City's mediation role gets go-ahead

Former state attorney general volunteers to represent Juneau

Posted: Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Juneau Assembly approved on Monday the mayor's proposal to mediate in an environmental dispute concerning the Kensington Mine.

The three environmental groups and the developers of the gold mine agreed on Friday to enter mediation at the suggestion of Mayor Bruce Botelho.

Avrun Gross, a former state attorney general and now retired, has volunteered to represent the city in the mediation, scheduled to start Oct. 20.

The lawsuit concerns a permit approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that allows rock tailings to be dumped into Lower Slate Lake, on the west side of Berners Bay. The mine is about 45 miles north of downtown Juneau.

The suit, filed last month in U.S. District Court in Juneau, claims the permit violates the Clean Water Act. The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, the Sierra Club and Haines-based Lynn Canal Conservation Council filed the suit against the Army Corps.

At the mediation table, SEACC Executive Director Russell Heath said he hopes to discuss other alternatives for disposing millions of tons of industrial tailings, rock waste from the mine.

"There are absolutely other options besides dumping mining waste into a lake," Heath said.

The resolution urges the parties to submit their concerns during the mediation process and attempt to resolve their differences without protracted litigation.

Botelho said earlier that if mediation fails, then the city may intervene in the lawsuit.

The Southeast Conference, an organization of regional business and civic leaders, pressured the city earlier this month to intervene in the lawsuit by the environmental groups.

The Murkowski administration and mine operator Coeur Alaska have already intervened in the case. The governor urged city governments to do so as well.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at andrew.petty@juneauempire.com.



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