300 jobs, and none too soon

Mine supporters rally, expecting an economic boost

Posted: Tuesday, June 23, 2009

About 50 Coeur Alaska Inc. supporters gathered at the Capitol steps with signs and banners celebrating the Supreme Court decision in favor of the mine Monday, crying, "Jobs-Jobs-Jobs!"

"I can't wait to see young families and babies again here in Juneau," said Cathie Roemmich, executive director of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce and a longtime Coeur supporter.

Owner Coeur Alaska Inc. says it will need 300 construction workers to get the mine into production and 200 workers once the mine is in full operation. The mine's tunnels, the mill, generators and other developments are ready to go; only the controversial tailings plant needs to be built. The company estimates it will start producing gold in the second half of 2010, at a rate of about 125,000 ounces of gold a year.

Juneau mine supporters hope Kensington will inject new life and money in the town.

However, Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp. spokesman Tony Ebersole said managers are still looking at how they'll pay to develop Kensington. Coeur's parent company ran out of cash last year when silver prices tanked and its mines hit development delays. In September last year, Coeur laid off half of its 80 Kensington workers. But the company has said it expects to produce more silver and have more money this year.

"We're just very anxious to get people back to work," said executive assistant Jan Trigg, who was at the Capitol rally.

How many of the laid-off workers will be rehired remains to be seen, said Ebersole. Many have moved on, including Clark Monditch, formerly of Kensington's water plant. Monditch was out of work for three months before finding a job at PetroMarine. Still, he was at the rally with his daughters, Lindsey and Monica Monditch.

"We're so excited," said Lindsey. "It was a big bummer when it closed down."

Jerry Harmon, one of Kensington's most senior workers on the project for 23 years, was also there. The surface general foreman's two daughters both married miners, one at Coeur and one at Greens Creek.

"This is one of the best days I've had in years," Harmon said.

Back to Cascade Point?

Monday's decision could affect Goldbelt Inc., Juneau's urban Alaska Native corporation, whose plan to develop its land at the end of the Juneau road was a casualty of the lower court's decision.

Goldbelt owns Cascade Point, on the south side of Berners Bay. The company was going to build a dock and ferry miners back and forth to Slate Cove, plus provide security at the mine site.

Along with Coeur's permits, Goldbelt's Cascade Point permits were invalidated when the dock was incomplete. Goldbelt switched to ferrying Coeur workers from someone else's land at Yankee Cove on Lynn Canal. Goldbelt Vice President Bob Martin said that Lynn Canal turned out to have rougher weather than anticipated. He's hoping Goldbelt can finish its Cascade Point dock and go back to the original plan.

Goldbelt Director Randy Wanamaker said he thought the Cascade Point plan was as good as reinstated by the court's decision. But Tony Ebersole said he didn't know if that was true. Vice President Martin said he expected to be chatting with Coeur about it soon.

• Contact reporter Kate Golden at 523-2276 or kate.golden@juneauempire.com.

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