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Environmentalists urged to drop Kensington Mine appeal


August 28, 2006

Alaska Governor Frank H. Murkowski (R) voiced outrage last Thursday over a decision released by the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals granting an injunction to the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) that will shut down all work on the Kensington Mine near Juneau for at least the current construction season.



"The community of Juneau stands behind this project as an environmentally responsible economic development," Murkowski said. "There are better ways than court action to resolve differences of opinion. Stopping the project through an injunction will have a devastating impact on the Goldbelt Native Corporation, on Juneau and on Alaska."

Among other impacts of the injunction, Murkowski listed the following:

  • Immediate loss of 300 workers, most hired locally from Juneau
  • Loss of shareholder jobs and income to Goldbelt
  • Loss of approximately 75 jobs held by other Natives in Southeast Alaska
  • Loss of subcontracting opportunities tied to the Kensington Mine
  • Loss or deferral of potential property taxes to the City and Borough of Juneau
  • Drop in associated economic activity in Juneau and other Southeast communities

"This injunction is a totally unnecessary delay of a quality, permitted project," Murkowski said. "Because of the adverse impact to Juneau and to the state, I am appealing to SEACC to withdraw its injunctive request as was done when the Northern Alaska Environmental Center dropped its challenge of the Pogo Mine near Delta Junction in May of 2004."

Today, Gubernatorial candidate Tony Knowles (D) also urged three environmental groups to drop their federal court appeal over tailings from the Kensington Gold Mine.

The Kensington Mine is critical to Juneau's economic future, Knowles said Monday. It's an environmentally responsible project that should go forward.

The state should have been leading the effort to clear the hurdles and resolve the differences among Alaskans. It doesn't need to get mired in court, Knowles said.

At issue is tailings disposal from the mine. The current design was chosen by the state and the U.S. Forest Service as an environmentally preferred alternative. Three environmental groups - Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC), Lynn Canal Conservation and the Sierra Club - filed a lawsuit against Coeur Alaska, the mine operator, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The lawsuit was dismissed earlier this month in U.S. District Court, but the plaintiffs appealed to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Late last week, the 9th Circuit Court issued an injunction against work on a tailings dam, pending a final decision on the appeal.

Coeur has made a number of changes as a result of various reviews by state and federal agencies and recently received a prestigious federal award for responsible mineral development, Knowles said. I urge Coeur to maintain its commitment to protect the Berners Bay watershed.

This is a unique responsible development project that can be done the right way and that specifically includes protecting Berners Bay, Knowles said. Alaskans including the State, the City and Borough of Juneau, Coeur Alaska and environment representatives -- can and should move this project forward without getting mired in the courts.


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Ketchikan, Alaska