City OKs Yankee Cove for mine use

Coeur plans to ferry workers from facility to Kensington project

Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2008

Coeur Alaska Inc. came a little closer to getting the Kensington gold and silver mine under way Tuesday with the city's modified approval of a marine facility at Yankee Cove.

Once the mine starts up, Coeur plans to bus mine workers to Yankee Cove, on Lynn Canal just past 33 Mile Glacier Highway, and ferry them from there to the mine site in Berners Bay, 45 miles northwest of Juneau. When marine weather is bad, Coeur will run people to the mine site in helicopters.

The buses and ferries will be run by Goldbelt Inc., Juneau's urban Alaska Native corporation.

Marion and Naomi Hobbs of Juneau are part owners of Yankee Cove Development Co. They run the Adlersheim Wilderness Lodge, which is on the same nine-acre parcel as the proposed marine facility. Public records also list as a manager Ramion Inc., a Las Vegas corporation.

Naomi Hobbs said Wednesday that Coeur and Yankee Cove Development had not yet discussed the details of the marine facility operations. She wasn't sure when the Yankee Cove work would get started, but she was looking forward to it.

"Hasn't everybody?" she said. "It's going to be a huge plus for Juneau."

The marine facility has been in the works for years. The city granted Yankee Cove Development a conditional use permit in 2004 for commercial use.

At that time, Coeur intended to use Cascade Point, at the end of the road, as its primary dock. But Yankee Cove became the mine's main dock after the Cascade Point plan fell apart.

That means more marine and bus traffic to Yankee Cove.

Planning commissioners approved Yankee Cove Development's request to put in a second breakwater in the area, to allow Coeur to use the helicopter port, and to fuel vessels from a 5,000-gallon storage tank in the area.

There's already an artificial reef breakwater at Yankee Cove, but the often-rough waters of Lynn Canal will be further calmed by a second, 150-foot, linear island reef.

The fueling operation will be only for the Kensington gold mine. Fueling isn't allowed in areas zoned Rural Reserve unless specifically permitted.

Fuel-truck traffic on Glacier Highway will be less than if the mine were using the Cascade Point plan, which didn't allow fuel to be stored at the site.

Various new permit conditions address oil spill prevention and cleanup.

Other conditions on the marine facility were carried over from its 2004 permit. In-water work is forbidden from March 1 to June 15 to protect spawning Pacific herring. Treated wood, creosote and other chemicals are controlled or forbidden on the site. Traffic to the facility is limited to six vehicles per hour.

Coeur and Yankee Cove Development didn't say how often helicopters would fly from Yankee Cove. But a condition on the permit says they can only be used when marine weather is too bad to run vessels.

Coeur investor statements say the mine is scheduled to start production in 2009.

Coeur Alaska is owned by Idaho-based Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp.

The mine still needs permits from the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Coeur submitted its modified plan of operations in January to the Forest Service, which is coordinating its environmental review with the other agencies.

Juneau District Ranger Pete Griffin said last week that the U.S. Forest Service was still on track to finish its environmental assessment, including a public comment period, by the end of September.

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





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