Back in the 1960s prospector Merrill Palmer made mining claims on federal land north of Haines.
“Merrill Palmer did a good job of staking those claims towards the tops of the mountains where the load is exposed on the surface,” said Jusdi Doucet, Deputy Director of the Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Office.
Doucet said the Trust may pay Palmer to give up those rights. Her office owns the land around his claims. If Palmer gives them up, that federal land turns into Alaska Mental Health Trust Land. The Trust’s land office asked trustees to consider the buyout of those mining claims at their last Resource Management Committee meeting. The move could be a shot in the arm for a nearby mine project—and maximize the Trust’s investment.
The claims are a risk for the Trust that depends on where the minerals are underground. If Palmer’s claim connects to minerals on Trust land, he gets all the royalties.
“If we don’t do anything, if we don’t purchase the relinquishment of the claim, the Trust could have zero value on minerals beneath the ground on trust land,” Doucet said.
Buying Palmer out may not be necessary. But Doucet’s office exists to make money for beneficiaries of the Trust—Alaskans with mental illness, dementia, traumatic brain injury or chronic addiction. Zero value is not a good return on land investment.
A Trust buyout would also benefit Constantine Metal Resources, a mineral exploration company that leases both Trust land and the Palmer claims. If the claims become Trust land, Constantine has only one landlord. And that landlord has the same goal—maximum value from the minerals underground.
That makes it easier for Constantine to move from exploration site to working mine.
“With most mining projects, there’s typically a basket of land ownership that companies work to consolidate as they move forward to more advanced stages and to simplify the process,” said Liz Cornejo, Constantine’s Vice President of Community and External Affairs.
The Trust’s board of trustees saw a risk assessment of the investment last week, prepared by a third party consultant. That document is confidential.
The Trust is currently in negotiations with Constantine and Palmer. It’s up to the board to make a final decision.