Misinformation should stay consistent

Posted: Sunday, January 29, 2006

After reading recent letters and the latest article in the Juneau Empire about the tailings from the Kensington Mine, I thought I would make one more attempt to correct the misinformation that continues to come from many of those who oppose the current plan to use Lower Slate Lake as a tailings storage facility.

Of particular interest in the article was the discussion regarding the toxicity of the tailings. The article makes a number of references to the acidity of the tailings and quotes a spokesperson for a public interest group in Bozeman, Mont. This same spokesperson stated in a Dec. 2, 2005 letter, "The tailings discharge will be extremely alkaline, approximately equal to that of ammonia." A local Sierra Club spokesperson also said, in a Jan. 2, 2006 letter, "The predicted pH is equal to ammonia - pH11." Which is it? Despite the magic of chemistry, you can't have an alkaline acid. If you want to be taken seriously, your misinformation should at least be consistent.

The December letter also included this statement: "I know of no mine in the U.S. that failed to open because the federal government prohibited it from dumping its waste into a lake or river." I'm guessing that's because no other mine has sought a permit to do so; no other mine meets the same criteria the Kensington does. It is just as true (and meaningless) to say, "No mine has failed to open because it wasn't allowed to dump its waste at the local cemetery." Neither the Federal government, nor the state is going to allow a mine with truly toxic tailings to dispose of them in a lake or river. I would be at the forefront of the protest against any mining company stupid enough to even propose it.

It may be a great way to generate income from an expanded base of donors, but it is ludicrous to suggest the Kensington permit means any other mine in Alaska, such as Pebble, is going to automatically be allowed to discharge tailings into a lake or river. The Pebble is years away from even developing a plan of operations, much less getting a permit. Remember how long it has taken for Coeur to get the Kensington permitted the second time, much less the first? Maybe that won't even be a proposed tailings disposal option for the Pebble.

Chris DeWitt


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