Our friends and neighbors work at the Hecla Greens Creek Mine on Admiralty Island. Each work day they make the long commute, put in a hard shift, and return to our community to spend wages, raise families, volunteer in the community, pay taxes, and enjoy the life to which we have all become accustomed. Right now those employees and their operation are asking the US Forest Service to modify their permit to expand the tailings storage facility so operations can continue for as much as 50 additional years. Greens Creek has proven an exceptional neighbor, as has its employees. I am the President of First Things First Alaska Foundation and we wish to express our gratitude for all Greens Creek and its employees have done and continue to do for our community and region. We hope everyone in Juneau, Southeast, and throughout Alaska appreciate their exemplary efforts to create wealth from rocks and spread that wealth through wages, purchases, and capital.
The U.S. Forest Service has closed the public comment period on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for their requested tailings disposal facility permit expansion. This permit expansion will allow Greens Creek to continue doing what it has done so successfully for the past 25 years, and create capacity for as much as 50 additional years. First Things First is dedicated to educating the public about out natural resource based economy in Southeast Alaska. When you think economy, think jobs: your job, your neighbor’s job, and the jobs that keep our community moving forward. Natural resource extraction has been and will continue to be the backbone of the Alaskan economy — and in particular that of Southeast Alaska. With the decline of Southeast’s timber industry, mining is the one shining light that promises growth of high paying year-round employment. The average mining industry job pays $100,000 per year. Greens Creek offers employment opportunities for both urban and rural residents. Economic hardship has hit our villages disproportionately, and a camp operation such as Greens Creek facilitates village employment to the maximum extent practicable.
Greens Creek has proven mining can coexist with the wildlife and wilderness values of rural Admiralty Island and Monument. Copious monitoring data have been collected over the past 40 odd years, which document minimal to unmeasurable environmental impacts. Thus the cost/benefit of Greens Creek is exemplary. Greens Creek is a demonstrably viable long-term economic driver – including paying taxes – and every reasonable effort should be made to maintain or enhance its economic vitality for the benefit of its employees, supply businesses, Juneau, and other Southeast communities.
By issuing a permit to expand the existing tailings storage facility and continue uninterrupted operations, Greens Creek can continue to generate the wealth that makes our lives possible here on the last frontier. We have submitted our comments to the Forest Service. We encourage the Forest Service to issue the Final Environmental Impact Statement expeditiously and not delay and disrupt project operation and workers lives. Delay is denial. The report and over 40 years of environmental data show how neighborly Greens Creek has been. Let’s support our miner neighbors and ensure we all continue to work toward a prosperous future. If you have commented in support of DEIS Alternative B – thank you. Protect those paychecks.
• Chambers. of Juneau. is president of the First Things First Alaska Foundation.