Mining Alaska Part IV: Red Dog Mine – by Mallory Peebles ( – November 5, 2015)

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ANCHORAGE – Red Dog Mine is Alaska’s only Arctic mine. Located 106 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the mine employs close to 500 people, not including about 130 additional contracted workers.

Beneath the frozen ground at Red Dog Mine is zinc and lead. The ore is so rich it could be seen from the sky 50 years ago when a pilot flying overhead first discovered the prospect.

“It’s a world class deposit,” says Teck Community & Public Relations Manager Wayne Hall. “Other mines may be around 5 percent. Just to put it in perspective, our average grade here is right around 17 to 18.”

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Mining Alaska Part III: Striking gold at Kensington Mine – by Mallory Peebles ( – November 4, 2015)

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A century of advances in technology and engineering has dramatically changed the way gold is mined. Pickaxes, wheelbarrows and pans have been replaced by remotely operated trucks and large industrial mills where gold is separated by the process of mineral flotation.

Kensington Gold Mine, in the Borough of Juneau, began production in July of 2010. The locally owned company, Coeur Alaska Inc., employs more than 300 people and is the largest property taxpayer in the borough as well as the second largest private company in terms of payroll, which exceeded $41 million in 2014 according to the Alaska Miners Association.

The mine does not produce pure gold. Instead, it ships out 2 ton sacks of gold concentrate, a mix of fine gold and dirt. Each sack contains between 10 to 17 ounces of gold which makes it worth about $20,000 at current market value.

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Mining Alaska Part II: Digging into Alaska’s only producing coal mine – by Mallory Peebles ( – November 3, 2015)

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Of Alaska’s six currently operational mines, only one produces coal, a resource that supplies energy and heat to more than 37 percent of the Interior, according to the Alaska Energy Authority.

Usibelli Coal Mine near Healy has been a family-run operation since before Alaska obtained statehood. It holds five permits to mine areas within the Nenana coal field. The land within the area is leased by Usibelli from the state.

The company’s first ever tractor stays parked outside the main office while haulers and bulldozers five times its size help extract the mineral buried deep underground.

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Mining Alaska Part I: Inside Alaska’s busiest mines – by Mallory Peebles ( – November 2, 2015)

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Alaska has been a prospector’s dream for more than a century. From the gold rush of the late 1800s to the 21st century, billions of dollars have been invested in the exploration and extraction of minerals.

According to the Alaska Miners Association, about 4,400 jobs come directly from mining with the number nearly doubling to 8,700 with indirect jobs included. Indirect jobs include contract work like food service and maintenance that takes place at many of the mines’ on-site housing areas.

“We have a saying that we just don’t get to pick where we discover these mineral deposits,” says Deantha Crocket with the Alaska Miners Association.

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Mining Explorers 2015: Majors carry Alaska exploration – by Shane Lasley (Petroleum News – November 1, 2015)

Alaska producers continue robust programs, other majors seek opportunities

The owners of Alaska’s five large metal mines – Sumitomo Metal Mining Pogo, Hecla Mining Co., Kinross Gold Corp., Teck Resources Ltd. and Coeur Mining Inc. – accounted for nearly half of the US$96 million of exploration spending in the state during 2014. This year, similar investments by these large companies and other majors are again providing solid footing for the Far North state’s mineral exploration sector.

Avalon Development Corp. President Curt Freeman said he is seeing more mining majors shopping for deals in Alaska.

“The junior markets are still flat, but that plus-three-year slump in the junior explorer market has caused joint ventures and leases and mining claims to unravel, providing well-heeled producers with opportunities to acquire at the bottom of the market. Expect to see more producers become involved in Alaska’s mineral industry this year,” the longtime Alaska geologist predicted.

Sumitomo Metal Mining Pogo – a joint venture between Japanese firms Sumitomo Metal Mining Company (85 percent) and Sumitomo Corp. (15 percent) – accounted for nearly 20 percent of the exploration spending in Alaska during 2014 and 2015.

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Commentary: Pebble tries to hide disaster-in-waiting behind attacks on EPA, mine critics – by Alannah Hurley (Alaska Dispatch News – October 19, 2015)

Alannah Hurley is a lifelong Bristol Bay resident and executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay. UTBB is a tribal consortium representing 14 tribes (over 80 percent of the total population of Bristol Bay) working to protect the Bristol Bay watershed that sustains the Yup’ik, Denai’na and Alutiq way of life.

If you read their press releases recently, you would get the impression that the Pebble Limited Partnership is having a very good bit of luck. That’s because a bought-and-paid for “independent” report by former Defense Secretary William Cohen stated that the company was treated “unfairly” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the people of Bristol Bay.

