct. 12. The subcommittee, which is looking into whether or not the city needs to overhaul the ordinance to make it easier to pursue mining in the borough limits, is meeting at noon, Nov. 9 at City Hall, conference room 224.

Both Loeffler and City and Borough of Juneau Attorney Amy Mead declined to comment on the report until after the subcommittee’s meeting. In the report, Loeffler goes through the mining ordinance and says on many occasions that the ordinance is a fairly typical one.

This April, a group of businessmen approached the CBJ Assembly, saying that there are large portions of the city’s ordinance that are redundant in regards to federal and state regulations. These parts of the ordinance, the proposal said, “increase the delay and cost of mining exploration and mining within the CBJ.”

Loeffler’s findings were that there are some requirements that duplicate state or federal requirements, but the ordinance allows some flexibility with how to enforce its regulations.

“The extent of the overlap depends on how the ordinance is administered,” Loeffler wrote in his introductory section.

The subcommittee members will read through the ordinance closely and discuss their interpretations of the document at the Nov. 9 meeting. The subcommittee currently consists of just three members — Chair Norton Gregory, Maria Gladziszewski and Beth Weldon — and will be adding four more people. Two will come from the Planning Commission and two will come from the public.

At the Nov. 9 meeting, the subcommittee members will outline a process for selecting the remaining members. Anybody interested in being considered for the committee is asked to fill out a CBJ Board Application available on the city’s website. Completed applications should be turned in to the City Clerk’s office via email (city.clerk@juneau.org) or in person at City Hall, 155 S. Seward Street.

Mayor Ken Koelsch established the subcommittee during the June 26 Assembly meeting. The subcommittee was instructed to recommend what actions should be taken on the mining ordinance, including a public process. Other goals of the subcommittee include adding other members to the body, recommending a timeline for the group and giving recommendations to the Assembly Committee of the Whole eventually.

Assembly members have disagreed on certain aspects of this process, including the formation of the subcommittee. City Manager Rorie Watt recommended at the Committee of the Whole’s June 12 meeting that the entire Assembly should be involved in the process, not just a few members. Gladziszewski, along with fellow Assembly members Loren Jones and Jesse Kiehl, agreed with Watt but the other six Assembly members voted to form the subcommittee.

Since the Alaska-Juneau Mine closed in 1944, there have been numerous discussions about reopening the mine or further pursuing mining in the city limits. A group under the name of Echo Bay Alaska attempted to reopen the mine in the early 1990s, but mining operations ended in 1997. FBI and EPA investigations revealed that the company leaked chemicals into Gold Creek and had lied about the chemicals it was using.

This subcommittee is the first city committee to look into the future of mining in the borough since 2011, when the AJ Mine Advisory committee released its findings. This group, which included both Watt and Gladziszewski, concluded that the feasibility of reopening the AJ Mine depends on many factors, including the size of the mining operations.


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or alex.mccarthy@juneauempire.com.


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