Constantine President Peter Mercer at a April 17 public forum at the Aspen Hotel (Lex Treinen/Chilkat Valley News)

Unless the state grants an extension, the public has until April 24 to comment on a five-year plan of operations for work related to the Palmer Project, the copper and zinc claim upstream from  Haines and Klukwan. 

The plan would only apply to state lands on two areas — the so-called Plateau Site west of Glacier Creek and the Klehini Site to the east — off of the Porcupine Trail Road, where the company is proposing continuing seismic work it started last summer. 

The plan does not apply to the current known deposits of the Palmer Project and AG deposit, which are permitted federally. 

Already, several groups have asked for a longer comment period, including the Haines Borough Planning Commission, which adopted a letter at its most recent meeting. Still, Dave Charron, who leads the state’s permitting program suggested an extension of the public comment period was unlikely. 

“The activities are similar — nearly identical to last year,” Charron said. “There’s only been some minor tweaks.”

Some conservationists said two weeks isn’t enough time. Shannon Donahue, the director of the Great Bear Foundation pointed out that the Haines Borough Assembly’s meeting schedule — every two weeks — meant the borough would have trouble formulating a response if it chose to. She said the 294-page document was a lot to review, and that it often takes time for the public to even find out there is a public comment period. 

 “We really do need more time,” she said. 

In its submitted plan, the company doesn’t say exactly why it is doing seismic work in the area, but it has previously suggested the sites it is exploring could be used for tailings storage. 

At a public meeting at the Aspen Hotel on Wednesday, Constantine President Peter Mercer said a tailings storage site is a possibility. 

“They’re potentially being evaluated for that but I can’t say if it’s gonna be here or if it’s gonna be there,” he said. 

Constantine intends to continue seismic work in the Plateau (foreground) and Klehini (right back) sites. (Lex Treinen/Chilkat Valley News)

Last year, the company applied for an amended permit to start seismic work, which generated hundreds of public comments after the state Department of Natural Resources extended the comment period by two weeks. 

While the plan is mostly the same as last year’s amended permit, it adds a “lay down” area of an acre for storing equipment, waste and where the company proposes to store a 500-gallon fuel tank. The plan would continue with road clearing work, including developing 6.55 miles, and the development of 33 drill pads for sonic and/or diamond drill rigs that would be 30 feet wide by 60 feet across. As part of the seismic work, Constantine is proposing using 500 pounds of dynamite. 

As part of its road work, the company proposed developing a brand new road it’s calling “Plateau Spur.” It would use heavy equipment to build 2.75 miles of road up to 30 feet wide on the western side of Glacier Creek using a bridge across the creek that was built last year. 

The release of the plan of operations coincided with three public presentations by Mercer, his first since he took over as president last year. About 30 people attended the event in Haines. 

Some commenters criticized the project and what they saw as not enough opportunity for locals to weigh in. 

Mercer said for his part, his company would respect decisions made by the Department of Natural Resources as to whether to extend a public comment period. Mercer said the company’s priority this year was to continue diamond drilling operations to find deposits on BLM land. He said road building work under the proposed ops plan wouldn’t start till next year. 

“I didn’t plan any activities this year based on this plan of operations,” he said. 

A portal to submit comments and the full plan can be found here.