With all due respect to Mr. Cohen, who is neither a scientist nor a legal expert, a review of Pebble’s hand-selected documents and a flyover will not come close to really evaluating Bristol Bay or how its people feel about the potential development of a colossal open-pit mine in their backyard. Rather, Mr. Cohen’s “report” is simply the latest in a long line of Pebble-backed propaganda — with the mining company playing the role of innocent victim, and Bristol Bay’s residents the villains.

The report argues a traditional mining review process should have been undertaken in Bristol Bay.

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[Alaska] Polls show concern over transboundary mining, desire for action – by (Juneau Empire – October 9, 2015)

Salmon Beyond Borders and SkeenaWild, groups from Alaska and British Columbia that have opposed mining in BC and Alaska’s transboundary river watersheds, recently received the results of two polls they say show a clear desire for action on both sides of the border.

The two polls, one in Alaska and one in B.C., were commissioned by the groups and conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. Some highlights from a press release include:

• Nearly three-quarters of Alaska respondents expressed concern about a mining waste spill in B.C. affecting shared watersheds that drain into Alaska, with the number jumping to 86 percent for Southeast Alaska respondents.

• Seventy-six percent of Alaska respondents want Alaska to have a seat at an international table to address concerns about upstream B.C. mining in shared transboundary watersheds. Forty-five percent said their vote for a member of Congress hinges on elected officials pushing for this seat at the table.

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Mining operator convicted of 2 misdemeanors for polluting Southwest Alaska river – by Jerzy Shedlock (Alaska Dispatch News – October 7, 2015)

A Southwest Alaska mine operator from Canada was convicted of two misdemeanor violations of the federal Clean Water Act on Wednesday in Anchorage for allowing muddy water to seep into a salmon stream over the course of two mining seasons.

The government charged James Slade — a mining consultant from Calgary, Alberta, who became chief operating officer for XS Platinum Inc. in 2010 — with six felonies. The charges included conspiracy, various violations of the Clean Water Act and submission of a false report.

Jurors could have found that Slade violated the regulations knowingly or negligently. They decided Slade’s actions were irresponsible but could not reach a unanimous decision about whether he knew he was breaking the law on two of the charges. What could have been felony convictions were instead found to be misdemeanors.

The jury deliberated for two days, finding Slade not guilty of half of his alleged crimes. The government will decide next week whether or not to retry Slade for three charges on which jurors were deadlocked, said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis.

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Why Alaska doesn’t trust BC – by Judith Lavoie (DeSmog Canada/Troy Media – October 2, 2015)

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett visited southeast Alaska this summer, trying to calm critics of the province’s aggressive push to build at least 10 mines close to the Alaska border.

“I understand why people feel so strongly about protecting what they have,” Bennett said at a news conference in Juneau. “There’s a way of life here that has tremendous value and the people here don’t want to lose it. I get that.”

Bennett’s conciliatory tone was in response to an unprecedented outpouring of concern from a powerful alliance of Alaskan politicians, tribes, fishing organizations and environmental groups. They’re perturbed by the modern-day gold rush alongside vital transboundary salmon rivers such as the Unuk, Taku and Stikine.

Indeed, long-held perceptions of Canada as a country with strict environmental standards and B.C. as a province that values natural beauty have taken a beating in southeast Alaska. Many now regard Canadians as bad neighbours who unilaterally make decisions that could threaten the region’s two major economic drivers – tourism and fishing.

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Defendant testifies in environmental crimes trial over platinum mine – by Lisa Demer (Alaska Dispatch News – October 2, 2015)

A mine operator on trial over pollution at a Southwestern Alaska platinum mine told a federal jury Friday in Anchorage he knew of muddy wastewater that turned the Salmon River dirty brown. But though he was the on-site boss and designed the mine operation, James Slade testified he never alerted regulators of the problems because, he said, that wasn’t within his authority.

Instead, even when the turbidity of the discharges was hundreds of times greater than allowed under Platinum Creek Mine’s general permit in 2011, Slade emailed company executives the mine would “continue to produce 24/7 until the wheels fall off.” That acknowledgement by Slade provided a punch at the end of cross examination by assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis.

Slade, a mining consultant from Calgary, Alberta who became chief operating officer for XS Platinum Inc., is accused of six felony charges including conspiracy, various violations of the federal Clean Water Act, and submission of a false report. His testimony in U.S. District Court took up most of Friday, the 10th day of a trial during which prosecutors have called more than 25 witnesses and presented hundreds of exhibits. Slade, who began working for the mine owners in 2010 and stayed through 2011, was the sole defense witness.

He said he was thrilled when he was recruited to work on resurrecting the old platinum mine in one of Alaska’s historic mining areas.

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Opinion: Alaska needs iron-glad guarantees on B.C. mines – by Dale Kelley and Cynthia Wallesz (Vancouver Sun – September 18, 2015)

Dale Kelley is executive director of the Alaska Trollers Association. Cynthia Wallesz is executive director of United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters.

