$300 million mining project would create hundreds of jobs
May 17, 2009
"The state's legal efforts, including the supplemental brief filed today, show support for developing our resources responsibly, growing Alaska's economy and creating well-paying jobs," Governor Palin said. "The brief should assist the Supreme Court with rendering a decision that finally allows the Kensington Mine to move ahead."
The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) filed a lawsuit to stop the mine. The suit alleged that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated federal law by issuing permits that allow tailings to be deposited in a small and remote muskeg lake. The state intervened to assist mine owner Coeur-Alaska and the corps in defending the permit.
The U.S. District Court upheld the corps permit, but SEACC appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower court and invalidated the permit. An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court followed.
"One of the issues raised by the justices implies that they are considering narrow procedural grounds for deciding the case, without actually determining whether the mine discharge is legal," said Deputy Attorney General Craig Tillery. "We, and Coeur, want the court to make a definitive ruling on the central issue, so that everyone knows what the rules are."
Governor Palin noted the importance of the mining industry to the Alaska economy.
"Except for the oil and gas sector, mining jobs are the best-paying jobs in Alaska, with average annual wages over $80,000," she noted. "These jobs and the jobs created indirectly would be a tremendous boost to Southeast Alaska. Coeur-Alaska also has a good record of working with the university and tribal and ANCSA entities to train and hire Alaskans."
The Kensington Mine is located on the east side of Lynn Canal, about 45 miles northwest of downtown Juneau. It holds an estimated 1.35 million ounces of gold.
The mine has been under construction since 2005 at a cost of more than $300 million. About 400 Alaskans have been employed during construction, of which almost half either are Alaska Natives or are employed by subcontractors of Alaska Native corporations. Construction is complete except for the tailings facility that is the subject of the lawsuit by SEACC.
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