I would like to respond to a recent letter by Coeur Alaska which wrongfully describes the Mineral Policy Center as an "anti-mining" organization because of our stated concerns over Coeur's plan to cut costs at the proposed Kensington mine by discharging toxic mine waste directly into freshwater Slate Lake.
Coeur shouldn't be surprised by these concerns. This type of mine waste disposal isn't being done anywhere else in the United States - for very good reason. Toxic mine waste doesn't belong in our rivers, streams and lakes. It is an irresponsible proposal that is at complete odds with modern American regulatory practices.
For over 15 years, Mineral Policy Center has worked with community groups across the West to promote more responsible mining practices. Just as there are appropriate ways to manage the waste from cruise ships, there are appropriate disposal practices for minesl. It is our position that mine waste should be placed in a lined repository with a leak-detection system. This way, it is possible for pollution from the mine to be identified, intercepted and treated before it reaches water resources. This is particularly critical when important fisheries, such as those in Southeast Alaska, are at risk.
Coeur's proposal, which eliminates these basic pollution control measures, is an ill-fated plan that places Alaska's waters and fisheries in jeopardy simply to increase company profits.
In its letter, Coeur contends that the Mineral Policy Center knows Coeur's environmental commitment because our organization was part of a selection committee for an environmental award that Conoco and Dupont bestowed on the company in 1991. We regret that award. After it was issued, information came to light that Coeur's Rochester mine was polluting the groundwater with toxic pollutants. The problem has continued. Last year the state of Nevada issued a notice of violation to the company because cyanide levels were in violation of state water quality standards, and the state ordered the company to develop a cleanup plan to address the contamination.
Water quality issues are a valid and critical concern for those who care about Berners Bay. Citizens are right to raise questions and demand better.
Northwest Field Staff
Mineral Policy Center