The litigation by the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council against the Bureau of Land Management over the Haines-area Palmer Project has been decided in favor of the mining companies, Constantine / Alyu Mining Co, and Haines Mining and Exploration Inc.
Every one of SEACC’s claims was denied by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the most liberal appeals court in the country.
Although oral arguments were held back in June, Judge Timothy Burgess’ summary judgment was not affirmed by the court until Aug. 28. Burgess is the presiding judge of the Federal District Court for the District of Alaska.
Liz Cornejo, Community liaison and advisor for Constantine, was pleased with the outcome, as it allows exploration and scientific inquiry to continue.
“We believe the Ninth Circuit decided correctly on this matter and are pleased with the final decision. Constantine remains committed to quality science and meaningful engagement with Chilkat Indian Village of Klukwan and other stakeholders through every step of our mineral exploration and development activities,” she said.
The court ruled that future potential impacts of a mine do not need to be considered for approval of the current exploration and scientific work, which was the claim being made by SEACC and its partner litigants.
“We recognize the importance of ongoing scientific studies and stakeholder discussions during the exploration process that will help us create a responsible mine proposal for consideration in the future,” Cornejo said.
Southeast Alaska is experiencing severe economic impacts from the coronavirus pandemic and various shutdowns of important sectors of the economy.
“Now more than ever, Constantine is proud to be contributing to the local economy by creating employment opportunities and working with local businesses to support exploration work at the Palmer Project and the new Big Nugget Gold Project, both in the historic Porcupine Mining District of Haines,” Cornejo said.
Constantine’s summer work has supported 19 local jobs for Haines, and a total direct workforce of 25.
Merrill Palmer, President of Alyu Mining Co., Inc. and Haines Mining & Exploration, Inc. said he’s persevered for 50 years to keep the opportunity alive, “and I will keep fighting for what I believe is a great gift for the people. Mines are safer today than ever before. A modern operating mine could add more than 250 year-round jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue to the Borough. A mine could also provide an important source of minerals to support ‘green technologies’ and national security. Civilization is based upon mining. Without successful mining, you don’t have a civilization.”
He said SEACC’s pattern of obstructionist behavior is something the group may want to reconsider going forward.
Palmer, who staked the claims to the mining prospect back int he 1960s, was instrumental in creating the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve in 1982, which came from a consensus agreement with SEACC and other groups.