Why did Coeur pull out of tailings plan?

Posted: Monday, October 06, 2008

Kate Golden's Sept. 24 story in the Empire about Coeur Alaska's decision to back out of the negotiated plan with conservation groups to store dehydrated tailings on the ground, rather than in Lower Slate Lake, poses a mystery.

The permits for the new plan were only weeks from draft review. The EPA has publicly stated that their permitting requirements would take only a couple of weeks to complete. All interested parties - including the Forest Service, the Tlingit & Haida Central Council, the mayor of Juneau and community business and labor interests - have expressed the importance of quickly securing mining jobs at the Kensington Mine. I am stunned that Coeur would choose to appeal to the Supreme Court for the purpose of reinstating the Lower Slate Lake plan when it has a viable option that would put people to work and protect the environment.

The conservation groups are baffled as well. And this turn of events constitutes a broken commitment that will cause an extended delay in putting people to work in mine development and operations, and in support industries and supplier and logistical businesses. Moreover, the abandonment of this painfully consummated, cooperative effort - whether as a whim of temperament or as a marginal economic consideration - bodes ill for future negotiated agreements between developmental and conservation interests.

Several key members of the community spent many hours in gathering data, ground-proofing and working out critical details to make the negotiations possible. How many of these people will engage in future works of this kind if commitments are broken so cavalierly?

William E. Brown


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