Coeur Alaska is now busy touting its thrifty design to "enlarge" and "enhance" "unproductive" Slate Lake. In so doing, they stand the English language on its head and remind me of the Bush administration's "Clear Skies Initiative" - the bill he signed that boosted allowable levels of power plant atmospheric pollution.
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The extension of Coeur's logic is that the Alexander Archipelago is a wasteland, littered with thousands of "unproductive" lakes and streams, many of which could use a good treatment of mine and mill waste so as to be "enlarged" and "enhanced" - if only each had a nearby golden calf to make the sacrifice profitable for Coeur.
Fortunately, all that glitters is not gold, like clean water and each perfect scale on every coho bound for Berners Bay. Our region has indeed been crowned with great natural wealth: fisheries enough to sustain robust commercial, sport and subsistence economies. And before our modern times, humankind thrived for thousands of years on these same healthy marine resources.
What drives the thirst for gold, and Coeur's Slate Lake gold mine project is, of course, the endless (and growing) demand for jewelry and that fact is important to remember in the values debate, where gold mining is concerned. Jewelry, for pure conspicuous consumption, will be the end purpose for the majority of the gold extracted from the Kensington claim (using late 1990s data, the end product of about 68 percent of all gold is jewelry) - and there is the real trade-off. Mankind gets more crappy gold chains and hoarded wealth, while natural, healthy and highly productive aquatic systems are degraded in exchange.
As a reminder, Coeur already has a mine permit for the Kensington deposit - the more benign (and costly) dry-stack design - a point that Coeur seems to wish the public would forget. The Slate Lake "plan" is pretty simple really - more profit, more environmental risk and more spin: Coeur enhances the unproductive English language to lessen public scrutiny and justify threats to robust fisheries and despoliation of a pristine lake.
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