SEACC places new demand on mine site

Group wants to move transfer dock away from Cascade Point

Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Southeast Alaska Conservation Council wants Goldbelt to give up its Cascade Point dock for the Kensington gold mine.

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In a meeting at Goldbelt offices last week, SEACC Executive Director Russell Heath told Goldbelt CEO Gary Droubay that the environmental group wants the planned dock and transfer station moved from Cascade Point to Yankee Cove, south of Berners Bay, Droubay said.

"They don't want to see a dock in the water" at Cascade Point, Droubay said.

While environmental concerns over development at Cascade Point are not new, Goldbelt had been left out of recent private negotiations between environmental groups and mine owner Coeur Alaska concerning tailings disposal at the site, about 45 miles north of downtown. Tailings are the ground rock left after the metal is extracted from ore.

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Goldbelt has never been officially notified that the Cascade Point transfer station would be an issue, Droubay said. He asked for a formal written statement from SEACC concerning its request to switch the location and why.

Goldbelt, Juneau's urban Native corporation, owns about 1,400 acres on the south side of Berners Bay, holding U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits to develop the point as a docking location for mine operations. The corporation completed an access road on the north end of the cove and started building a breakwater in anticipation of generating jobs and income.

Droubay said a long-standing agreement between Goldbelt and Coeur to develop Cascade Point is still in place.

"This is a backhanded way of getting around that," Droubay said.

Heath directed inquiries Monday to Rob Cadmus, mining coordinator for SEACC.

Cadmus would not comment on specifics leading to the organization's request. He pointed to previous discussions about environmental concerns over operating a marine transfer station at Cascade Point, but said he would speak with Coeur officials before commenting further.

Cadmus reiterated a desire to work issues out with involved parties, "rather than battling it out in the press."

Droubay said Heath suggested during last week's meeting that Goldbelt could be paid by Coeur so the mine could open.

"I told them we could be compensated economically by Coeur for the loss of contracts, but you can't compensate the board of directors who have a history with Coeur and who have held this land for future economic development," Droubay said.

Coeur officials could not be reached for comment late Monday.

Goldbelt maintains that Cascade Point is the safest place to transfer workers to the mine site. It is located at the north end of Echo Cove, about 40 miles north of Juneau.

Using Yankee Cove would expose workers to dangerous conditions during winter months, Goldbelt officials said. Using Cascade Point allows mine workers to live in Juneau, avoiding the need to build housing at the site. The housing arrangement was a condition of Goldbelt's U.S. Forest Service permit to minimize the effect of mine operations.

Goldbelt heard from Coeur that the mine company would not move away from Cascade Point unless an alternative deal could be reached, Droubay said.

"The board of directors is not ready to do that," he added. "It is a significant emotional issue that has roots going back 30 or more years."



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