The Haines Economic Development Corporation discussed the makeup and voting status of members of the Chilkat Valley Mining Forum Committee at its Oct. 18 meeting. Members will review the committee’s organizational documents before offering a recommendation at its next meeting on Nov. 14.

HEDC recently added a member to a seat on the committee, which lost membership, in part, due to perceived bias in favor of mining. Chilkat Indian Village and Lynn Canal Conservation both dropped out in 2017 after disagreement about mining forum speakers.

Takshanuk Watershed Council also disagreed about speakers at a 2019 spring forum, and organized its own event for the same weekend.

Current members of the mining committee include representatives from HEDC, Haines Sportsmen’s Association, Haines Chamber of Commerce, Haines Borough, Constantine Metal Resources, Takshanuk Watershed Council, the Palmer family, Northern Southeast Gillnetters and Alaska Miner’s Association. The mining committee requires 70 percent support for votes to pass.

The committee is now trying to decide if it should restructure its membership, HEDC president Heather Shade told members at Friday’s meeting. The committee discussed at a Sept. 26 meeting whether for-profit entities, Constantine and the Palmer Family, should be able to vote on which speakers present information to the public during mining forums, which are meant to “increase awareness and education on mining topics, risks, benefits and solutions,” according to the committee’s objectives. Takshanuk Watershed Council proposed that voting rights of for-profit organizations on the committee be removed.

Linda Palmer, a family representative, told the HEDC members she should continue to have a vote. Her family leases the property to Constantine. She cited concerns that should her family’s voting interest be removed, the balance of the committee could skew toward mining opposition.

“The committee could damage the perceived value of that property,” Palmer said. “They could even totally discount it and it could become valueless if the committee goes off in a negative direction. We being there will keep this in a positive direction where the mine and Constantine’s development can continue to be considered at least…It’s certainly in our interest to stay on that committee.”

In a letter to HEDC, Constantine vice president of community affairs Liz Cornejo told members Constantine would not voluntarily resign as a voting member and asked HEDC to reject the request.

“Yes, as the mining project proponent, we have something to gain from a locally organized speaker series, but we also have something to lose,” Cornejo wrote. “We will continue to work hard to protect our employees and their future opportunities. In fairness, if there were an effort to bring in speakers to discuss the future of your business or organization, would you not want to be involved?”

New HEDC member and former mining committee member Sue Chasen said the mining forum committee’s bylaws and organizing documents are confusing and need to be simplified.

Shade, who represents HEDC on the mining committee, said they often get caught up in organizational details.

“We get bogged down in looking at the organization documents,” Shade said. “There’s kind of an identity crisis within the committee itself which gets in the way of organizing a forum.”

Shade said group representatives at the last meeting, which is closed to the public, planned to discuss whether or not Constantine and the Palmer family should have a vote, and whether or not the committee should include more seats, with their corresponding organizations.

“If the purpose is as stated to create educational opportunities then I think it’s reasonable to have a spectrum of voices that represent the community as a whole,” HEDC member Sean Gaffney said at Friday’s meeting.

HEDC members plan to review the forum committee’s organizational documents before offering a recommendation at its November meeting.

HEDC members also considered a Haines Chamber of Commerce request for a $2,500 contribution to help bolster First Friday events.

The request received mixed reviews, with most members citing concerns that HEDC should refrain from providing funding to local organizations.

“We don’t want to be subjected to a bunch of funding requests,” HEDC member Mike Ward said.

Chasen said she’d be open to providing the funding if it would go toward new opportunities rather than current expenditures.

Chamber executive director Tracy Harmon said the bulk of the First Friday funding goes toward advertising, and said the $2,500 would expand the event. Only a portion of First Friday businesses contribute financially to pay for the advertisement that’s printed in the Chilkat Valley News each month before First Friday.

“Our sponsors are not all participants in the program,” Harmon said. “The problem that came up is we had a lot of artists and businesses that wanted to participate, but they were not able to pay the fee. Funding will make it a more inclusive structure.”

HEDC members asked to see a more detailed breakdown of the program’s budget, and how the $2,500 would be spent, before approving or rejecting the request.