Coeur is no victim

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, November 04, 2005

Some are angry that environmentalists have sued the Army Corps of Engineers about the Kensington permit just when the mine has begun construction. Unfortunately, Coeur Alaska brought this on themselves.

Coeur was permitted in 1998 to develop the mine in a relatively benign way, keeping the development on the outside of Berners Bay and using a dry tailings impoundment. This was the least harmful alternative for Berners Bay because it kept its impact on the outside of the bay.

When the Bush administration and its cronies came to power, Coeur's management saw a chance to add more dollars to the bottom line by undermining environmental laws. Coeur pursued a second permit moving all the impacts of the mine inside of Berners Bay. Conveniently, the EPA reclassified mine tailings as "fill," so that everyone could pretend that the Clean Water Act didn't apply. Coeur was warned that this EPA change would trigger a lawsuit, but perhaps assumed that between their friends in Washington and the prospect of much higher profits, the risk of a delay would be worth it. This ploy to get around the Clean Water Act is what resulted in environmental groups suing the Army Corps of Engineers and possibly halting the Kensington Mine.

Every state in the union has their local project which they feel shouldn't have to abide by the Clean Water Act. The prospect of money in local pockets seems rationale enough for sacrificing this lake or that stream. That's how environments are destroyed: one little piece at a time. People come to Alaska now to fish because they've destroyed the lakes and streams of their own states. They did it with precisely the same economic boosterism and "don't worry" attitude now displayed by Coeur and its supporters.

Environmentalists are portrayed as the aggressors in this case, but in reality, it's Coeur who chose this particular battle. They made a business decision to take a swing at the Clean Water Act and go for a bigger payday. That doesn't sound like a victim to me.

Stuart Cohen


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