My turn: Clean water for Coeur Alaska

Posted: Thursday, July 13, 2006

I had to laugh at the flimsy scare tactics used by the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council in a recent full-page ad in the Juneau Empire.

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SEACC cooked up a handful of inaccurate and misleading statements in an attempt to suggest that Coeur Alaska's Kensington mine poses a threat to the state's water quality. The problem is that nearly all of the statements in the ad are untrue.

What is true?

The water will be clean. The environment will be protected. The community will realize significant economic benefit. These are the facts documented in Kensington's stringent and fully approved mine plan. The plan is compliant with the Clean Water Act and will be managed by a team of highly qualified professionals and closely monitored by state and federal regulators.

Another truth: Coeur Alaska will not use harsh chemicals such as cyanide to process the concentrate at the mine site. To my way of thinking, this is the very definition of a "clean" mine.

Kensington is unique in many ways, and permitting for the Kensington mine does not set a precedent. All mines must obtain their environmental permits based on the specific details of their proposed mining and processing operations - just as Kensington has done.

Coeur Alaska lives up to its promises. The company has a long track record of responsible environmental stewardship. It promised to provide significant economic benefit to Southeast Alaska - and it is delivering on that promise to the almost 300 employees and contractors currently working on site.

By contrast, SEACC is using Kensington and the Juneau community as a pawn in a much broader agenda to stop the development of mines in Alaska and elsewhere. I'd encourage the leadership of SEACC to get real. Talk to local people like fisherman and others who depend on, enjoy, and understand the value of our state's natural resources. My family and friends who fish and crab, for example, say they've never seen such a large and healthy fish population in Gastineau Channel despite the nearby presence of past mining activity. The fact of the matter is that Alaskans know firsthand that mining and clean water can and do coexist.

When it comes to the Kensington mine, I encourage the citizens of Juneau to research the facts for themselves. Coeur Alaska has always been up front about Kensington. Call them if you have concerns. Learn the truth and don't be swayed by organizations trying to stop development at all costs. Juneau needs good projects like the Kensington Mine.

• Merrill Sanford is a Juneau resident, retired city district fire chief, former city planning commissioner and currently serving his second term on the Assembly. These are personal thoughts and not those of the Assembly.



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