This week the CVN was flooded with more letters than I can recall ever being submitted. In order to save space, we grouped letters according to their subject matter under one headline.
This is just a reminder that mining remediation is forever. As a former resident of Haines, I still care about the Chilkat valley. I now live in Colorado, 30 miles from the Summitville mine. I understand the value of mining, and benefit from it in many ways. I feel there are places that are better for mining, those which have less water involved in the habitat that surrounds the area.
As a former Alaska Fish and Game Tech, I can tell you first hand that all the creeks that flow into the Klehini have Coho spawning in them on big return years.
Just remember, it will be future generations, forever, that will be doing the remediation, once the mining is done, and the mining jobs are gone.
But, what do I know, I’m from Colorado, where your tax dollars are funding forever remediation projects in the headwaters of America.
Thanks, and have a great summer.
We cannot permit government agencies and/or corporations to abuse our public resources. We must follow protocols that safeguard the “commonwealth” — our public trust resources. This rushed permitting by Constantine is an attempt to establish a precedent to extract our resources for private profit without adequate public review or protection from potential dangers.
“Development at all cost” should be the new Haines motto — or at least that is what one would come to believe if they have attended any Haines governmental meetings in the past couple of years. From granting heliports without public support, to subsidizing infrastructure projects for foreign mining interests, we have put the interests of big business before the local community.
It might be a good idea to recap how much we have done to facilitate the exploitation of our community. We have replaced two bridges on the Porcupine road and are now looking to upgrade it for truck traffic. We are rebuilding the Haines highway for the same reason. We are also upgrading the Lutak dock and road to facilitate the shipment of mining ore.
How many hundreds of millions of dollars are we going to spend to subsidize foreign interests to exploit our resources (let’s not play make-believe and think this was done for us). Don’t forget that our borough won’t support due process for public scrutiny on permit applications, but what can you expect when two employees of the mine are on the Assembly and won’t recuse themselves on issues involving their employer.
There are important issues involving the community of Haines. Shouldn’t we be taking our time to make sure we choose wisely instead of hastily? We should be asking the communities and employees of the Minto mine how they are feeling now that the mine unceremoniously locked the gate and left everyone to fend for themselves.
Assembly members Magarette Jones and Jerry Lapp told the crowd at Thursday’s borough assembly meeting that Constantine was a good employer that treated them well. Though that had nothing to do with the issue at hand, it did make it seem extra cruel that they were unwilling to encourage Constantine to offer the same treatment to the people, wildlife and lands of Haines and Klukwan.
At least 170 petition signers from a cross-section of the community had requested that the Department of Natural Resources extend the comment period to 90 days and require Constantine to ask for a new permit, rather than just accept an amendment to its current permit before it would be allowed to drill, blast and drive big equipment through salmon streams close to the Klehini River starting in June.
The petitioners asked only that the assembly write a letter in support of its request. It was a small, reasonable ask. But Cheryl Stickler, Gabe Thomas, Jones and Lapp said “no.”
Stickler said it’s not good for the borough to interfere with state agency actions. Yet, only a few weeks ago the assembly voted to formally protest an Alaska Supreme Court decision.
Thomas said that based on his experience working on road construction crews, fish are not bothered by dynamite explosions. He feared a longer comment period would delay Constantine a season.
The assembly’s unwillingness to even question an international corporation’s degradation of salmon spawning streams does not bode well for us or for the salmon.
What were the citizens of the Haines Borough asking the Assembly to do? Write a letter. Just write a letter! — to DNR asking for more time to evaluate a substantially new environmental assault on public land by Constantine Mine. Their answer? No. No, we won’t do that for you. Next, their refusal is a glaring declaration that they, Assembly Members Stickler, Thomas, Lapp and Jones, do not respect the voice of the people. They represent the financial interests of the mine. Lapp and Jones even have the audacity to insist that they have no conflict of interest even though they are employed by Constantine. Do they think we buy this? This would be a joke, if it weren’t so painful to witness.
