Coeur rejects SEACC mediation offer

Posted: Thursday, October 09, 2008

JUNEAU - Coeur Alaska Inc. declined the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council's offer this week to help restart the permit process for the Kensington Mine.

Two weeks ago, Coeur pulled out of a permit process that federal and state agencies expected was nearly done. Last week, Coeur laid off half the workers at Kensington.

The company said Environmental Protection Agency comments on its permit would have delayed the environmental review. EPA denies it was asking for substantial additions, and Coeur did not explain what the trouble was.

The plan Coeur cancelled was for paste tailings that SEACC had approved after talks with the mine over the last year and a half. Tailings are the waste rock left after metals are extracted from ore.

SEACC offered to hire a third-party facilitator to help EPA and Coeur resolve their differences.

"We appreciate their ongoing interest in getting Kensington into production and putting people to work, although proceeding with the paste tailings plan is not a direction that the company can embrace," said Tony Ebersole, spokesman for Coeur's parent company, Idaho-based Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp.

The mine is instead pursuing a plan to convert Lower Slate Lake into a tailings pond. SEACC and other environmental groups sued successfully to stop that plan, and the mine has appealed with the state of Alaska to the U.S. Supreme Court. A decision is expected for early next year.

Metals production could start in late 2009 or early 2010 with a favorable ruling, said Ebersole.

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