The Kensington mine will be a valuable part of the Juneau economy and a great benefit to people trying to earn a living in the Juneau area. It is hard to overstate the importance of the living-wage, nonseasonal jobs that the mine will provide. These are the job opportunities that are increasingly difficult to find in today's economy.
Environmental groups say that the Berners Bay area is too important for its natural quality to have any development, and it's easy to understand why a lot of people are sympathetic to this idea. It would be nice if every wild acre of Alaska could be preserved. In reality, Southeast Alaska probably has dozens of localities with natural characteristics comparable to Berners Bay, but only one is the site of a major gold deposit. Resources are now, and will continue to be, a cornerstone of the Alaska economy. Businesses must be able to have access to resources. The environmentalists can be effective by making sure that resource projects are planned and operated with the best practical designs and management plans.
Two issues do not get enough attention in the permitting process. One is the relatively short duration of the project compared to the overall availability of the Berners area. While the mine will disturb only a small part of the Berners area, even if enough ore is discovered to extend the mine life to 20 or 30 years, it is still a short time considering the many years the area is available for other uses. The other issue is the ease of reclamation in Southeast Alaska. Anyone who has been to the mine sites around Juneau has seen that the signs of mining facilities are disappearing rapidly. With active reclamation, the Kensington site will quickly start to recover its' original qualities. I can hardly imagine a better setting than Southeast Alaska for effective reclamation.
Robert B. Robinson
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