What I learned last Thursday from the assembly: Assembly members who work for Constantine can vote on mine-related issues with, somehow, no conflict of interest. Constantine is so open with our community that they refuse to speak with our radio station reporter. Dynamite blasting is great for fish, in fact they love it! Driving mining and seismic equipment through salmon streams is also great. Combining mining with logging somehow eases the pain. The public should just stick with the existing legal processes that prevent harm caused by mining — after all, it has worked so well that the 1872 Mining Law remains in place and for some reason is unassailable.
I also learned that spending millions of public dollars to rebuild the Porcupine Road up to the mine site is somehow unrelated to the millions of public funds being squandered on a 700-foot dock, a Haines Highway upgrade and the “Palmer Project” Klehini Bridge. And it’s really not the last link for the mine, but is actually just for moose hunting and berry picking. And the vice president of Chilkat Indian Village must be limited to a three-minute comment, but a DOWA Metals and Mining VP is allowed to spew gibberish ad infinitum to avoid answering the specific question, “Is this proposal actually about placing toxic tailings along the Klehini River?” Her answer, when pressed: “Yes.”
I would like to thank Assembly members Debra Schnabel and Ben Aultman-Moore for their responsiveness to community input at the May 25 Assembly meeting regarding Constantine’s proposed permit “amendment.”
It was a simple, reasonable request: local government support (a letter to DNR) for residents’ need for more time to understand Constantine’s proposed major expansion (preferably, asking for a new permit application due to the location’s scale and sensitivity).
It is unfortunate that four Assembly members, including two who work for Constantine, disregarded extensive community input and voted against drafting a letter to DNR on the community’s behalf. Most appalling was the disrespect shown to Chilkat Indian Village in refusing to honor their request for support.
Constantine representatives were at the meeting and could have acknowledged that residents deserve more time to review and respond to their permit application. The fact that they didn’t should demonstrate to everyone that they don’t genuinely care about community engagement.
There is still time to submit comments to DNR regarding Constantine’s proposed roadbuilding, clearing, and seismic work along the Klehini River and across coho streams. Comment deadline is June 3 to [email protected]
Last week’s Borough Assembly meeting was frustrating, to put it mildly. After an outpouring of exceedingly polite public testimony from fishermen, loggers, small business owners, subsistence users, etc., the audience was treated to a ludicrous PR speech from Liz Cornejo (vice president for Dowa Alaska), some extremely patronizing explanations of “how things work” from certain Assembly members, and disregard for the position held by a tribal leader.
As hard as we try, it’s becoming more and more difficult to sit politely through meetings like this. Please consider the following suggestions to move forward: Invite tribal leaders from CIV and CIA to present on topics that will affect their members; do not constrain them to the three-minute time limit. These are sovereign governments, and they should be consulted when the Borough makes decisions that will impact them.
Assembly members and staff should also use appropriate titles when addressing elected tribal officials. Do not imply that those who comment simply don’t understand the process. Everyone who commented was asking the Borough to help improve public process because the current one is insufficient. Citing an initiative that failed years ago (Stand for Salmon) as a current avenue for process indicates that some Assembly members need to do more research.
If you ask a direct question of an audience member, please do not allow them to grandstand indefinitely without answering the question. The response from the crowd was extremely mild considering how absurd that situation was.
Thank you, Stacie Evans
The recent closure of the Minto mine in the Yukon demonstrates the instability of the mining industry and should give pause to those supporting the Palmer mine project as a way to improve Haines’ economic future.
Last year Minto executives came to Haines to lobby the Ports and Harbors Committee to support an ore loading dock. Promises of economic benefits were made. And now, yet again, a mining company has failed to deliver on its promises.
Minto says the company is unable to pay severance and employees should apply for compensation through the federal Wage Earner Protection Program. Workers were also told Minto is now in receivership.
This is not unique. Promoters of the Tulsequah Chief, located in northwest BC in the Taku watershed, made promises for over two decades that the mine would be a boon to both BC and Alaska. Yet, two companies have gone bankrupt trying to re-open this mine, leaving the mess for the government to clean up, possibly at taxpayer expense.
The industry has a tradition of boom and bust and can be extremely inconsistent. Its plans, predictions and promises are often wildly optimistic. This can be very divisive to communities.
Haines has a lot more going for it than some zinc up in the hills. With some new efforts, economic opportunities can be found, and in a way that protects the values many people come to Haines for.