September 27, 2010
The Department of Law played a key role in ensuring that the mine could open. The state intervened to challenge a lawsuit brought by environmental groups to shut down the mine. The state and Coeur D'Alene Mines Corp. took the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, even after the federal regulatory agency with jurisdiction over the project declined to do so.
"The opening of the Kensington mine, with the creation of hundreds of well-compensated jobs, demonstrates why the State of Alaska should not hesitate to intervene in cases that threaten our ability to develop our resources responsibly," Sullivan said. "When the state brings its legal expertise to bear on these important matters, we often prevail."
In the past year, the Department of Law has initiated or intervened in about a dozen cases in which resource development projects in Alaska have been put at risk.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state and Coeur d'Alene in June 2009, reversing a decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and upholding a previously issued permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for disposal of mine tailings. The case involved the complex issue of interpreting the federal Clean Water Act.
"This was an uphill battle because the federal government chose not to take the fight all the way to the nation's highest court," Sullivan said. "Fortunately, Coeur and the state were successful in petitioning the court to take the case and ultimately rule in our favor. This is the kind of vigilance the state needs to maintain in protecting our resource development options."
Coeur says that the mine's capital expenditures have been $338 million and that there will be about $16 million in annual wages for 200 permanent mine workers.
The fight for the mine was a community-wide effort including critical support from several local Native organizations, including Goldbelt and Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska; the City and Borough of Juneau; other Southeast municipalities; and the Juneau Chamber of Commerce.
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