By Kyle Clayton
The Chilkat Valley News
The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) last week proposed to finance and develop the reconstruction of Lutak Dock with an ore dock, a project that AIDEA said would diversify the local economy through job growth and ‘mining with a local mine’. ‘ to support. on Alaska soil. ”
AIDEA presented its proposal to the Port and Harbor Advisory Committee meeting after a city council meeting on the subject was canceled in February due to staff time constraints, interim manager Alekka Fullerton said.
Earlier this year, the Haines Borough Assembly expressed interest in partnering with AIDEA to renovate Lutak Dock, which is at risk of failure and closed last year after Alaska Marine Lines completed construction of a new cargo platform, thus increasing its supply chain. Haines remains intact.
“There is an opportunity to modernize and expand the existing Lutak dock in conjunction with the potential bulk export ore loading facility that would enhance the dock’s overall commercial function,” said AIDEA senior project finance manager Jesse Peterson.
AIDEA is a state-owned company that offers a variety of financing options for development projects throughout Alaska, many with mining infrastructure. It owns the Skagway ore plant, which serves the Yukon mines, but the lease there will expire in March 2023.
Sediments around the Skagway ore terminal are considered contaminated by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation due to the high levels of lead and other toxins. AIDEA bought the facility in 1990 and shut down the ship loader and installed an air handling unit to filter fine dust. It recently commissioned a study to determine the cost of modernizing the facility versus decommissioning it.
At a meeting earlier this year, AIDEA board members discussed letting the lease expire and looking for a new location for an ore facility if the necessary modernization of the facility proves too costly, or if Skagway is against having an ore facility.
Japanese smelting company DOWA Metals is currently financing most of the Palmer project, a copper and zinc deposit 40 miles north of Haines. Constantine Metals, a Canadian exploration company that until this year held a majority stake, is conducting exploration to better understand the mineral deposit. At last week’s meeting, Garfield McVeigh, president of Constantine Metals, said an ore terminal in Haines would make a potential mine cheaper to operate.
“Without Skagway, Haines would be a more obvious place to ultimately transport concentrate. In fact, it would greatly facilitate the movement of the concentrate if the facilities were in Haines versus Skagway, ”said McVeigh.
In a public comment, Jessica Plachta, director of Lynn Canal Conservation, said Alaska residents should not use public money to subsidize a project that would turn Haines into “an industrial draw for Yukon mines” or a potential local mine.
“The Palmer Project, now in Japanese hands, relies on using our tax dollars to subsidize the infrastructure they need and that’s why AIDEA is talking to you today,” Plachta said.
AIDEA director Alan Weitzner told the board that any project it gets involved in needs community support. “I want to underline that it works with the community in each of these elements that we’ve invested in,” he said.
Weitzner’s statement came after committee chairman Terry Pardee proposed an amendment that was passed 4-2 to eliminate public comments at the start of the meeting.
“Anything someone hears that they don’t like, you’ll have ample opportunity to vent your spleen at the end of the meeting or in the future as things progress,” Pardee said.
Board member Will Prisciandaro voted against the change. “You’re depriving the audience of the opportunity to talk,” he told Pardee. Public meetings typically have public comment periods at the beginning and end of the calendar.
“No I am not. No I am not. No I am not,” said Pardee. “I do this for the sake of time and let these people get the information out. What you do with it is up to you. But you’re not going to take over this meeting. People can talk and I told you when. “
Project advocates including Tracy Harmon, Executive Director of the Haines Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director of Southeast Conference Robert Venables, the President of the Alaska Miners Association, and Constantine’s McVeigh all expressed general support for such an AIDEA after the presentation. funded project.
Harmon praised many of the benefits mining would bring to the economy, but stressed that an ore terminal would have wider benefits.
“This is about a resource facility that could be a major transportation hub for timber, wood chips, heavy equipment (and) pipelines,” said Harmon. “In addition to mining, it can serve various industries.”
“More than 54 percent of residents support mining in the Chilkat Valley,” she added, citing a Haines Economic Development Corporation telephone survey of 205 residents conducted in 2018. Mining received the lowest support rate of the 10 mentioned industries.
AIDEA’s Peterson said the next steps would include developing a memorandum of understanding with the Haines Borough, receiving support from the Municipal Assembly, and providing an opportunity for public comment in the development phase of the project.