My Turn: Coeur Alaska's reverse logic

Company has only itself to blame for the mess it's in

Posted: Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Coeur Alaska's new series of ads asking the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council to reconsider its lawsuit over the Clean Water Act raises some interesting points.

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Yes, Coeur does have a permit by the Army Corps of Engineers to place reclassified waste tailings, now called "fill," into Lower Slate Lake. Nevertheless, the Kensington Mine case sets a precedent for the future of mine waste being called "fill." Recently, in case after case, the Bush administration's new interpretations of laws are being overturned in the courts. While a dozen mouthpieces and "paid-for" barking dogs will howl that no precedent has been set with Kensington and Lower Slate Lake, the court will soon decide one way or another.

Coeur also says in its ads that there is only one way to get rid of the tailings: in the lake or nothing. This attempt to bully its way against common sense makes no sense. A company that has real leadership is flexible in the way it engages its business. To insist on being inflexible and stake your whole mining operation on a one-trick pony sold to you by some cronies of the Bush administration shows poor planning and weak company leadership. This inflexible position gets this company and its dependent employees nowhere.

The reverse-logic audacity of Coeur insisting the whole thing is the conservation council's fault is ridiculous. The organization's mission statement plainly says, "SEACC is dedicated to preserving the integrity of Southeast Alaska's unsurpassed natural environment while providing for the balanced, sustainable use of our region's resources."

The same people who sold Coeur on a reworded Clean Water permit are the same people who thought a war in Iraq would be a "cake-walk." These same people sell polluted skies as "blue skies."

Coeur can run its cute ads blaming others for the mess it's in, but a change of its upper management might make a lot more sense.

While some people will continue to rail and curse environmentalists, you might ask the people of Libby, Mont., how they feel about the promises of mining companies. Or ask the poor people who live downstream of the giant Freeport Gold Mine in Malaysia how they feel about the lack of accountability that has poisoned their water.

While 70 percent of the human body consists of water, it makes sense to try and uphold clean water, clean air and a healthy environment. Still have doubts? Just try a little research of environmental disasters in China or the Soviet Union or other far-away corners of the world. Who among us doesn't know or know of a Vietnam veteran who got a dose of Agent Orange and died years before their time?

Personally, I do regret that the Coeur management team's poor choices have left the company's workers high and dry. Maybe its 400 employees should petition Coeur to replace its management team instead. That's where the real blame for this mess is to be found.

• Joseph Sebastian is a resident of Petersburg.

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