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Forest Service Announces Greens Creek Mine Tailings Decision


November 5, 2003
Wednesday - 1:20 am

The Tongass National Forest has announced publication of the Record of Decision concerning the Greens Creek Mine Tailings Disposal Environmental Impact Statement. The underground metals mine is located near Hawk Inlet on northern Admiralty Island approximately 18 miles southwest of Juneau. The mine, which has been in operation for more than 15 years, produces silver, zinc and lead, as well as other base metals.

The Record of Decision, signed by Tongass National Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole Oct. 24, provides the tailings disposal area necessary for continued operations for the life of the mine based on proven and reasonably foreseeable discoverable reserves of ore. The decision expands the existing tailings disposal facility to the east and requires a continuous carbon addition to the tailings. "Tailings" is the material left after the minerals have been removed from the ore.

The environmental impact statement was initiated in response to a request received from the mine's operator, Kennecott Greens Creek Mining Company, to authorize the construction of additional dry tailings storage.

The Forest Service identified water quality and values inherent in the Admiralty Island National Monument as the significant issues connected to the proposed project.

Of all the action alternatives, the selected alternative minimizes the total disturbed area for the project (110 acres) as well as the lease area within the Admiralty Island National Monument (68 acres). A continuous addition of carbon to the tailings will be required to provide greater assurance of long-term chemical stability of the tailings in order to meet water quality requirements. A 30-month study will be initiated to determine how much carbon should be added, what form of carbon would be most effective, and the means of incorporating the carbon into the tailings. All effluent and contact water discharged from the site must meet the Alaska Water Quality Standards.

"We will take all the necessary steps to ensure a healthy watershed function remains intact and that surrounding National Forest System lands are minimally impacted," said Cole.

An interagency team involving the Forest Service, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, City and Borough of Juneau, as well as the Kennecott Greens Creek Mining Company, worked cooperatively over the past three years to develop the EIS.

The Record of Decision for the mine tailings disposal project may be appealed within a 45-day period following publication of the legal notice of the decision in the Juneau Empire, the newspaper of record, on Nov. 7. Based on the Nov. 7 publication date, appeals of this decision must be submitted to the Regional Forester by Dec. 22. The address is: Regional Forester, Alaska Region, USDA Forest Service, P.O. Box 21628, Juneau, Alaska 99802-1628.

The Greens Creek Mine is situated in the Greens Creek watershed within the Admiralty Island National Monument. In 1980, Congress provided for mining at the Greens Creek site in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Admiralty National Monument comprises 955,747 acres of which 937,396 acres are designated as Wilderness.

The Greens Creek Mine supports an annual payroll of approximately $26 million and employs a workforce of approximately 265 people - 120 in mining and underground support, 60 in the mill, 55 in surface support, and 30 in administration.

"This decision ensures that the City and Borough of Juneau's largest private employer will continue to provide year-round jobs into the foreseeable future at a time when economic indicators for Southeast Alaska are uncertain," said Juneau District Ranger Pete Griffin.

The Kennecott Greens Creek Mine Company currently processes more than 2,000 tons of ore per day. On an annual basis, that production yields approximately 10 million ounces of silver, 65,000 ounces of gold, and a total of 200,000 tons of zinc, lead, and bulk concentrates.



Source of News Release:

USDA Forest Service - Tongass National Forest
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