Kensington Gold Mine Project Would Create Hundreds of Jobs
December 18, 2004
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.
The decision was signed by Tongass National Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole on December 9th. It approves a modification of Coeur Alaska, Inc.'s current Plan of Operations that includes elimination of tailings disposal along the Lynn Canal side of the Kensington Mine and sets the stage for disposal of tailings in Lower Slate Lake, pending issuance of permits by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency and Alaska Department of Natural Resources.
The decision adheres to the standards and guidelines in the Forest Plan which was designed to assure sustainability for all resources and values, while allowing development on a relatively small portion of the Tongass to support dependent communities in Southeast Alaska.
The Kensington Project is expected to create more than 200 jobs during the two-year construction phase and then average 225 - 250 employees during the expected 10- to 15-year life of the mine. According to Coeur Alaska, Kensington is expected to produce approximately 100,000 ounces of gold annually.
"I believe the decision effectively balances the economic needs and environmental health of the community," said Cole. "The selected alternative includes mitigation measures for wildlife and the protection of the environment."
The decision includes proposals by Coeur Alaska and Goldbelt, Inc., to construct marine access terminals at Cascade Point and Slate Creek Cove. Daily ferries would transport mine employees across Berners Bay.
Construction of the proposed terminals and operation of the ferries will be subject to further permitting by the Corps of Engineers and Department of Natural Resources in accordance with requirements of National Marine Fisheries Service.
"This is the first step in approving the Kensington Gold Project," said Cole. "Other agencies will use this decision and EIS as they determine what conditions to attach to their permits."
"I really appreciate the willingness of the cooperating agencies to work through some difficult issues on this project over the last two years," said Cole. "I believe our employees now know a lot more about the authorities and requirements of other agencies that we seldom get an opportunity to work with."
The Kensington Gold Project began in 1990 when the Kensington Venture, a joint venture between Coeur Alaska, Inc. and Echo Bay Exploration, submitted plans to the Forest Service, the lead agency, to develop the Kensington mine.
Alaska Governor Frank H. Murkowski Friday welcomed the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement by the U.S. Forest Service for the proposed Kensington gold mine near Juneau. The EIS concludes that the project can be developed with minimal environmental impacts.
"This action by the Forest Service today represents a major step in our efforts to see the Kensington mine open and workers on the job," said the governor. "This is a very significant milestone for the Kensington project and for the mining industry in Alaska."
The EIS evaluates four development alternatives for the mine project, including the development plan that was originally permitted in 1997. Coeur Alaska received permits to operate the mine in 1997, but subsequently changed its mine plans and re-applied in 2001. Coeur's latest proposal would move the mine's facilities closer to Berners Bay, allowing the daily transport of workers from Juneau by ferry across the bay.
"Kensington will be one of the most significant resource development projects undertaken in Southeast Alaska in many years and demonstrates this administration's efforts to revitalize the economy of Alaska through responsible resource development," said Murkowski. "State and federal agencies have been working cooperatively to complete the EIS. The result is a thorough evaluation which clearly shows the mine can be developed with minimal effects on the environment."
The EIS will now be used to guide state and federal agencies as they finish the permitting process. Agencies are expected to make decisions on the issuance of mine permits in the coming months. The state will continue to work with the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Marine Fisheries Service to resolve any remaining concerns they have over permitting issues.
The Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska's Departments of Natural Resources, Environmental Conservation, and Fish and Game prepared the EIS.
In accordance with the Code of Federal Regulations the Kensington decision is subject to appeal. Appeals must be filed within 45 days of the date that legal notification of this decision is published in the Juneau Empire, the newspaper of record, which is planned for Dec. 23, 2004
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