Drop the Midas mentality in Berners Bay

Letter to the editor

Posted: Wednesday, December 22, 2004

King Midas learned that his power to turn everything that he touched into gold wasn't the great deal that he had hoped it would be. As you remember even the food and drink that he touched turned to gold. Coeur Alaska's proposed Kensington gold mining project will ultimately turn the precious treasure of Berners Bay into a Midas Touch-like nightmare.

The proposed Kensington project plans to ferry workers across Berners Bay three to five times a day, as well as barge supplies, fuel, and ore in and out of the bay. Humpback whales and Steller sea lions currently have open and unclogged waters in which to travel and feed. The National Marine Fisheries Service is currently assessing what the impacts of boat traffic may have on the feeding behaviors of humpbacks and Steller sea lions. They are also assessing the risk of boat collisions with these species.

Another aspect of the Kensington mining infrastructure is to dump mine tailings into Lower Slate Lake. This lake is a pristine lake that supports invertebrates such as amphipods. Amphipods are the bottom of the food chain for fish and other aquatic life. The Environmental Protection Agency is currently assessing what impacts the mine tailings may have on invertebrate reproduction and survival.

It is of great importance for the continued ecological health of Berners Bay that these two federal agencies do their job in assessing possible mining-related impacts before any permits are issued to Coeur Alaska. In the same light it is startling that the U.S. Forest Service has already given Coeur Alaska the go-ahead to proceed with the Kensington project. Why would the Forest Service sign off on the Kensington project when two of its sister agencies are still in the assessment process? Perhaps the Forest Service has the same perspective as King Midas; greedy to promote the production of gold with little thought or care of the severe repercussions.

Beginning Dec. 23 the public has 45 days to send their comments to the U.S. Forest Service regarding their decision to allow the Kensington project to proceed. Let's get well beyond the "Midas Touch" mentality and protect that which is much more precious than gold in Berners Bay.

Jenny Pursell


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