August 17, 2009
The Corps reviewed more than 8,500 public comments before issuing its decision to extend the 404 fill permit originally issued to Coeur Alaska in 2005. The renewed permit requires the mine developer to complete construction of the tailings facility on Lower Slate Lake by July 31, 2014. It also updates the project plans and tables to accurately reflect wetland mapping updates and corrections, minor variations from construction activities authorized under the initial permit, subsequent modifications and other on-site construction requirements.
The tailings facility is the final piece developer Coeur Alaska needs to complete before the mine can begin commercial production. Coeur hopes to begin initial production early next year.
Development of the mine is expected to provide millions of dollars in taxes and other revenue to the Juneau area. Kensington is a major gold project about 45 miles northwest of Juneau. It holds an estimated 1.5 million ounces of gold. The mine has been under construction since 2005. Couer has invested more than $300 million. During construction, the mine provided jobs for some 400 Alaskans. Once the mine is in full operation, it will employ approximately 200 workers.
The permit, as modified in 2005, included an authorization for Coeur Alaska to construct a mine tailings storage facility in Lower Slate Lake at the Kensington gold mine in Southeast Alaska. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that Coeur Alaska had a valid 404 permit from the Corps to dispose of tailings from the mine in Lower Slate Lake. The Corps then called for public comment on extending the time for construction of the mine. Governor Parnell and Alaska's U.S. Senators argued against any further delay.
Officials at EPA had objected to Coeur Alaska's plans to dispose of the mine tailings in Lower Slate Lake, and had sent a letter to the Corps asking it to consider alternative solutions. The Corps' decision Friday re-affirms that depositing the mine tailings in the lake is the best environmental option. Under the permit, Coeur Alaska is required to rehabilitate and restock the lake once mining activity is completed.
Governor Sean Parnell on Friday
welcomed the news that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has granted
a modified permit for the Kensington Mine.
"This is a decision that's both good for the environment and Southeast's struggling economy," Murkowski said in a prepared statement. "Kensington will provide hundreds of badly needed jobs and tax revenue while having a minimal affect on the environment."
Murkowski expressed her appreciation to the Corps for acting in a timely manner. Murkowski said she also appreciates the decision by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials to respect the high court's ruling and forego further challenge of the tailings permit under the Clean Water Act.
"After years of review and legal challenges, I'm happy to see this important economic development project finally moving forward," Murkowski said.
"We still believe the
paste tailings plan is best for Berners Bay, but we're glad the
Army Corps made its decision quickly," said Lindsey Ketchel,
executive director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.
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