Panel favors keeping Juneau’s mine law intact

Greens Creek Mine

Greens Creek Mine. (Photo courtesy Hecla Mining Company)

Juneau’s mining subcommittee is recommending no substantial changes to the city’s mining ordinance. Instead it’s endorsing tweaks in the language made by the city attorney that wouldn’t change how the city reviews mining proposals.

Norton Gregory

“It’s the recommendation of the subcommittee to the full Assembly that there aren’t any major revisions,” Assemblyman Norton Gregory, the subcommittee’s chair, told KTOO after Monday’s meeting. “We move it forward just a little cleaned up, just a little easier to understand, a little easier to read and a little easier to follow and implement.”

The mining subcommittee was created last year by Juneau’s mayor to examine ways that the local review process could be streamlined to avoid duplication with state and federal regulators.

A public hearing last week brought 75 written comments and dozens of people testifying overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the city’s mining review powers intact.

The city’s requirement of a socio-economic analysis for new mines is contentious. The city currently requires mine applicants to fund a study looking at positive and negative effects on Juneau’s infrastructure, housing stock and employment.

Mining boosters see the analysis as unfair because it’s required for mine proposals but not other development and said they’d continue to push for the mining ordinance to be overhauled.

“We want to create a mining ordinance that continues to protect our environment, which it will,” said Denny DeWitt, executive director of the pro-mining First Things First Alaska Foundation. “But is also one that a mining community could look at it and say, ‘This is a community where we want to do business.'”

Mining critics said they were pleased with the subcommittee’s work.

“We were hoping that the subcommittee would see the value in keeping the socio-economic survey in there and it seems that they listened to the majority of the public comments that they received and we’re pleased with this outcome,” said Sarah Davidson, water program manager for Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.

Now that the subcommittee’s work is finished, the lightly revised mining ordinance heads to the full Assembly. From there it’ll be reviewed by the planning commission. No dates have been set.

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