Like Joe Geldof, I too support the opening of the Kensington Mine.
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Unfortunately, Geldof did not say much about why he supported the mine project, but he had plenty to say about what went wrong, who was to blame and why. I had similar experiences with him while we both worked on the cruise ship head tax initiative a few years back.
I've been involved in this project since 1994, when I helped create the Berners Bay Consortium, an affiliation of Alaska Native corporations that agreed to help Coeur Alaska develop the mining properties on the north shore of Berners Bay - so long as the project was designed to minimize environmental impacts and mine operators would agree to employ Alaska Natives and other Alaskans. Since Coeur Alaska has more than lived up to its commitments, we have continued to support the Kensington Mine.
Recently, I accompanied Central Council President Bill Martin, retired Subsistence Director Harold Martin, BBC Executive Director Randy Wanamaker, and Kensington Mine worker Lillian Lundy to Washington, D.C.
We met with members of Congress as well as federal officials whose agencies are involved in permitting the mine.
We shared our concern that Alaska Natives have the highest unemployment rates of any group of people in Southeast Alaska, and that further delays in the opening of the Kensington Mine put at risk one of the most admirable examples of privately supported affirmative action any of us had ever seen.
Unlike Geldof, whose support for the Kensington seems abstract at best, I support the opening of the mine because it will provide good jobs for many people who have had, until now, few choices.