My Turn: Coeur, you did it wrong

Dumping tailings into Lower Slate Lake violates Clean Water Act

Posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2007

In response to Rick Richins' My Turn of April 16, I would like to set the facts straight. Coeur Alaska has not done it right. Here is why:

Sound off on the important issues at

1) Richins writes, "America's commitment to clean water has always taken into account a balance of water uses." This is not based in fact. The United States ignored water and air pollution from industrial sources from its founding until the mid-20th century. Prior to passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, industry (including the mining industry) largely belched toxic pollution into the waterways with no restraint. Coeur's plan to use Lower Slate Lake as its industrial toxic waste dump, killing all existing life in a public-clean water resource, is a clear violation of the Clean Water Act. Coeur, you got this wrong.

2) Richins writes that the mine is supported by 900 engineering and environmental studies. Maybe so, but the plan to dump waste into Lower Slate Lake is a violation of the Clean Water Act. The recent 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision specifically found that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had violated the act by permitting Coeur to dispose mine waste into the lake. Does this cast any doubt on the other 899 studies?

3) Richins points out that the Fort Knox, Pogo and Red Dog mines place treated tailings fill into "waters of the U.S." But none of these mines is permitted to destroy a public lake by filling it with toxic mine tailings. The Red Dog is listed as one of the worst polluters in Alaska, if not in the entire United States, by some sources found on the Internet. My idea is to not model any new mines on existing ones listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as major sources of pollution.

4) Richins writes that Coeur's overriding goal is to "operate the mine in an environmentally responsible manner." This statement is without basis in fact. The primary purpose of Coeur, like any other corporation, is to make money for its shareholders. Had Coeur pursued an environmentally sound, dry-stack tailings facility, mining would be under way. Coeur chose to pursue a plan that was in violation of the Clean Water Act. Coeur, you did not get this right.

5) Richins claims the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council chose not to sign an agreement which involved dry-stack tailings. Just as Coeur is accountable to its shareholders, SEACC is accountable to its members. The organization is under no obligation to sign any agreement that is not in the best interests of its members. SEACC is not against the mine; it's against the pollution the mine will discharge into the public waterways of Southeast Alaska. SEACC is concerned about the long-term health of Berners Bay and the salmon fishery.

6) Richins states, "Coeur has created numerous newspaper and radio advertisements to explain our position to the people of Alaska." Yes, we have seen and heard them. Just like the cruise ship industry, we are aware of the millions of dollars that corporations such as Coeur can throw at the media to influence the public. Just like the cruise ship initiative, Alaskans can see through propaganda campaigns, especially when it comes to polluting natural resources.

For Alaskans, the more rigorous and demanding the environmental requirements the mine must comply with, the better it will be for Alaska's economy. Proper environmental procedures and facilities translate into more jobs. Ensuring that mining does not damage the salmon fishery is in the best interests of Alaskans, long after Coeur has cut and run from the mine. Environmental controls equates directly to more jobs, both in the short and long term.

SEACC had every right to use any legal means it deemed appropriate to protect the environment and the interests of its members. Alaskans can see through the big-buck propaganda campaign by a member of an industry whose legacy of environmental destruction is second to none. Historically, the mining industry has an abhorrent record of environmental protection, and it is responsible for some of the major EPA Superfund sites in the United States.

Sorry, Coeur. You failed to get it right.

• Fred Einspruch is a Haines resident and a member of the Sierra Club, Lynn Canal Conservation and Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.

Trending this week:


© 2018. All Rights Reserved.  | Contact Us