November 1, 2012 | Volume 42, No.44

Two mines employ 29 residents

Mayor Stephanie Scott told the Haines Borough’s Port Development Steering Committee on Aug. 23 that 27 local residents hold jobs at the Kensington and Greens Creek mines.

Scott later said she got that number from “someone on a plane.” Scott’s source appeared to be good.

According to recent interviews with officials at the two mine operations, 29 residents work at the sites south of Haines. How much income those jobs bring to Haines is more difficult to determine, but interviews with families suggest salaries are close to a 2011 study that found an average $100,000 for mine work.

Jan Trigg, chief marketing officer for Kensington, said the operation employs 15 Haines residents, who work in a variety of positions, including underground, surface and maintenance.

Trigg said the company doesn’t disclose payrolls but that it’s competitive with other mines around the state.

She referred to a 2011 McDowell group study conducted for the Alaska Miners Association that found the average salary for a miner in Alaska is $100,000. Trigg said McDowell’s salary number took into account not just underground miners, but everyone employed by the mine.

The wife of a Kensington miner who works underground told the CVN he makes between $80,000 and $100,000, working two weeks on and one off. She said co-workers make a comparable amount.

Kensington has three different schedules employees work on depending on the department: Two weeks on, two weeks off; two on, one off, and four days on, three days off.

Ron Plantz, community relations manager for Hecla Greens Creek Mining Co., said their operation employs 14 Haines residents in positions above ground and below.

The wife of a Haines man who works an above-ground position there said this week he was earning between $85,000 and $93,000, working two weeks on and two weeks off. Miners who work two weeks on and one off earn more, she said.

Referring to the $100,000 study figure, the woman said: “I don’t think it’s quite that much. But it’s a comfortable living.”

Scott said this week that miners she has talked to are pleased with their jobs. “They’re enthusiastic.”

Haines miners are remaining in Haines, which is an “important dimension. They’re not picking up stakes and moving to Juneau,” and as such are spending their money back here “if they shop locally,” she said.

For the local economy, “I can’t help but think it’s got to be positive,” Scott said.

Scott said she’d like to see Kensington hire one-third of its workers from Haines. She said there are about 300 people working there now. “(There’s a) long way to go.”