June 15, 2005
The Kensington Gold Project is an underground gold mine approximately 45 miles north-northwest of Juneau. Development of its proposed facilities by Coeur Alaska, Inc., will fall on both private lands and National Forest System lands.
Tongass National Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole directed the Juneau Ranger District to proceed with implementation of Coeur Alaska, Inc.'s modified Plan of Operations. Coeur Alaska submitted the modified plan of operations to take into account the decisions reached in the Record of Decision for the Kensington Gold Project in December 2004.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) listed 16 conservation recommendations in its March 2005 Final Biological Opinion. In a June 9 letter to NMFS, Supervisor Cole listed the 16 discretionary activities recommended and how they were incorporated into authorizations issued by other permitting agencies and in the Plan of Operations. In its response, NMFS Regional Administrator James Balsiger noted that the agency was pleased that the Forest Service and other agencies were using their authorities to conserve humpback whales and Steller sea lions.
"This represents the culmination of a lot of effort on the part of our employees, and those of the other Borough, State and Federal permitting agencies," said Cole. "We appreciate the continuing support the State of Alaska has shown throughout this process," the Supervisor added. Two permits are yet to be obtained, including a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit from the Environmental Protection Agency and a Clean Water Act (Section 404) permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Governor Frank H. Murkowski said, "I am extremely pleased with this important step forward for the Kensington project," said the governor. "Kensington represents high-paying careers and economic diversity for northern Southeast Alaska. This decision demonstrates yet again that we can have major mine development in Alaska while protecting our environment. I look forward to participating in the project's groundbreaking in the near future."
Murkowski also thanked the Forest Service for their diligent work in moving the project forward. "A project like Kensington requires thousands of hours of work by permitting agencies like the Forest Service," said the governor. "I want to specifically thank Tongass National Forest staff for their work in moving the project past this significant milestone. This project demonstrates the effectiveness of cooperation between our state and federal permitting agencies."
The Kensington Project is expected to create more than 200 jobs during the two-year construction phase, and then average 225 employees annually during the expected 10- to 15-year life of the mine, according to the Kensington Gold Project Environmental Impact Statement. Coeur Alaska expects the mine to produce approximately 100,000 ounces of gold annually.
The mine must still obtain a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Clean Water Act permit and an Environmental Protection Agency National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit which are expected soon.
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