Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Draft study: No new port customers looming


There’s no impending business in ore shipments from new mines in the Yukon Territory, but the Haines Borough can improve its chances of landing such business by marketing itself as a port, members of the borough’s Port Development Steering Committee were told Thursday.

A slide presentation by representatives of consulting firm Northern Economics recommended steps for the borough including: 1) developing conceptual plans to handle ships with 36 feet of draft, 2) determining if the borough or a contractor would operate the facility and 3) creating a financial model to determine feasibility and rates.

Design and construction would occur when contracts with mining companies are signed. The firm’s recommendations included publicizing the port’s availability and specifications on the Haines Borough website.

“We’re all realizing on the committee there’s no magic bullet out there. It’s only a matter of making yourself known and available,” said member Chip Lende.

The presentation was a draft report by the company on potential demand for the Haines port. The borough has spent about $25,000 on the first phase of work to date, and the steering committee and borough manager Mark Earnest will decide on future work, executive assistant Darsie Culbeck said this week.

Speculation in recent months centered on Haines receiving ore from the Casino mine, but an access road to that deposit will head east to the Klondike Highway instead of west to the Alaska Highway in order to connect to other potential mine sites, the committee was told.

Ore from the mine – located between the highways at the same latitude as Minto, Y.T. – will go to Skagway, the committee was told.

Wellgreen, a nickel, copper and platinum deposit north of Burwash Landing, Y.T. offers the nearest prospect for ore shipments, but those wouldn’t come before 2019 and would amount to only 15 tons of ore per month, according to the presentation.

The expected life of an open-pit mine there hasn’t been determined.

Northern Economics also reported that distance is a “key factor” in determining an export port and that “marine facilities are not a significant obstacle if capital costs and permitting for expansion are reasonable and predictable.”

Minuses for Haines include the shipping route’s location through downtown, lack of publicly available baseline data, and potential issues with permitting and public support.

Committee member Doug Olerud said he feared that if ore shipments through Haines move ahead, “people will come out and demonstrate Haines’ ability to be against almost anything.”

“Haines has a strong reputation. I talk to people in Anchorage and Fairbanks who say (ore shipment) will never happen in Haines. I’d love to get over that hurdle,” Olerud said.

Mayor Stephanie Scott said it’s important to keep the public abreast of borough efforts. “The more we let the town know we’re courting this development in a mindful way, the better it is. The Haines Borough is courting dock users.”

Scott said 27 residents hold jobs at the Kensington and Greens Creek mines south of Haines and that those incomes are reflected by facelifts of buildings downtown. “I think things are happening in Haines that are directly related to mining.”

The presentation included a map of mineral deposit locations in the Yukon showing most of them concentrated closer to the Klondike Highway than to the Alaska Highway.

The borough is pursuing “memoranda of understanding” with Wellgreen developer Prophecy Platinum and with Dempster Energy Services, a Whitehorse, Y.T.-based outfit drilling for natural gas in the Yukon.

Dempster is looking at potential export sites for natural gas, Culbeck said this week, including a possible pipeline route to Haines for liquefaction and export. Part of the business with Dempster includes a “confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement with the Haines Borough,” according to last week’s presentation.