Critics question mine exploration near Alaska eagle preserve

May 4, 2016 by By Dan Joling
In this undated photo provided the American Bald Eagle Foundation, a bald eagle perches on a tree branch along the Chilkat River within the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve outside Haines, Alaska. The preserve is about 10 miles downstream from a copper and zinc prospect that could someday be developed into a hard rock mine. Critics say a spill from mining operations could harm salmon in the rivers of the preserve, where up to 4,000 eagles gather each winter to feed on the fish after they spawn. (Cheryl McRoberts/American Bald Eagle Foundation via AP)

In early winter, after most tourists have fled Alaska, another kind of visitor flies in: bald eagles, up to 4,000 of them.

In the world's largest congregation of , they gather along the Chilkat River in southeast Alaska to feast on salmon carcasses washed downstream after spawning. Well after other rivers have frozen, the river remains open.

Wildlife advocates are concerned that a possible mining project near a major tributary of the river could threaten the eagles.

A Canadian company, backed by a Japanese metals firm, is spending millions to explore a copper and zinc deposit that might someday turn into a hard rock mine about 10 miles upriver of the preserve.

"That just seems like a very foolish thing to do, to risk everything we have for a few years of economic development," said environmental activist Gershon Cohen, who lives in nearby Haines.

Mine advocates say mining and wildlife can co-exist, noting that the state's strict mining regulations will require measures protecting salmon and eagles.

But long before the specifics of a mine are designed, wildlife advocates question why a development with the potential for a deadly spill would ever be considered on a site close to salmon habitat that nourishes the eagles.

In this undated photo provided the American Bald Eagle Foundation, a bald eagle feeds on a salmon carcass in the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve outside Haines, Alaska. The preserve is about 10 miles downstream from a copper and zinc prospect that could someday be developed into a hard rock mine. Critics say a spill from mining operations could harm salmon in the rivers of the preserve, where up to 4,000 eagles gather each winter to feed on the fish after they spawn. (Cheryl McRoberts/American Bald Eagle Foundation via AP)

Haines is a commercial fishing and tourism town of 2,500 with an asset missing in most other southeast Alaska towns: a highway that climbs through nearby mountains to connect to the continental road system.

The highway and port are a huge draw for Vancouver, British Columbia-based Constantine Metal Resources Ltd., a company formed in 2006 to explore for copper, zinc, gold and silver in the project on five acres about 35 miles northwest of the city.

"We have a promising project that's growing, that we've been investing in for a long time, but it requires more work," said Darwin Green, vice president of exploration, in a phone interview.

Japan's Dowa Metals & Mining Co. in 2013 agreed to invest $22 million in what's being called the Palmer Project over four years in exchange for a 49 percent interest. The Bureau of Land Management is reviewing Constantine's application to build roads and expand exploration to 40 acres.

But a decision on production is years off, Green said.

"The question everyone wants to know—'When will it be a mine—is one I can't answer," he said.

The project ultimately could take the form of a medium-size underground mine, with high grade ore extracted and trucked to port, loaded on ships and moved to overseas smelters. Baseline information collected during exploration would shape mine design.

But it's much too early, he said, to provide meaningful details about what processing would entail. "What we do know is that Alaska has incredibly stringent regulations and laws that are very protective of the environment we operate in," Green said.

Cohen, a sponsor of the 2006 cruise ship ballot initiative that required the vessels to get state pollution discharge permits for wastewater, is frustrated by a system in which debate about a mine that could damage a world-class natural attraction does not begin until after millions of dollars have been spent.

"If you wait until it's later in the process, then they turn that around and say, 'Where were you years ago when we first started this?'" he said.

No matter what Constantine promises, he said, it ultimately is an exploration company.

"Once they find a major mining company that wants to buy the prospect, they will have little to nothing to say about how the mine actually gets developed," he said. "It will be the major mining partner who will bring in their engineers and they will decide how the mine needs to be developed."

The specifics of a future mine are not needed to know that it will produce millions of gallons of wastewater contaminated with heavy metals in a location prone to earthquakes and heavy rainfall, Cohen said.

"There is a long history of dams for tailings ponds failing under these conditions," he said.

Explore further: Toxic spill from zinc mine in Peru

Related Stories

Toxic spill from zinc mine in Peru

September 3, 2012

(AP)—Peruvian authorities say wastewater laced with heavy metals from a major zinc mine has spilled into a tributary of the Amazon, contaminating at least six miles of the waterway.

The impact of mining Alaska's coal

March 11, 2014

Alaska, the last great frontier, is being threatened by many proposals to mine an estimated 5.5 trillion tons of coal. Sam Weis, author of "The Local and Worldwide Impact of Mining Alaska's Coal" in the magazine Environment: ...

UK mining co in bankruptcy on market slump, Ebola

October 16, 2014

(AP)—Debt-plagued London Mining PLC has filed for bankruptcy protection in the wake of a slump in iron ore prices and as the Ebola outbreak complicated the sale of a mine in Sierra Leone.

Chile president gives nod to huge gold mine

May 30, 2013

Chile's visiting president said Thursday that Canadian firm Barrick Gold can resume operations at its massive gold mine in Chile as long as environmental rules are followed.

Recommended for you

Not all stem cells are created equal, study reveals

March 22, 2019

Researchers from the University of Toronto's Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) and the Donnelly Centre have discovered a population of cells – dubbed to be "elite" – that play a key role in ...

Ancient birds out of the egg running

March 22, 2019

The ~125 million-year-old Early Cretaceous fossil beds of Los Hoyas, Spain, have long been known for producing thousands of petrified fish and reptiles (Fig. 1). However, researchers have uncovered an extremely rare, nearly ...

