Kensington supporters turn to Palin for mediation

Two groups hope governor can weigh in on mine solution

Posted: Friday, March 30, 2007

At least two Southeast Alaska groups are asking Gov. Sarah Palin to help negotiate an out-of-court solution that would allow the Kensington Mine to keep working toward opening.

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"We want to try and salvage this project through discussions. We think the governor has a proper role to convene those discussions," said Randy Wanamaker, a Juneau Assembly member and strong supporter of the gold mine 45 miles north of Juneau.

He spoke Thursday afternoon at the midwinter convention of the Southeast Conference, a nonprofit organization that focuses on the region's economic development and growth.

The organization is expected to take up a resolution of a formal request to the governor at its board of directors meeting today. The Berners Bay Consortium, a coalition of Native groups, delivered a similar resolution to the governor on Tuesday.

"Everyone recognizes that an out-of-court settlement is best. We look forward to passing it tomorrow," Wanamaker said.

The Kensington Mine's tailings disposal proposal, which includes dumping waste rock into Lower Slate Lake, has been under litigation. Environmental groups worry that the tailings disposal plan would set a national precedent.

The groups, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Sierra Club and Lynn Canal Conservation, won a major victory recently when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a statement that it would rule in their favor.

The appeals court said that permits issued by the U.S. Corps of Engineers to Coeur Alaska, the mine operator, were in violation of the Clean Water Act.

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Both Coeur Alaska and the environmental groups have said they were willing to discuss an alternative tailings disposal plan. Neither group has said when the talks might begin.

The governor's office is not commenting on the litigation, said Meg Stapleton, spokesperson for the governor's office.

"The governor's office has been in touch with both Coeur and SEAAC directly multiple times over the past couple of weeks and they're working on getting both parties together and will continue to do so," she said.

Wanamaker described the Southeast Conference resolution as "straightforward" and "very nice."

"It basically outlines the history of the project, the fact it has been fully permitted and that it has an important payroll and property tax base for the Southeast Alaska community," he said.

The Southeast Conference has passed previous resolutions in support of the mine project.

Arguments detailing its support were sent to courts that ruled on the project, said Murray Walsh, the organization's executive director.

• Brittany Retherford can be reached at brittany.retherford@juneauempire.com.



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