Proponents of the Kensington Mine would do well to remember the tale of King Midas, who lost everything he held dear in his lust for gold. Berners Bay is just such a treasure, and in building this mine we risk losing much that we hold dear.
Berners Bay encompasses a wide range of ecosystems, including snow-capped alpine peaks, old-growth Sitka spruce and hemlock forest, cottonwood flood plains, freshwater marshes and saltwater estuaries. The bay's coho and sockeye salmon support local commercial and sport fisheries, and the bay also provides commercial catches of shrimp and king, tanner and Dungeness crab. Berners Bay contains the last healthy spawning population of herring in the greater Lynn Canal region, while the spring eulachon run forms the base of a productive food chain supporting eagles, gulls, seals, sea lions and humpback whales. Brown and black bears, wolves, wolverines, deer, moose and mountain goats roam the lands surrounding Berners Bay.
The current Kensington mine plan includes a number of highly detrimental outcomes for Berners Bay, its ecosystems and wildlife. The plan includes:
1) daily ferry and barge trips through Berners Bay to transport employees (three to five round trips daily), equipment, fuel and ore concentrate;
2) dumping 4.5 million tons of chemically processed mine waste into Lower Slate Lake, a pristine freshwater lake with a resident Dolly Varden fish population;
3) construction of two industrial port facilities in Berners Bay, one at Slate Creek Cove and the other at Cascade Point;
4) an access tunnel from the mill through Lions Head Mountain to the Kensington claims; and
5) processing facilities on private land in the Johnson Creek drainage.
Midas-like, the Kensington promises massive outside investments, the results of which will likely be massive outside gains. For Southeast Alaskans it is activities such as subsistence hunting, recreation and fishing that will provide us with the livelihoods and lifestyles that are our real treasure.
We should all be asking ourselves if this is a fair trade.