Making solar cells is like buttering bread

March 22, 2019

Formamidinium lead iodide is a very good material for photovoltaic cells, but getting the correct stable crystal structure is a challenge. The techniques developed so far have produced poor results. However, University of ...

13 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Weldon Lee
5 / 5 (5) May 04, 2016
Putting a mine near the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is bad news for the eagles, the salmon fishery, and the economy of nearby Haines, Alaska. Sure, it may be an economic boon for the town for a while, but in the end everyone will suffer. I know. I have been to Haines on many occasions to lead photography workshop. It's important that those who care speak out and stop this nonsense.
gkam
1 / 5 (7) May 04, 2016
But you may keep some rich guy from getting richer, at our expense.

Isn't it worth ruining a place forever for the short-term profit of a few selfish people?
gkam
1 / 5 (6) May 04, 2016
Well, there is a one rating from Ira, the guy who cries at the damage the oil and gas industry is doing to his homeland. I guess it is only his folk who are supposed get protection from rapacious industries.
Uncle Ira
3.9 / 5 (7) May 04, 2016
Well, there is a one rating from Ira, the guy who cries at the damage the oil and gas industry is doing to his homeland. I guess it is only his folk who are supposed get protection from rapacious industries.


glam-Skippy. I give you the one for being the hypocrite. You "elitist", "holier-than-thou" new-agey types from California are one of the worst offenders when it comes to damaging other people environments so you can claim to be "cleaner" and "progressive".

If if were not for you guys bribing, buying, and conning the peoples here to sell out their future and commit geographical, cultural, and social suicide, you would be one of the main users of coal and nuclear. You guys claim to use "cleaner" gas and not the nuclear or coal, but you can only claim that by raping somebody else's environment.
gkam
1 / 5 (6) May 04, 2016
Nope. Is that what they tell you folk in the swamps?

We live cleaner because we paid for it, and did it ourselves. You folk chose other ways. Yeah, it was a lot cheaper to do it your way, . . . for a while. Now we have clean places to live, and you folk are getting inundated by sea level rise, from your own use of petroleum and those nasty coal plants.

We are not holier than you, we work smarter. We find and celebrate new and better ways to do things.

You folk ought to try it.
Uncle Ira
3.9 / 5 (7) May 04, 2016
Nope. Is that what they tell you folk in the swamps?

We live cleaner because we paid for it, and did it ourselves. You folk chose other ways. Yeah, it was a lot cheaper to do it your way, . . . for a while. Now we have clean places to live, and you folk are getting inundated by sea level rise, from your own use of petroleum and those nasty coal plants.

We are not holier than you, we work smarter. We find and celebrate new and better ways to do things.

You folk ought to try it.


How much gas you have to import to be cleaner and better? How much water you have to import to be greener and better? You are hypocrites and your "better" comes from buying, conning, and stealing from others. If you claim otherwise, you lie. Your "better" comes at the expense of others Cher, and there is no way to deny it.
gkam
1 / 5 (6) May 04, 2016
"If if were not for you guys bribing, buying, and conning the peoples here to sell out their future and commit geographical, cultural, and social suicide, . . "
------------------------------------

I did that? I am your excuse for trashing your own land? I made you use coal?

Okay, from now on, you get permission to do what we did in the late 1970s, and clean up your act.
gkam
1 / 5 (6) May 04, 2016
My gosh, someone in a red state complaining about "stealing", while they have bled the blue states for a hundred years. Go look up how much money we get back from the feds, and how much you get back per dollar sent in. You are parasites.

Parasites.
Uncle Ira
3.9 / 5 (7) May 04, 2016
As I say, you are a hypocrite and liar Skippy. You are only "clean" and "green" at the expense of others.

eah, it bothers me that the peoples here have sold out their geography, culture, heritage, and environment for the short term gain of dollars from outsiders. It bothers me a lot. Our gas goes to places who want to "go greener" and reduce their use or coal and nuclear.

Your "cleaner" gas power plants that replace your coal and nuclear plants are bought at the expense of the couyons around me who are foolish enough to think that money now is worth not having our geography and culture intact in the future.

You are a hypocrite and liar on this one Cher. But not to worry on that non, you got lot's of company in that department, here and out there.
gkam
1.1 / 5 (7) May 04, 2016
"Your" gas goes to the Northeast and Midwest.

My electricity comes from my own PV system integrated with the utility. How do you get yours? I did not make you folk take the easy route, instead of paying for cleaner power.

Our gasoline costs more because we care enough to keep our air cleaner. We clean up most of our messes. We personally invest in the things we support in our discussions.

You can do it, too, instead of thinking you are victims of anyone but yourselves.
Estevan57
4.2 / 5 (5) May 04, 2016
Gkam - Beep Beep Beep, my bs. detector just went off. How clean do you claim Cali. to be?
There is good reason for the expensive gas and emissions requirements. You have some of the worst smog in the U.S. Natural gas leak lately? Yes. Oil spills lately? Yes.

Your tax subsidy qualifies you as a parasite.

Do you need links or evidence? There is a ton out there. Read your own Mother Jones magazine for confirmation.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.3 / 5 (7) May 04, 2016
"Your" gas goes to the Northeast and Midwest.

My electricity comes from my own PV system integrated with the utility. How do you get yours? I did not make you folk take the easy route, instead of paying for cleaner power.

Our gasoline costs more because we care enough to keep our air cleaner. We clean up most of our messes. We personally invest in the things we support in our discussions.

You can do it, too, instead of thinking you are victims of anyone but yourselves.
You lied about your MS degree and your car so you are lying about your PV system as well.
gkam
1 / 5 (5) May 04, 2016
Outgrow this petty need of yours otto. Get over the fact you got caught trolling as a lying bully.

Your fixation on me is not even interesting, otto, just banal.

Give it up.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.