Even rural mines have city impacts

Posted: Tuesday, April 29, 2003

The Assembly should reject the proposed changes to the city mining ordinance.

Our city should continue to fully assess mining projects throughout the borough. Such projects can affect not only land, air and water, but our economy and social fabric as well. Large mines will affect Juneau, whether they are near town or out of town. The city is still responsible for people in town connected to a mine, even if the mine is out of town. Children still must be schooled, clean water supplied, fire protection provided for, sewage properly dealt with, etc.

It is not wise to make a distinction between so called "rural" mines and other mines. Juneau residents use all of our area for living, work and recreation. One of Juneau's strongest economic and social competitive advantages is the quality of our natural surroundings. Ensuring adequate protection for more remote areas not only benefits residents who use those areas, but also Juneau businesses that rely on fishing and tourism. The local influence that the mining ordinance provides is particularly important in these days of weakened state and federal commitment to local review and environmental protection.

An especially important value of the current ordinance is the city's ability to require bonds. Eventually, any mine will close. Once a mine closes, the city must be sure that any anticipated or unanticipated impacts can be handled - and not at the expense of Juneau citizens.

The current ordinance is not only fair to Juneau, but to mining companies. For example, the existing Kensington Mine plan was approved under this framework.

The Assembly should not undo the difficult work Juneau citizens did in the past on this important issue. We have enough new challenges facing us as a community. It seems much more appropriate to direct our town's energy toward those, rather than revisiting matters that have been already resolved years ago in a collaborative fashion.

Steve Behnke


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