The Forest Service hopes to issue the final environmental impact statement on a proposal by Greens Creek Mining Co. to expand its tailings disposal area by the middle of November, Juneau District Ranger Pete Griffin said Wednesday.
The Admiralty Island mine's tailings site is permitted for 29 acres. The proposal expands the facility to 61.3 acres, enough for 20 to 25 years of tailings if the mine continues operating at its current pace.
The mine processes silver, zinc, gold and lead. It began operating in 1989, closed in 1993 after metal prices dropped and reopened in 1996.
Engineering firm Michael Baker Jr., which is preparing the final EIS, expects to have the document to the Forest Service on Friday, Griffin said.
He said it would probably take a week to 10 days to review the EIS.
"It's pretty complex and we've got a number of cooperating agencies that have been working on this, so we're double checking the final document to make sure all the changes that have been suggested by other agencies are in the final EIS," Griffin said.
After the review, the Forest Service will issue its record of decision on the proposal.
The draft EIS released in late April recommended an alternative to the mine's proposal. The alternative would require testing to determine whether a carbon additive is necessary to keep metals from leaching into the ground and the water.
Greens Creek Environmental Manager Bill Oelklaus said that after the Forest Service issues its record of decision, the mine will have to amend its general plan of operation to accommodate any modifications to its proposal.
"We have to have those approved before we can do anything," Oelklaus said.
Then the mine will have to set about obtaining the necessary permits or getting existing permits amended.
Masha Herbst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.