ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Kivalina's tribal government says a proposed port expansion for the Red Dog zinc mine will disturb sea mammals and hurt the village's subsistence hunts.
The Kivalina tribal council took out a full-page ad in the weekly newspaper, the Arctic Sounder, last week to express its opposition to the project.
''It makes me scared. Once we drive away the animals we subsist on, I'm afraid we're not going to see them again,'' council president David Swan said Tuesday.
Swan said many of Kivalina's elders are convinced that noise from the construction, ocean-going ships and mine-related activity will alter the migration routes and feeding grounds of bearded seals, beluga and bowhead whales.
NANA Regional Corp. of Kotzebue, the Native corporation that owns the Red Dog property, says studies have yet to determine whether Kivalina's concerns are founded. The mining company that operates Red Dog, Cominco Alaska, concurs.
''There's no conclusions. It's way too early to tell,'' said Charlotte MacCay, Cominco's senior environmental official.
Kivalina is the nearest village to the huge mine and it lies on the coast about 15 miles northwest of the port at which Red Dog ore is shipped.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently began a feasibility study of the proposal to dredge a 50-foot-deep channel in the Chukchi Sea. After the channel is dug, engineers would construct a port and conveyor system that would extend possibly two to three miles out to sea. That would allow the zinc ore to be loaded directly onto ships.
Currently, it has to be placed on shuttle barges that haul it out to ocean-going ships. The study will consider the environmental, economic and other aspects of the project and should take another year to complete, said agency spokesman John Killoran.
Even if the study shows the port would not harm sea creatures, there's no guarantee the project will ever be built.
''It'll be up to Congress to decide whether to fund it,'' said Killoran.
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