Most speakers at Monday night's Kensington Mine public hearing fell into two clear groups, each of which presented its own clear perspective on proposed mine operations near Lions Head Mountain. One group was in favor of mine operations in Slate Cove and Berners Bay; the other group asked that Coeur Alaska use an already-permitted plan to operate the mine from Lynn Canal. It was a hearing not about whether to allow the development of the Kensington Mine, but about how such development should proceed.
Coeur wants to run the mine from Berners Bay because it is cheaper. Somebody will make more money if the Environmental Protection Agency grants Coeur a permit to dump tailings in Slate Lake and use Berners Bay as a marine highway to transport personnel and equipment.
We who know and need Berners Bay in its current undeveloped state want Coeur Alaska to run their mine under a permit granted in 1997. That permit allows Coeur to open the mine and bring jobs to Juneau. We recognize that the Lynn Canal operating plan is more expensive and therefore reduces Coeur's profits, but those costs are outweighed by the benefit of allowing Berners Bay to remain the place it is today: a place whose rivers trade young salmon to the sea each spring in return for home-coming eulachon, a place that plays host to rafts of roaring sea lions and thousands of gulls, a place that is close enough to Juneau that residents can get there without spending many days or many dollars, but is also far enough away from Juneau that we can taste wildness.
There is no other place like Berners Bay within close range of this town. Its character would be changed forever by the sprawling development currently proposed by Coeur Alaska, but it would remain essentially unchanged should Coeur agree to run the mine from Lynn Canal.
Coeur would like the debate to be characterized as extremist, unreasonable environmentalists versus pro-job, pro-Juneau resource developers. But environmentalists have made in the case of the Kensington Mine a request that can only be described as reasonable: Be satisfied, Coeur Alaska, with the profits you will gain by mining from the Lynn Canal side of Lions Head Mountain. Be satisfied, Coeur Alaska, with a slightly less impressive profit margin - and leave the residents of Juneau with a wild backyard that hasn't been asked to adapt to a business plan.
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