Constantine Metal Resources Ltd. is performing another round of sampling for their tracer dye study this spring. The company had originally said they expected to release results by the end of February.

Last fall, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) remanded Constantine’s waste management permit back to the Division of Water after environmental groups and individuals protested the permit’s approval. DEC requested Constantine conduct a study to track groundwater movement downhill from its intended discharge area.

If the study were to show a link between the discharge area and U.S. waters, Constantine would need to apply for a permit with more stringent requirements.

“Our consultant recommended another round of sampling to help with data interpretation,” Constantine vice president Liz Cornejo said. Senior hydro-geologist Tom Aley, who works for Ozark Underground Lab, the company Constantine hired to consult on the groundwater tracing study, said he could not comment on the decision and directed questions to Cornejo, who did not offer further explanation by press time.

DEC Wastewater Discharge Authorization Program manager Gene McCabe said Constantine did not provide the department with a reason for the second round of sample gathering.      

The department originally approved Constantine’s tracer dye study plan last October. The approval specified that Constantine submit a final report to DEC within 90 days of sampling completion, McCabe said. He said the company informed the department at the end of February that a sample had been collected earlier that month and that they were in the process of interpreting the results. 

On March 10, Constantine informed DEC that they would like to collect another sample. DEC “approved an additional sampling event and expects a final report within 90 days after conditions allow for the safe collection of the sample, unless a plan modification is submitted and approved,” McCabe said. 

DEC has the ability to modify the due date for the report as needed in order to allow Constantine to meet the objectives of the proposed study, McCabe said. “The department had no objections to the gathering of additional data” as the objective of the study is a better understanding of groundwater at the site, “and more data generally provides better results.”

Cornejo said the second round of sampling is currently underway and that once the study is complete, Constantine will present the results to DEC and the public.

In an email dated Nov. 15, Takshanuk Watershed Council executive director Derek Poinsette asked Cornejo if the organization could observe the original tracer dye study. At the time, Cornejo said the request was denied because it came at the end of the study, which began in early November and ended Dec. 11.

Kip Kermoian, who sits on the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve Advisory Council, said he plans to raise the issue of third-party observation for the next phase of the study. He said he will ask the council at its next meeting to approve a letter requesting that Constantine allow a third- party observer for any future field studies that require reporting to permitting agencies. 

Allowing a third-party observer is necessary to “mitigate any concern about the integrity of the sampling technique,” Kermoian said. However, he may have to wait some time before submitting his request as the council’s next scheduled meeting has been postponed until further notice due to COVID-19 concerns.

Constantine’s summer plans are still under discussion, Cornejo said. At the beginning of March, the company had yet to secure funding for the summer. Market conditions have only worsened since then as COVID-19 has continued to spread throughout the globe.

At present, Constantine has no plans to construct the tunnel or land application disposal (LAD) system for wastewater disposal this summer, Cornejo said. 

While Constantine’s Haines office is currently closed to the public, representatives can still be reached by email and phone.