February 28, 2013 | Volume 43, No. 8

Mine summit helpful, borough officials say

Haines Borough officials recently returned from a Canadian mineral exploration conference.

Assistant to the manager Darsie Culbeck and assembly member Steve Vick traveled to Vancouver, B.C., for the Mineral Exploration Roundup conference, a four-day annual trade show.

In addition to meeting with mining companies Constantine Metal Resources, Chieftain Metals and Prophecy Platinum, Culbeck and Vick spoke with officials from the Alaska Energy Authority, Alaska Department of Transportation, and the Yukon’s Department of Highways and Public Works.

Culbeck, Vick and manager Mark Earnest, who intended to attend the conference but could not due to illness, said one of the most significant pieces of information to come out of the meetings was interest in Haines as a port for shipping materials into the Yukon, not just out of it.

Prophecy Platinum has indicated its intention to use Skagway as a transshipment port for any ore coming out of the Wellgreen mine, because Haines doesn’t have an ore terminal. However, the company has expressed interest in using Haines to import supplies for the project and send them up the highway, Vick and Culbeck reported.

  “We have a dock, so we don’t have to spend millions to set it up. We could just haul all the stuff in, gain the economic benefits of things passing through our dock -- maybe some added benefit from trucking, maybe a few jobs -- and have no big environmental concern and no up-front cost,” Culbeck said.

Culbeck said Constantine would probably spend $3.5-$4 million for exploration of the Palmer project this summer following a recently inked contract with Japanese firm Dowa Metals and Mining. The exploration will bring between 20-30 jobs to Haines, Vick said, and the company has expressed a desire to hire as many residents as possible.

Vick said Constantine is interested in coming to Haines and holding a question-and-answer session to provide information about the potential mine. “Some people have drawn conclusions from little information, and we’re trying to prevent that so we don’t come to a conclusion that’s inaccurate,” he said.

Culbeck said agencies are discussing the Haines area in relation to energy, including hydropower and liquefied natural gas (LNG), as much of the Yukon is currently tapped out, Culbeck said.

In a meeting that included the Yukon’s Minister of Economic Development Currie Dixon, Culbeck learned of plans to develop a hydropower grid intertie between Skagway – which is connected to Haines – and Whitehorse. This could impact resource development, as it changes perspective on what power options – such as Connelly Lake and Walker Lake – are worth pursuing in the long run, Culbeck said.

“The idea is that if you’re tied to Whitehorse, the cruise ships could use our power in the summer – the extra power that we don’t need – and then in the winter that power goes to Whitehorse, where they need it,” Culbeck said.

Another idea is a liquefied natural gas pipeline that would run from the northern Yukon south through Whitehorse and possibly to Haines.

“We have a very pro-development Alaskan government right now. The Yukon is pro-development. Those governments are supporting all of those people to spin those drills and build those roads and make those pipelines and think about railroads. And we just happen to be geographically at a spot where it might make sense for some of that development,” Culbeck said.

Though Earnest did not attend the conference, he said it was critical that the borough attend events like Roundup to remain in the loop on conversations surrounding regional resource development.

“It’s important that we have a presence, because options are being discussed and decisions are being made, and those will occur with or without Haines’ participation. And I’d rather be at the front end of those discussions than trying to find out what’s going on after the decisions have already been made,” Earnest said.

Culbeck voiced a similar sentiment, urging Haines residents to look at the bigger picture.

“Beyond us, the world is changing and it will have an impact on us. And we can be at the table and be engaged with industry and know what’s going on, or we can just put our head in the sand and all of a sudden someone’s going to show up and be like, ‘Hey, there’s a natural gas pipeline coming,’” Culbeck said.

Vick and Culbeck are composing a trip report to present their findings to the assembly Feb. 26.