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Proposed Alaskan mine threatens salmon, environmentalists say

Some residents of Haines, Alaska, are refusing to participate in public consultations about a proposed mine near the community.   

'If they put in that mine, it would really crush the economy we have,' says local fisherman

A proposed mine near Haines, Alaska, 'would really crush the economy we have,' said Rafe McGuire, a commercial fisherman based in Haines. (Submitted by Rafe McGuire)

Some residents of Haines, Alaska, are refusing to participate in public consultations about a proposed mine near the community.   

B.C.-based Constantine Metal Resources wants public input for its Palmer project. The proposed underground copper-zinc-silver-gold mine near Haines is in the advanced exploration stage.

Consultations were held in Haines earlier this month. But environmental groups and some individuals have chosen not to participate in the interview-driven feedback consultations. 

"We have a nice little town here, and it's got a pretty solid diversified economy and if they put in that mine, it would really crush the economy we have," said Rafe McGuire, a commercial fisherman in Haines. 

"It would be a mining boom for a few years, and then it would really be bad here."

McGuire is also concerned about how the mine would affect salmon in the Chilkat River watershed.

"I make all of my income salmon fishing, and a lot of those fish are coming from the Chilkat. So having a really giant-scale mine above our river is extremely worrisome," he said.

McGuire didn't attend any of the meetings because he feels consultations are biased toward mine development.

'Incompatible with Haines values'

The proposed mine site is located 60 kilometres upstream from the tributaries of the Chilkat River.

Environmental groups are concerned about how potential copper and acid runoff from the mine would negatively affect salmon in the river watershed.

The proposed mine site is located 60 kilometres upstream from the tributaries of the Chilkat River. (Constantine Metal Resources)

In a statement, Shannon Donahue with the Great Bear Foundation said the consultations wrongly assume "there is a way to make the mine compatible with our community and its values."

"An acid-generating mine that is likely to need perpetual water treatment is simply incompatible with Haines values, the [Chilkat Bald] Eagle Preserve, and the world-class wild salmon river, the Chilkat," said Donahue.

She said even trace amounts of copper can affect a salmon's sense of smell, which is important for spawning.

Liz Cornejo, Constatnine's vice president of community affairs, said the purpose of the public consultations is to better understand the project and to mitigate negative impacts, especially on spawning salmon.

Cornejo said her company has released a protective environmental proposal. 

"We are dedicated to the community, we are working hard to address concerns, and we've got years ahead of us here still before any mine is proposed," she said. 

"So we hope to be able to listen to everyone and incorporate concerns and try to make a project that everyone can get behind and support." 

She said it's a long process to bring a mine into operation, and the company is trying to engage people early and get feedback.

"Some people may choose to be part of this process and some people may choose to do other methods to express their views," said Cornejo.

She said Constantine will hold more consultations in Haines next month.

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