Earnest would terminate secrecy pact he signed
In the wake of concerns about government secrecy, the Haines Borough will ask its Haines Port Steering Development Committee to review a proposed memorandum of understanding and confidentiality agreement with Wellgreen mine developer Prophecy Platinum Corp. at its meeting Oct. 25.
Prophecy is considering Haines as a transshipment port for nickel ore from Burwash Landing, Y.T. ore deposit.
In a related matter, borough manager Mark Earnest said last week he would “just as soon terminate” a five-page confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement he signed June 6 with Dempster Energy Services, a Yukon tribal consortium studying the potential for shipping natural gas through Haines.
“We didn’t know and they didn’t know what our potential involvement was, but they were working on negotiations in Canada and it was important to them,” Earnest explained. The term of the agreement is three years.
“Now we’re getting some guidance. If I had to do it, knowing the conversations we’ve had in just the last few weeks, I’d certainly have a different procedure going forward. The last thing I want to do is create a situation where there’s suspicion,” Earnest said.
Earnest said the agreement with Dempster was in place so the borough could receive updates from the company, but he said all the information the municipality received – about the company’s drilling plans – has also been released publicly.
One clause of the agreement says the borough is required by state law and the borough charter to provide public access to public records.
Most of the information the pact would keep secret concerned negotiations in Canada and didn’t have anything to do with Haines, he said.
“The next step was to present the borough an MOU, which is the same process we’re doing with Prophecy. It wasn’t like we were having negotiations with the company,” Earnest said. “If the company wanted to come here and have negotiations, that would be outside of this (confidentiality agreement). This is just to get us into an MOU.”
“These are normally agreements (Dempster) would have with private companies. This is just the model that came off the shelf. The law is clear that only certain, specific... it’s very limited in what is confidential,” Earnest said.
Earnest said he notified the assembly of the Dempster agreement but did not present it to them for approval.
Haines Borough Mayor Stephanie Scott said in an interview this week that she was uncomfortable with confidentiality agreements. She said she didn’t recall discussion of the Dempster agreement.
“I don’t want to be responsible for keeping secrets from the public unless the community wants those secrets to be kept,” Scott said.
A resolution to adopt the six-page MOU with Prophecy was taken off the agenda for the Sept. 25 Haines Borough Assembly meeting after residents and officials raised questions about confidentiality sections.
Scott said she would be guided by the perspective of the borough-appointed steering committee, which includes public officials and private business interests.
Activist Gershon Cohen was critical of wording in the MOU with Prophecy. “I wonder what these folks don’t want us to know, and how many people in our government know what they don’t want us to know. It’s very troubling.”
In an interview, Earnest characterized the proposed Prophecy agreement as a “very non-commital MOU to begin some discussions that may have some sensitivities as the company develops its business plan… They wanted to run some what-if discussions that may be sensitive.”