The Tongass National Forest has decided to allow the Hecla Greens Creek Mining Company to expand its tailings facility in the Admiralty Island National Monument.
Tongass National Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole approved the plan, which authorizes the mining company to expand its existing facility further south into the monument by about 18 acres.
The plan also allows for a separate eight acres outside of the monument for rock quarry and material storage sites and for expanding a water management pond.
Alternative proposals included building a second tailings disposal facility in the Fowler Creek watershed, and the original proposal would have increased the mining company’s footprint in the monument by 116 acres — while eliminating more than 1,600 feet of salmon stream habitat.
Greens Creek Mining is one of the largest employers in Southeast Alaska with about 330 full-time employees, and it has worked in the Admiralty National Monument since 1989.
The company estimated that it would have been forced to cease operations in 2019 if no expansion was approved. This move is expected to allow the facility to accept additional tailings for about 10 years, and no tailings will be deposited in any sections of Tributary Creek.