Why not seasonal mining at Kensington?

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, November 30, 2004

As the U.S. Forest Service nears its final decisions for the Kensington Mine in Berners Bay, I've done a little bit of figuring. As I understand, Coeur is planning on running three work shifts during the week and two shifts during the weekend year-round. So there is no time void of mine traffic in the Berners Bay area for 10 to 15 years.

I know that the mine has production goals and has a schedule it needs to keep. Also several individuals and various companies have been anxious to get the mine going since the mid-1980s. As someone who has spent a lot of time in Berners Bay recreating and studying hooligan, I do not see why the mine needs to go year-round. Why can't the mine hit the same production goals - but extend the life of the project? The reason I would prefer the mine to be more seasonal is to give a priority to protecting Northern Lynn Canal herring, sea lions feeding before hauling out on rookeries and hooligan spawning events. Since 1994, Berners Bay is the only place the Alaska Department of Fish and Game surveys have documented herring spawning in the entire Lynn Canal zone (1997 and 1993 on the outside of Point Bridget also). Hooligan spawn in as few as 18 rivers systems in all of southeast, three of which feed into Berners Bay. I think that the acknowledgment of this spawning and feeding frenzy each year would most be simplified by stopping mine activities in the spring. After all, every dollar the mine clears could never buy a renewable herring stock or a river system where hooligan spawn.

I fail to see the need for the rush when the gold is not going to disappear. Just like the gold deposits around Lions Head, there is a unique concentration of fish and wildlife in Berners Bay that doesn't happen everywhere in southeast. The final decision rests with the resource managers. I hope that they set a reasonable pace for Berners Bay, Coeur and the community of Juneau and have a one to two month weekend in the spring.

Andrew Eller


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