Will the Kensington Mine's plan to use Lower Slate Lake as a tailings dump set a precedent? It's a controversial question. Some point out that this is the first mine in a generation, since the passing of the Clean Water Act, that has been permitted to dump its waste into a lake. The Alaska Miners Association and Gov. Frank Murkowski claim that if mines aren't allowed to use lakes as waste dumps, all mining in Alaska will be shut down. But Coeur Alaska, the owner of the Kensington Mine, is saying the opposite; it thinks this won't set a precedent at all and that every mine is permitted on a case-by-case basis.
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An article in Juneau Empire ("Mine developer offers vast dams for waste") shows me that mining companies follow each other's lead, especially if there is money to be made. Northern Dynasty Mines, the company planning the Pebble Mine, released plans to build five large damns and fill lakes (and entire valleys) with mine tailings. It's like that old saying, "Monkey See, Monkey Do." The Pebble Mine is already using the example of the Kensington Mine and wants to put its chemically processed tailings into the headwaters of the most salmon-rich rivers in Alaska.
The Pebble project and Kensington Mine plans are too dangerous. Northern Dynasty has made outlandish statements like, "Over time (the tailings dams) get more and more stable." What about earthquakes or aging from years of Alaska rain and snow? With drivel like this, it's hard to believe the mining industry on anything. They are only looking out for their pocket books.
Let's not allow Kensington to monkey around with our waters and the Clean Water Act. The mining industry has operated and thrived for a generation without using lakes as mine-waste dumps.
Coeur has a choice to dispose of its waste in other ways that don't threaten our waters or set such a damaging precedent. If other gold mines operate without dumping their waste into a lake, why does the Kensington have to abuse our clean water this way?
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