Governor Dunleavy posted photos on his official Facebook page last Thursday of his visit to the Palmer Project near Haines. That’s a potential mine under development by Constantine Metal Resources, a Canadian company. He said he would continue “pushing to make Alaska ‘Open for Business.’” Afterward, the comments on his post erupted in controversy, a reflection of the growing local unrest over the proposal.
Haines resident and Southeast Alaska Conservation Council Organizer Shannon Donahue says his attention to the mine meant he didn’t hear from locals.
“To me it’s troubling that the Canadian mine site has access top state officials but the governor and commissioner’s outreach to the community only amounted to a 10-minute conversation with the Mayor. And that seemed pretty last minute as well,” Donahue said
The governor toured the site last week with Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Jason Brune. Constantine plans to build a full-scale industrial mine at the site, near the headwaters of the Chilkat River. Conservation groups’ main concern is that wastewater from the site will pollute the river and compromise the fishery.
Donahue called the private meeting suspicious since Constantine’s wastewater permits were under review by Brune’s Department at the time.
Brune’s staff sent permits back to committee that day, putting Constantine’s drilling plans on hold.
Conservationists said the visit and the Facebook post made it look like the Governor was taking a position on the mine before it is permitted.
The Governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment by broadcast time.
Liz Cornejo, who represents Constantine, was encouraged by the Governor’s presence.
“He’s been very supportive of the whole mining industry and is looking for economic opportunities in the state,” Cornejo said.
SEACC and Lynn Canal Conservation said the state and its permitting bodies are more interested in business than the health of rural and indigenous communities.
Other residents who responded on Facebook said they hope the mine will boost the local economy.