My turn: SEACC must work with Coeur

Posted: Monday, October 27, 2008

In a recent "My Turn" (Oct. 21) by Rod Cadmus of Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, it was asserted that the "Ball is in Coeur's court" to move the Kensington project along.

Cadmus is right. Coeur's "court" is now the Supreme Court, due to lengthy litigation brought by SEACC - and that is where the decision on the tailings plan is pending.

Some examples of delays by SEACC: 1) Litigation on Lower Slate Lake and injunction which has delayed the project by 27 months so far with 350 people out of work; and 2) refusal to accept findings of Forest Service environmental analysis, which delayed approval of paste facility and construction into the summer 2009, which is later than Lower Slate Lake plan.

It is so very clear that Coeur Alaska has always been fully engaged in its commitment to get the Kensington mine into production.

In fact, it has spent nearly 20 years and more than $220 million to do just that - put people to work at an environmentally sound mine and bring it into production.

This project is supported by an overwhelming number of Southeast Alaskans, and has been a mainstay for Alaska Natives. Now, in these dire economic times, SEACC continues their basketball "stall." The ball is, in fact, in their "court" to mediate the best environmental solution at Lower Slate Lake in advance of the Supreme Court decision. Then and only then can we believe they are sincere about doing what is right for Southeast.

As a person who has followed the trials of Coeur's continued efforts to permit the Kensington mine, I could restate all the reasons why the smaller footprint, less fuel and energy consuming, and fewer impacts to wetlands plan is the right plan. That is why I am confident the highest court in our country will make that determination in 2009.

Coeur Alaska owes us nothing. Even when faced with the necessity of laying off many workers recently, it reacted with a cooperative effort with the State Labor Department and BBC-HDRC to place nearly 50 percent of the workers in other positions. This company is not here at the expense of others - it is the type of company we must encourage to stay.

But, we must be honest, Coeur Alaska, like all publicly traded companies, must answers to its shareholders. This community must understand that a mining company cannot build a mine while withstanding a multi-decade process of continual delays and obstacles. It must build a mine for the betterment of its shareholders and it must do so responsibly. This is what Coeur Alaska has always done, and I am certain will continue to do.

I trust the process and that Coeur Alaska will be active in all ways to build up its workforce once the court has ruled favorably. I also trust that the claims in SEACC's article regarding "pollution issues" near the lake will be understood by the community for what it really is - exposed naturally occurring high mineral content rock that, when left exposed to air due to the court ordered injunction, created an isolated water quality issue that is now receiving the utmost attention by one of the world's leading environmental consulting firms.

The condition is not due to mine drainage or any affirmative act by the company. It is the result of the incomplete condition the work site experienced due to the SEACC litigation. Coeur has assured me the condition will be fully mitigated. This type of naturally occurring "pollution" can be seen all over Juneau if you haven't noticed.

While we wait for the court to rule, we must continue our unwavering support of Coeur Alaska. This is a company that has contributed in countless ways to our community and has stood steadfast in its commitment to build a responsible mine in a community that is in dire need of such a committed corporate citizen.

In light of all that is happening in our world, now is the time for the environmentalists to put the ball down, quit playing games with our lives in this town, and work with Coeur to make the Lower Slate Lake option happen now.

• Scott Spickler is a Juneau resident and business owner, married with two sons working here in Juneau. One son works as a miner at Greens Creek.

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