Kensington gets housing OK; On-site dorms expected to help local miners
The Kensington gold mine has been approved to offer permanent, on-site housing, a move long supported by the Haines Borough Assembly to make the mine more accessible for Haines workers.
"It’s really important for our neighboring communities," said Jan Trigg, manager of community relations and governmental affairs for Coeur Alaska, which operates the mine about 40 miles south of Haines. "We have workers from Kake, Angoon, Hoonah and Haines, as well, so it makes it possible for them to go to work and then be able to go home and spend time with their families, living the lifestyle that they enjoy."
The Juneau Planning Commission last month modified an allowable use permit at Coeur Alaska’s request.
"The permitting had provided only for temporary housing, so there would have been a point where we would have had to remove the temporary facilities," Trigg said. "This (modification) allowed for the structures to become a permanent part of our facility, and it provides options for work schedules for employees who live in our neighboring communities."
She said the mine will add another dormitory by 2012.
"The current housing situation includes a 120-person camp and a variety of temporary structures, so a 96-bed dormitory will replace those temporary structures, and we’ll have a total of a 216-bed camp now," Trigg said.
According to Sept. 13 planning commission minutes available at the City and Borough of Juneau website, http://www.juneau.org, about 300 employees and contractors were working at the mine as of last month. At that time, 72 percent of employees were Alaska residents, including 53 percent from Juneau and 61 percent from Southeast.
The minutes said Coeur Alaska would have "the ability to not have all the workers living on-site all the time," but "during the winter when the weather turns bad, they would like to accommodate all workers on-site," due to "unpredictable" commutes.
The Haines Borough Assembly in December 2009 passed a resolution that requested the mine "include housing on-site so that Haines residents may have the opportunity for employment while continuing to reside in Haines."
The resolution said the mine was "projected to create over 300 jobs during construction and 200 long-term, high-paying, year-round jobs when in operation, with an annual payroll of over $16 million," and "the people of Haines and Southeast Alaska desperately need the jobs and the economic stimulus."