Groups contest gold mine permit

Environmentalists call for hearing to retract permit for placing tailings in Slate Lake

Posted: Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Two environmental groups have requested a hearing in which they would ask the state to retract its certification of a federal permit allowing Coeur Alaska to dump mine tailings in Lower Slate Lake.

Lynn Canal Conservation and the Juneau chapter of the Sierra Club charge that the permit violates the U.S. Clean Water Act and a number of state laws.

"Conversion of a water body into a treatment works is not provided for in Alaska law," said Mark Rorick, chairman of the Sierra Club chapter.

Filing their request for a hearing allows the groups to preserve their ability to file a claim in state court if the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation doesn't change its stance on the permit, Rorick said.

DEC certified the draft federal permit May 6. That step had to be completed before federal authorities approved the final permit, state officials said.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced last Friday it has approved the permit. It will allow Coeur Alaska - developing the Kensington gold mine 45 miles northwest of downtown Juneau - to discharge 3.4 million cubic yards of mine tailings into the lake.

In response to the environmentalists' petition, DEC sent out a notice last week giving the public 20 days to comment on whether it should hold the hearing. The letter was sent to 500 people who previously commented on the matter.

"After that, the (DEC) commissioner's office considers whether to hold a hearing," said Pete McGee, an engineer with DEC's water division.

• Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at elizabeth.bluemink@juneauempire.com.



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