My turn: A groundless effort to halt mine's growth

Posted: Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Mark Rorick attempted to explain the reasons for suing over the Kensington Mine in last Wednesday's Empire. His logic, facts and reasoning are either wrong or irrelevant. I will attempt to portray the real reasoning behind the lawsuit. First, Rorick declares the need to defend the Clean Water Act, a noble enough intention, and then he cites the historic excesses of the mining industry.

True enough, that stuff happened, but it is not happening any more. The industry is far different and Coeur is especially well-known for its environmental stewardship. Not good enough for Rorick. If you are a miner then you are responsible for things that happened a hundred years ago, and you are just as bad. He might as well say to present-day Alabama residents, "your forefathers owned slaves and therefore you should be punished the same as them."

Rorick then takes off on the Bush administration in general. Frankly, I don't know anything about the accusations he raises but if the general tendency of his organization and his co-religionists to twist facts and distort the truth applies down South as it does here, then I'd like a second opinion. More importantly, what does any of that have to do with the Kensington? Rorick is saying, in essence, "Bush is a bad guy and anything the federal government does is, thereby, also bad." What a load of guano.

Finally, Rorick takes off on the natural values of Berners Bay, but makes no effort to say what bad things will happen. I'll happily concur with the description of values. The issue is: What will the mine do to those values? Rorick doesn't say because there is nothing to say. His opinion piece and many of his adherents' letters talk about "mine waste" as though it was some sort of toxic sludge. It is not. The material to be discharged is ground up rock particles that are chemically inert. This stuff is no different than the rock particles delivered to tidewater every day by the Berners Bay glaciers. The end result of Coeur's efforts will be a larger lake with better fish habitat than the present.

Rorick represents the Sierra Club. This is a group with noble antecedents and history. If the primary objective of the group was environmental health, then it would limit itself to assuring that any undertaking of society was done in the best way possible.

That is not his goal nor is it the goal of the companion organizations that are party to the lawsuit. No. Their goal is to stop growth and progress in our region. There simply is no mine, no timber sale, and no other change to the landscape that will please them. They want to rule the woodlands, and the rest of society be damned. They will use any tactic and any legal stratagem they can find to pursue their foul ends which include the destruction of our communities in Southeast Alaska.

I know that some of the foregoing commentary is inflammatory. I think that we, all too often, want to think that some kind of accommodation and peace can be found if we just try to understand one another. I know I have tried over the years to do just that, but these groups have not been honest with the public and their true motives are societal, not environmental. Two examples: The Sierra Club and Southeast Alaska Conservation Council now say that the dry-stack tailings storage alternative is preferable, but when Coeur tried that option, the same groups opposed it. A few months ago, SEACC sponsored a public workshop to show how communities located adjacent to designated wilderness areas could benefit from the visitor industry that such areas create. Yet, a few years ago, when a company in Ketchikan sought permits to enable group tours to the Misty Fjords National Monument, SEACC opposed the project.

Do I think there is any hope for peace among the combatants in these issues? Sure, but the so-called environmental groups have to either be truthful about their motives or be willing to call a well-permitted project a win for all parties. So far, I see no evidence of either condition. No, I don't want to fight, but Mr. Rorick has put his fist in my face and the public's face, more than once, and he needs to know what it feels like to be on the receiving end. I'll do what I can, and I hope you will too.

• Juneau resident Murray Walsh is a local planning consultant and development specialist.

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