More honest conversation needed in mine debate

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, January 25, 2007

I would like to respond to Coeur Alaska's recent ad addressed, in part, to me as a Southeast Alaska Conservation Council board member. Coeur's willingness to drag matters down to a personal level and to be deceptive about the jobs issue is not helping community members become fully informed citizens and make the best decisions. Here are some of the things that Coeur could have said that would begin to move the discussion from advertising hype to a more open, honest presentation of the issues:

1. Coeur is in business to make money for its stockholders. If the choice is between maximizing jobs and maximizing profits, it will maximize profits.

Sound off on the important issues at

2. In 1997, Coeur received the necessary permits to develop the mine using dry tailings disposal. SEACC did not oppose that permit (just like with the Greens Creek dry tailings permit). Coeur could have had people working at the Kensington Mine for almost 10 years now. But profits weren't going to be big enough, so it stopped the mine (even though it had stated that the dry stack plan would be profitable with gold at $400 an ounce, and it's now more than $600 an ounce).

3. In the interim, Coeur figured out a way to further boost profits by dumping tailings into Lower Slate Lake, ignoring the Environmental Protection Agency's finding that dry tailings was the environmentally preferred option. Coeur wanted to cut costs by just using a slurry pipe to the lake and not having to de-water and stack the tailings, which requires more labor.

4. It's ironic that if SEACC prevails, Coeur may have to do dry tailings, which would probably mean hiring more workers to move and stack the tailings! So, if you're mostly concerned about the number of jobs, you might actually want to support SEACC's position. It's mostly Coeur stockholders who will benefit if the corporation can sneak through the cheaper, messier (according to the EPA) Slate Lake plan.

5. Coeur has only itself to blame for allowing the 1997 permit for dry tailings to expire. If it proposed that same project again, it would likely get the permit again. With gold at its current price, the corporation would still make a hefty profit, and we'd all have a mine that is likely to be better, not only for the environment, but for Juneau's economy as well!

George Figdor

SEACC board member


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