In talking about design changes the Kensington mine has undergone during the past 15 years, it's interesting that Rick Richins (My Turn, Feb. 1) gave Coeur credit for eliminating a proposed on-site cyanide recovery process. This positive change was a direct result of the environmental community successfully advocating for clean water and a healthy fishery.
More people in Southeast Alaska earn a living fishing than any other profession. Berners Bay is an amazingly productive feeding and rearing area for Lynn Canal fish from the Chilkat and Chilkoot watersheds. A healthy Berners Bay and productive Lynn Canal fisheries - and all the jobs provided by fishing - depend upon clean water.
Although Richins states Coeur has followed all the rules in its quest to dump toxic tailings slurry into Slate Lake and thus kill all living things in the lake, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it to be a violation of the Clean Water Act. The Supreme Court will determine whether or not that decision will stand.
We agree with Richins that the mine will create needed jobs. That's why we met repeatedly with Coeur CEO Dennis Wheeler to work out a plan for a clean and legal mine. Unfortunately, Coeur backed out of an agreed upon paste tailings disposal plan that would have protected Berners Bay and clean water. This tailings disposal plan would have put people to work faster, and unlike the lake dumping plan it would not have compromised any fish-bearing lakes or streams.
Why did Coeur jeopardize 375 jobs by gambling on a Supreme Court appeal instead of letting the paste tailings permitting process proceed? Coeur never offered any explanation for suddenly pulling out of the paste tailings plan so diligently worked out by the city and agreed to by all parties, including Lynn Canal Conservation.
As for Richins' question: "Whose interests are the environmental groups really serving? Are they really out for the best environmental plan, or the interests of Alaska and its residents?" I would reply "yes" to all of the above. The best environmental plan is in the best interests of Alaska and its residents. Alaskans support industries that respect the law and don't pollute our land and water.
Whose interests are Coeur really serving - that of their stockholders or that of the working people of Alaska? Their unilateral withdrawal from the all-party agreement seems to indicate the former.
President, Lynn Canal Conservation
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