What are the implications of the Kensington ruling?

Posted: Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The U.S. Supreme Court has just ruled it's "legal" to allow the Kensington gold mine near Juneau to dump its mining waste into Lower Slate Lake, recognizing the waste will kill all the fish -- and who knows what effects the heavy metal pollution will have on any animals or birds drinking from or living in the Lake? Shame on the U.S. Corps of Engineers for permitting this action, and shame on the U.S. Supreme Court for its stamp of approval.

But even more telling was a quote from Alaska's Gov. Sarah Palin regarding the decision, ie, "great news for Alaska; it's a green light for responsible resource development"! That quote should tell all Alaskans what we learned last fall, when her picture appeared in large color ads in the Peninsula Clarion and the Anchorage Daily News urging all Alaskans to vote no on the people's clean water ballot initiative. The Kensington gold mine is tiny by comparison to the projections for the Pebble gold mine in the Bristol Bay watershed. The Kensington mine will dump only 200,000 gallons per day of polluting waste water, and only 4.5 million tons of solid polluting waste into Lower Slate Lake. Pebble proposes to construct a waste reservoir many times the size of Slate Lake by building a 700 foot high earthen dam in an active seismic zone, a catastrophe waiting to happen. This reservoir is intended to contain all the same kinds of pollutants as from the Kensington mine plus copious quantities of cyanide. At risk is much of the Alaska Peninsula wildlife, including the Mulchatna caribou herd, millions of migratory nesting birds and waterfowl in summer, and the entire Bristol Bay watershed fisheries. And, if you didn't believe that Palin was unusually supportive of the Alaska mining industry with her negative Clean Water Initiative media ads in 2008, her quote above should erase all doubt! Palin's policies are simply an extension of Frank Murkowski's policies, ie, "development of Alaska at any cost," and with no common sense applied. To Sarah Palin, the term "responsible development" must be an oxymoron! Or is it a non sequitur?

For those of you, who are still in doubt, I ask: "Why do you choose to disbelieve history?" There were (past tense) regions of Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Australia, and many other areas of our planet, where rich ore deposits were found, responsible development was promised, the deposits exhausted, and those areas remaining are desolate, with sterile streams and lakes, and are still polluted decades after the mining ceased. And the mine owners simply walked away, laughing all the way to the bank! Are the Alaska voters so naive (stupid?) to believe the mine owners' promises? We do know now where Sarah Palin stands on Pebble and clean water, and it ain't good! In her words, she has the "green light."

Richard Hahn

Soldotna



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