We were among a group of fishing, environmental and tribal representatives who met recently with Alaska Lt.-Gov. Byron Mallott, B.C. Mines Minister Bill Bennett and other officials on transboundary mining issues. Bennett’s visit was largely the result of Alaskans’ resistance to B.C.’s aggressive mining agenda and the risks it poses to our region.

Our organizations represent thousands of Southeast Alaska fishing families and businesses who fear development near the border could threaten water quality, habitat and the fish we rely upon. Last year’s tailings breach at the Mount Polley mine and plans to open several large acidic mines near our rivers heighten those concerns.

While the meeting was a good first step to starting a discussion with Canada, it did not alleviate our concerns.

Bennett told us the status quo cannot continue, but that he understands no amount of money or jobs is worth sacrificing our resource values. We absolutely agree.

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Trial to begin over accusations of environmental crimes at Alaska mine – by Lisa Demer (Alaska Dispatch News – September 13, 2015)

A first-in-Alaska federal environmental crimes trial over a mining operation is set to begin this month in Anchorage with a single defendant.

Two other managers with XS Platinum Inc. already have pleaded guilty — one earlier this month — which opens the possibility they might testify at the trial of Canadian James Slade.

Yet those at the top of the company have yet to answer charges that the effort to restart an old mine near the Southwest Alaska community of Platinum went terribly wrong. The Australians who led XS Platinum have not shown up in U.S. District Court in Anchorage, and prosecutors have been unable to find remnants of the company itself.

In all, five officials or managers were charged with felonies as was XS Platinum. The case is the first federal prosecution in Alaska related to mining under the Clean Water Act.

The focus now is on Slade, who is arguing in court that the government knew what the platinum miners were up to all along. His trial is set to begin Sept. 21 with jury selection and is expected to last about two weeks.

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Opinion: Environment exposes political hypocrisy – by Harry Sterling (Vancouver Sun – September 8, 2015)

Harry Sterling, a former diplomat, was the Department of External Affairs’ representative to the International Joint Commission from 1981-83, representing the interests and views of the Canadian government on trans-boundary issues.

It seems politicians everywhere have a tendency to become somewhat schizophrenic when confronting sensitive issues that many of their constituents may strongly support or vehemently oppose.

One such increasingly contentious subject is the environment and exploitation of its resources, an issue politicians in both Canada and the United States increasingly find dividing members of their respective societies.

Such divisions can be especially sharp and heated when involving proposed economic development of untapped resources, especially if it involves offshore oil drilling or mining in pristine regions.

Both U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian lawmakers, notably in provinces such as British Columbia, have recently found themselves increasingly confronting divisions over specific economic projects in their jurisdictions that are raising concerns regarding cross-border developments some believe could endanger their local or national interests.

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It’s time for a Better Dialogue about Mineral Exploration and Development – by Gavin Dirom (Vancouver Province – August 31, 2015)

Gavin Dirom is president and chief executive officer of the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia.

Over the past few months, some observers in Alaska have expressed fears about mineral exploration and mining development in northwestern British Columbia. The concerns primarily relate to water quality in rivers originating in British Columbia and draining into southeastern Alaska. These rivers support important salmon runs and communities in both jurisdictions. As good neighbours and allies, Canadian mineral explorers and developers understand and respect these concerns. We also care about our shared water and salmon.

Northwestern British Columbia is a mountainous area with high mineral development potential. This rugged area, with its world-class deposits can help provide us with the critical metals and minerals that we all use in our everyday lives. By discovering and developing mineral resources, our industry makes a major contribution to modern society. Without it, we would have no bicycles, no boats, no electric cars, no iPhones, no lights and no hospitals. These are just a few of the things that require metals and minerals that we all take for granted.

Finding a balance between environmental, social and economic values is a challenge we all face. But that is nothing new. Responsible mineral explorers acknowledge that there will always be some impacts when developing a mine, and we agree that these need to be soundly assessed and properly mitigated.

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British Columbia officials try to smooth over mine dispute during Juneau trip – by Pat Forgey (Alaska Dispatch News – August 26, 2015)

JUNEAU — Top British Columbia mining regulators this week have been trying to improve relations with Alaska that have been strained by several controversial mines and are even talking about cleanup of a British Columbia mine that’s been polluting Taku Inlet for decades.

Provincial Minister of Energy and Mines William Bennett said Wednesday in Juneau that could mean an agreement to give Alaska more of a say in what happens over the border, and that Alaska should have a larger role.

The state’s bigger role might include permitting new mines and monitoring operating mines. “I think it’s fair to say that Alaska doesn’t have a lot of access to that information,” Bennett said.

But while the minister was offering to sign a memorandum of agreement or understanding with Alaska, Alaskans in Juneau were demanding more.

John Morris, a member of the Juneau-based Douglas Indian Association’s tribal council, described a memorandum of understanding as “nothing more than a formal handshake” and said it would be better to use the Boundary Waters Treaty to see that Alaska’s interests were protected.

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