The U.S. Forest Service has approved a plan to allow Greens Creek Mine to drill 11 sites across one and a quarter acres in a roadless area within Admiralty Island National Monument.
It’s an extension of work done each summer to find additional mineral deposits.
Greens Creek General Manager Scott Hartman says in the past the company has simply had to file its annual plan with the Forest Service. But with recent court decisions on the so-called Roadless Rule, the Secretary of Agriculture now has to consent.
Earlier this week, the decision was delegated to the Alaska Regional Forester, and quickly granted.
Juneau Ranger District spokesman Ray Massey says the drilling is all within the Greens Creek Inventoried Roadless Area.
“It’s still within the 1872 Mining Laws, you know, certain kinds of projects can be done and inventoried roadless of mine claims is one of them,” Massey says. “They won’t have to put any roads in to do this work, they’ll just have to put in a pad. And they’re allowed to take down whatever few trees that they have to, to build the helicopter pad.”
Massey says the approval requires the site to be reclaimed after drilling is done. He says an environmental analysis will likely be completed by mid-March.
Greens Creek manager Hartman says helicopters transport the drilling rigs and other equipment, and the work is weather dependent.
“All of our surface exploration out here is helicopter supported if it can’t be done from an existing road,” he says.
Greens Creek is owned by Hecla Mining Company based in Idaho. Hartman say the company’s exploration plan extends out for a number of years.
“In this business you spend a lot of time, you spend a lot of money exploring, hopefully expanding the resource and the reserve base so that you can continue on. And you know, it’s been part of the Greens Creek story, ‘we’ve been a ten-year mine for the last 20 years’ and we’re hoping we can say the same thing many years from now,” he says.
The Greens Creek silver, gold, lead and zinc mine is about 20 miles southwest of Juneau on Admiralty Island. The mine is Juneau’s largest private employer, with about 370 employees.