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Admiralty Island mine seeks to spread tailings area

Posted: Sunday, April 27, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) A mine on Admiralty Island wants to expand its tailings disposal area to accommodate more ore reserves.

A proposed expansion of the Greens Creek Mine's tailing disposal area could keep the mine running for many more years. A draft environmental impact statement released Friday concluded that the expansion might need the addition of carbon to keep metals from leaching into the ground and the water.

Operators of Greens Creek, an underground polymetallic mine on Admiralty Island that employs about 260 people, want to expand its tailings disposal area to accommodate more ore reserves. Tailings are what's left of the material removed from the mine after the metal has been extracted.

The tailings site is about 23.2 acres, and is permitted to expand to 29 acres. Operators say that will allow them to operate for two more years. The mine has proposed to expand the site to 61.3 acres, which would allow enough room for 20 to 25 years' worth of tailings if the mine continues at its current pace, said Greens Creek Environmental Manager Bill Oelklaus.

The mine is within the Admiralty Island National Monument.

Environmentalists said the mine already pollutes and the tailings site should not be expanded.

The Forest Service's failure to protect Admiralty Island from the acid mine drainage and toxic metals that are leaking out of Greens Creek's waste piles sends a terrible message to the mining industry,'' said Shoren Brown of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.

A spokesman for the Utah-based company that owns about 70 percent of the mine said he was pleased that the draft EIS, which was about two years in the making, had been released, but said he doesn't think a carbon additive is necessary.

We don't believe that it's required. If we need to prove that carbon addition is not needed, we would like to do that through a monitoring program,'' said Fred Fox, spokesman for the Kennecott Minerals Co.

Carbon addition facilitates the growth of sulfate-reducing bacteria, which feed on it. The bacteria turn sulfate into sulfide, reducing acid drain and rendering the metal immobile. Mobile metal can leach into the soil and water.



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