DATE: September 18, 2000
TO: Planning Commission
FROM: Teri Camery, Planner
Community Development Department
FILE NO.: USE2000-00063- Conditional Use
PROPOSAL: Extension of the existing Large Mine permit, MIN-M96-01, for the development and operation of the Kensington Gold Mine.
Applicant: Coeur Alaska, Inc.
Property Owner: Coeur Alaska, Inc.
Legal Description: Various patented and unpatented mining claims mainly within Townships 34 and 35 South, Range 62 East, Copper River Meridian.
Parcel Code Number: 3-M00-0-BB0-004-0
Zoning: RR, Rural Reserve
Utilities: Private Well and On-Site Sewer System
Access: Lynn Canal to private marine terminal; by air to private helipad
Existing Land Use: Generally undeveloped with some mine exploratory activity
Surrounding Land Use: North - undeveloped
South - undeveloped
East - undeveloped
West - undeveloped
The applicant requests an extension of the existing Large Mine permit, MIN-M96-01, for the development and operation of the Kensington Gold Mine.
The original Kensington mining permit, MIN-M96-01, was granted on November 4, 1997 and renewed for an 18 month period in April 1999, as per USE99-00019. The current permit expires on October 13, 2000. Two 18 month renewals are allowed according to CBJ Land Use Code 49.15.250. This application is the second request for renewal.
In its September 8, 2000 letter of application for permit extension Coeur explains:
In the last several years, Coeur engineers have explored a number of design modifications that might allow Coeur to build and operate the mine despite the continuing depression in world gold prices. One promising modification given serious consideration by Coeur was submarine tailings disposal in Lynn Canal. This configuration would have required a petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to amend existing New Source Performance Standards. After extensive analysis and discussions with Coeur, EPA concluded that, despite the potential environmental advantages of submarine tailings disposal, Headquarters staff was reluctant to advocate such a change. These discussions consumed much of the period allowed by the permit extension.
Rather than pursue the issue of submarine tailings disposal, Coeur immediately began exploring other possible modifications that would allow construction and operation of the mine. AS you know, Coeur engineers have now prepared a series of possible project modifications that would include disposal of tailings at Slate Lake, and a daily commute across Berners Bay. The new tailings disposal option was supported in concept by EPA Headquarters staff.
The new tailings disposal system would not require EPA rulemaking to change new source standards. Coeur does, however, require assurances from the EPA that the proposed design will be deemed consistent with EPA policy (Wilcher Memorandum) for tailings disposal. Souer is confident that such assurances will be forthcoming shortly.
Couer has submitted an amended Plan of Operations to the United States Forest Service, which includes Slate Lake tailings disposal. Once confirmation is received by the EPA, the Forest Service will commence the public scoping process. At the same time Coeur will submit applications for amendments to its other federal and state permits. Coeur anticipates that the project revisions will be deemed substantial enough to require preparation of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).
Since the Planning Commission may not begin deliberations on any Large Mine Permit until a draft SEIS is available to the public, and since the project plans are still undergoing minor modifications, Coeur is not submitting a request for amendment of the Large Mine Permit at this time. The purpose of the requested extension simply is to preserve the status quo pending confirmation of EPA policy with respect to tailings disposal and finalization of project revisions and all applicable permit application modifications."
CBJ '49.15.250 provides the requirements for Development Permit Extensions, and is discussed below:
Per CBJ '49.15.250, Development Permit Extension, the director makes the following findings on the criteria for granting the requested allowable use extension:
2. Has the applicant submitted justification for the permit extension?
3. Is the extension within the allowable number of permit extensions?
4. Have notices of the extension request been mailed to adjacent property owners at least ten days prior to the hearing and has a general notice been printed in a newspaper of general circulation at least two days prior to the hearing?
We recommend that the Planning Commission adopt the director's findings and grant the requested permit extension. The permit would allow an 18-month extension of Large Mine Permit MIN-M96-01 to construct and operate the Kensington Gold project according to the project description, reclamation plan, and plan of operations described in the original mine permit Notice of Decision dated November 6, 1997.