Exploratory drilling to resume at controversial mine project near Haines, Klukwan

A drill site at the Palmer Project north of Haines. (Photo courtesy of Constantine Metal Resources)

Exploratory drilling will resume this season at a controversial mine project in Southeast Alaska. Constantine Metal Resources announced one of its biggest work seasons yet after a slow year in 2020.

Drillers will be back on the mountain around the clock after a year-long hiatus at a mining project near Haines and Klukwan.

Canadian company Constantine Metal Resources announced its Japanese partner, DOWA Holdings Company, will finance the $8.8 million work season. The Canadian metals company will give up its majority stake in the project in exchange for that cash.

Constantine’s CEO Garfield MacVeigh says that shift won’t have much impact on surrounding communities.

“DOWA was happy with Constantine as operator — we’ll continue to be office operator for the foreseeable future. You know, go up, DOWA is keen to keep the project moving ahead towards feasibility, which is why they were prepared to fund the program this year,” he said.

The Palmer Project is in the advanced stages of exploration for a large-scale copper, zinc, sliver, gold and barite mine. Critics in the region say mining risks harm to the nearby Chilkat River’s salmon run and have spent years fighting the project. But many residents hope a metals mine could bring high-wage jobs to the region.

A federal appeals court upheld the mine’s permits last summer after a legal challenge brought forth by the Chilkat Indian Village of Klukwan and environmental groups.

Fieldwork this year will include 6,000 meters of drilling and a seismic survey — work the company says is required to make a decision on whether or not to mine.

The company has had permits to build a large underground tunnel at the site since 2019, but it will not begin that construction this year. The permits were contested by environmental groups, but are valid while under review by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The company plans to employ up to 50 workers for the 2021 season and is advertising jobs with plans to hire locally when possible. MacVeigh says the company will strongly recommend all workers be vaccinated for COVID-19.

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